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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am currently using the new ninth edition of this textbook for a college music appreciation class. This text is great for people who want to learn about music history in Western society (Western Europe and some of America).
Beginning with a chapter on the elements and aspects of music, the book starts with Gregorian Chant (c. 400) and quickly moves through history all the way to 20th century music, including minimalism and Arvo Part.
The reading is clear and straightforward, and the pictures and charts make the reading more exciting than your typical bland textbook. There are some problems, however.
First, this book is not adequate for music majors. As another reviewer states, many great composers here are overlooked or briefly mentioned, especially those composers who were not on the leading edge of each movement (e.g. William Byrd, Sergei Rachmaninov, Gustav Holst, Bruckner, Wolf, and Prokofiev).
Another issue that some have with the book is its inclusion of women composers into history. I understand why they do it. Even today in society there are few women composers, and it is important to teach our young women that they can write great music. On the other hand, as a result of poor musical education and opportunities, compositions of women composers such as Jacquet de la Guerre and Barbara Strozzi pale in comparison with those of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. This emphasis of women composers is one that is constantly undergoing debate in the music world.
If you are looking for a Music Appreciation textbook, I would strongly consider this one as well as Roger Kamien's text. If you are not taking a class and just want to learn about music, you should consider getting the 8-CD set of musical excerpts. They go along with the listening guides in the book, and help illustrate the textbook's concepts.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I really appreciated the older editions of this book and thought the language was clear and understandable. I still think these aspects of the book are good, however, I am disappointed at the content. I agree with other reviewers who have suggested that the work should be broken into two books -- one on modern music and another on classic music. It just doesn't make any sense to skip major composers and I feel this one size fits all approach misses the mark in this regard.

On the other hand, the book is well-written and has been well-received over its many years and editions. Some reviewers point to an overly politically correct stance, which I believe has some validity. Including minor women composers at the expense of major male composers is not politically correct, it is an inexcusable error. On the other hand, excluding women's contribution to the musical literature completely or leaving out a major woman composer is also an error. I am guessing that a chapter on the cultural issues around women and music with an overview of women composers that are largely unknown or underrated would have better served the target audience.

Textbooks are EXTREMELY expensive and after so many editions, I think this one should be a homerun. Unfortunately, it is now good, but not great. If you don't like this one, you may want to try Music: An Appreciation w/ Multimedia Companion 4.5 CD-ROM. This is done by a concert pianist and does justice to the major composers.

While I am not currently a professional musician, I was for 11 years and I continue to take lessons from a concert pianist. I play a variety of instruments and I've been studying music since before I could read. As such, I think I am in a good position to evaluate the merits of this text. It is still very worthwhile, but I hope they do better in the next edition. Another book worth considering is What to Listen for in Music and Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination. The former book, gives you an inside look at music through the eyes of a composer and the second is a wonderful and entertaining journey through understanding sound and how music produces pleasure from a psychological and biological viewpoint. Both books are very readable by non-musicians and laypersons without a background of any type. The second book is one that I read in two sittings.... AWESOME! I have reviewed both, if you want more details.

