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A Concise History of Western Music
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  • Page extent: 360 pages
  • Size: 216 x 138 mm
  • Weight: 0.611 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521842945 | ISBN-10: 0521842948)

Engaging, clear and informative, this is the story of western music - of its great composers and also of its performers and listeners, of changing ideas of what music is and what it is for. Paul Griffiths shows how music has evolved through the centuries, and suggests how its evolution has mirrored developments in the human notion of time, from the eternity of heaven to the computer's microsecond. The book provides an enticing introduction for students and beginners, using the minimum of technical terms, all straightforwardly defined in the glossary. Its perspective and its insights will also make it illuminating for teachers, musicians and music lovers. Suggestions for further reading and recommended recordings are given for each of the 24 short chapters.

• An accessible and originally-written history of classical music • Makes minimal use of technical terms, all of which are explained in the text and glossary • Provides the reader with perspective on great works and great composers


Prehistory; Part I. Time Whole: 1. From Babylonians to Franks; Part II. Time Measured 1100–1400: 2. Troubadours and organists; 3. Ars nove and Narcissus's clock; Part III. Time Sensed 1400–1630: 4. Harmony, the light of time; 5. The radiance of the High Renaissance; 6. Reformation and heartache; 7. To speak in music; Part IV. Time Known 1630–1770: 8. Baroque mornings; 9. Fugue, concerto and operatic passion; 10. Rococo and reform; Part V. Time Embraced 1770–1815: 11. Sonata as comedy; 12. Revolution's momentum; Part VI. Time Escaping 1815–1907: 13. The deaf man and the singer; 14. Angels and other prodigies; 15. New Germans and old Vienna; 16. Romantic evenings; 17. Nightfall and sunrise; Part VII. Time Tangled 1908–75: 18. To begin again; 19. Forwards and backwards, and sideways; 20. The people's needs; 21. To begin again again; 22. Whirlwind; Part VIII. Time Lost 1975–: 23. Echoes in the labyrinth; 24. Interlude; Glossary; Further reading and listening.


'… thought-provoking, compelling and remarkably comprehensive narrative, this is easily one of the most thought-provoking, enjoyable and stimulating reads on Western music to have been published in the past ten years.' BBC Music Magazine

'Griffiths finds graceful ways of saying the conventional things that have to be said and of slipping in the less conventional … a fresh formulation of the riddle of past and present, and the future.' Joseph Kerman, New York Review of Books

'A Concise History of Western Music (concise maybe, but substantial enough to merit every one of its 350 pages) is a joy.' The Book Depository

'… an extremely rich and thoughtful text … the whole thing reads exquisitely …' Et cetera

'Hidden behind the deadpan title is an extremely rich and thoughtful text: a concise history, as it say on the tin, but also a warm meditation on the philosophy of music … Each chapter culminates in a subtle cliff-hanger, and the whole thing reads exquisitely.' Saturday Guardian, Review Supplement

'Paul Griffiths, adept at clear, succinct presentations, manages to reduce the millennia and centuries to just 300 pages; and, to make matters easier, he gives the terms without which the story cannot be told, a brisk and lively explanation and encourages the reader to read, listen further and think … an original and a stimulating book. I hope others will find it so, too.' Methodist Recorder

'… an approachable and enjoyable tour of thousands of years of our cultural history, in the company of a familiar and erudite guide.' Tenby Observer

'The book is clearly laid out, with page-heading summaries making it valuable for academic study.' International Record Review

'Griffiths is reknowned as a writer on new music, and this bias brings a fresh perspective to his take on pre-20th century composition.' Classical FM

'Griffiths is excellent on Dowland's and Monteverdi's subjectivity …' The Times Literary Supplement

'Paul Griffiths manages to cover a huge number of composers and musical styles in his comprehensive history. He shows a clear understanding of the nature of the development of music in the West and, though clearly argued, it is a dense read.' Reference Reviews

'… text is filled with Griffith's typically excellent thought-provoking observations …' The New York Review

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