marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

If It Ain't Baroque

If It Ain't Baroque: More Music History as It Ought to Be Taught by David W. Barber

A short, humorous but accurate, illustrated history of classical music. Starting with a discussion of the term itself -- which of course compromises not only its own Classical era, but the Baroque, the Romantic, etc.

And then into the history of forms. The Gregorian chant. Motets. The Mass, with all its parts. Oratorios. Madrigals, ballet, etc. Divided into the opening ones on sacred music and the later ones on secular stuff.

Musical instruments, which are categorized into those you blow, those you scrape, and those you hit. (Yes he gives fancier names for those categories -- two sets of them in fact.) The problems of standardization. You try to persuade a goat to grow standard-size horns. One way was to get the same maker to make them all, and those were common enough that a case of flutes, say, was understood to be a matched set by the same maker (who sent them along in a case).

Another chapter deal with the evolution of the pianoforte -- nowadays just the piano -- both coming from its chief selling point, that unlike earlier keyboard instruments it could be vary its volume.

Lots of interesting stuff. Better than his earlier book, actually, because it concentrates on the music instead of the biographies of those involved.
Tags: history reviews: across eras

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