If you are also looking to understand some music theory, try Harmony and Theory: A Comprehensive Source for All Musicians (Essential Concepts (Musicians Institute).). This is a great short introduction to music theory and harmony as it relates to modern music. If you are musical at all, you will find that this covers a lot of ground in a short space.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2011
Format: CD-ROMVerified Purchase
If you are buying the CD-ROM used, be very careful! There is a code for an accompanying website for the textbook. If the CD-ROM is used, the code will not work and you will not have access to the website that supports a course you are taking. If buying this for a class, buy it new not used.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you love classical music, as I do, this is the book to tell you about what you are listening to. That is, for someone like me who has almost no natural musical ability, but does for some strange reason have a profound appreciation for it. How classical music manages to convey its ineffable beauty, I don't know, but it does. This book allows you to place what you are listening to in its place within the whole field of Western classical music.
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126 of 173 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I reviewed this book hoping to find a decent introductory overview of the history and basics of music. At the start, this text looked promising. It featured an accompanying interactive CD set with samples of the music overviewed in the text and appeared to cover a wide range of music.
What I found was thoroughly dissappointing - not necessarily the material itself, but the way the book was written. A reoccurring theme of political correctness made me want to gag at times, and at others it prompted only dissapointment at important parts of the history of music that were neglected in the place of politically correct anecdotes about multi-culturalism and entire chapters devoted to obscure composers who are included solely because they happened to be female.
The politically correct themes of this 500 page book ranged from the casual use of extreme PC terminology such as "Before the Common Era" (BCE) instead of the now politically incorrect "Before Christ" (BC) to more bizarre ventures into the realm of modern artistic "Electronic Music." At times the attention paid to modern eccentricism is an embarrassing reflection upon the author in my mind. He names and gives brief biographies of more obscure post modernists, figures in "electronic" music, and neo-romanticist composers than he does for the ENTIRE BAROQUE AND CLASSICAL PERIODS OF MUSIC COMBINED.
The detriment of doing this does not go unnoticed. The author completely neglected any mention whatsoever of the contributions of significant composers including Georg Philip Telemann, Dimitri Kabelevsky, Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan), William Byrd, and Gustav Holst. Similarly the contributions of Correlli, Johann Strauss, Elgar, Couperin, Gluck, CPE Bach, Orff, Borodin, and countless others recieve only brief mentions of a line or two.
Amazingly, after having left out so many significant composers, the author finds room to devote the better part of an entire chapter to the obscure Baroque era harpsichordist Elisabeth-Claude Jaquet De La Guerre and even features a composition of hers, even though she was known more as a musician than a composer and even though her musical contribution was far less than any of the above mentioned composers who were neglected by the author. Jaquet De La Guerre, at best, is an obscure footnote in the history of music, especially compared to giants like Johann Strauss (who was largely neglected) and composers of some of the most significant works of music in history, such as Holst (the Planets), Orff (Carmina Burana), and Corelli (father of the concerto grosso, an important musical form itself that was also discussed in only a sentence or two by the author).
Almost laughably, the author, in light of all his omissions, takes time out to mention modern "ska" music, Curt Cobain, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Ice Cube," Michael Jackson, and the Jefferson Airplane. At least the reader can rest assured that the Jefferson Airplane got paid more attention by the author than one of the most prolific composers in history (Telemann)!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book to read and study music from. It lays out the history of music in a very understandable manner for an average person. The timeline of music consisting of such musical eras as the medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, post-romantic, impressionism, early twentieth century and later twentieth century is very enlightening. It's all there from folk to jazz to ragtime and swing. The great composers would have loved to read this one. By the way, poets, make your feast on the history of the Troubadours, Trobairitz, Trouveres and Minnesingers poet-musicians from the middle ages from France and Germany. This is really an interesting book to read regarding music. It's truly educational. Also check "Trilogy Moments for the Miond, Body and Soul" with a new selection of Epulaeryu poems.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I had read this book when I was a music student, and thought, at the time, it was one of the most interesting books ever assigned by any teacher. I am now a music teacher and have been recommending this book to the students who came to me asking for a good music appreciation book. To say everyone is happy with the book is to understate the fact. The book, indeed, speaks for itself!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In response to "a reader's" review, Holst and Orff did not contribute to the larger schema of music history. Although a work like "Carmina Burana" is significant only because it's been rehashed over in dramatic parts of a film, it has little value in terms of delineating trends in music. I only partially agree with his/her assessment of J.-de-la-Guerre because her work is used more to show a common example of highly ornamented French harpsichord music, rather than the composer herself. This is a well-organized book, giving a survey (keyword: SURVEY) of Western music, which means that if you want to learn about Elgar, read a book on him.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Being both a music teacher and a music student I approached this book from many angles and happily, I was not disappointed at all. This book superbly captures Music History and with the right balance of pictures and content, makes a tough subject truly enjoyable. I specifically enjoyed the Cultural Perspectives that gave a alternative angle on the information.
If you have the accompanying CD's or tapes then this book can be described as a truly memorable experience. If you haven't, don't be put off. It still is an essential read.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
After having gone through nine editions, this text bears little resemblence to the original work published in 1955. That text, and the next few editions, were solid and informative. With the addition of co-author Kristine Forney, the work has definitely taken on a more modern perspective at the unfortunate expense of truly great composers.

Having been a serious student of music in earlier life, and a constant listener since birth, I have an avid appreciation of most genres of music. Having said that, I firmly believe the study of music appreciation should remain somewhat "high-brow". By this I mean that it should limit itself to what is considered, in common parlance, as "classical" or "orchestral" music.

Modern genres of music do display moments of true musical genius and originality. But, for the most part, the majority of the material is borrowed, ultimately from the "classical." Most popular musicians have little knowledge of musical composition, or even how to record their works in musical notation. Rap and electronic are the ultimate in this area, many times outright recording a piece of someone else's music and blending the cuts together to produce their own "song."

If one seriously wants to develop an appreciation of music, a solid exposure to and understanding of the "classical" composers is a must. Otherwise, as is the case with most modern and post-modern (whatever that means) teaching materials, a true understanding of the origins, history, and development of the subject is lost. Herbie Hancock and Michael Jackson may be interesting and enjoyable, but they are hardly groundbreaking from a musical perspective.

The authors should separate the "classical" from the "modern" into two texts. Both studies would greatly benefit. After all, with the proliferation of college students downloading music and playing it on every device that can produce a sound, does anyone really think students do not have an appreciation of "modern" music?
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