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Title: Early Music
Series: A Very Short Introduction
Author: Thomas Kelly
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
From Gregorian chant to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods is both beautiful and intriguing, expanding our horizons as it nourishes our souls. In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Forrest Kelly provides not only a compact overview of the music itself, but also a lively look at the many attempts over the last two centuries to revive it. Kelly shows that the early-music revival has long been grounded in the idea of spontaneity, of excitement, and of recapturing experiences otherwise lost to us–either the rediscovery of little-known repertories or the recovery of lost performing styles, with the conviction that, with the right performance, the music will come to life anew. Blending musical and social history, he shows how the Early Music movement in the 1960s took on political overtones, fueled by a rebellion against received wisdom and enforced conformity. Kelly also discusses ongoing debates about authenticity, the desirability of period instruments, and the relationship of mainstream opera companies and symphony orchestras to music that they often ignore, or play in modern fashion.
While not quite as “for the layman” as Anxiety was, this was still a cut above some of the other VSI books I’ve read. This book was full of musical terms, but Kelly made a valiant effort to define them (sometimes seeming at random though) and to write like he was trying to get me interested in the subject. I highly applaud his effort because even though I have zero interest in the subject of music (it is as interesting to me as “art”, that is, not at all) he did a great job of keeping me reading and giving me some little bits and bobs of info that should stick in my brain.
Reading this book made me think about my own history with music from elementary school up to the present day. I was going to do a detour and talk about that here in this review, but the more I think of it, the more it seems appropriate for it to have it’s own post in my A History of ….. series. While I claim to have no interest in music, that doesn’t mean I’m ignorant about it or think it is unimportant. I’ll go so far as to say that outside of preaching of theology, music is one of the greatest shapers of philosophy.
I get whiplash every time I read this series. I never know if I’m going to get a good book or a real stinker. I mentioned Anxiety above, as a great one. I was looking over all the VSI books I’ve read and Entrepreneurship came across as the worst so far. I don’t understand how the Oxford University Press came to publish both of these. It’s almost like there is no oversite committee or general editor to keep them all uniform. It is very frustrating to my “ordered” soul. But books like this one keep me going in this series. It is worth digging through the midden to get gems like this.