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Music in the Renaissance (2nd Edition) 2nd Edition
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The book begins quickly with discussion of John Dunstable and the early English composers. Later chapters cover Dufay (and Binchois), Ockeghem (and Busnois). This encompasses the first quarter of the book--the early Renaissance. Later sections focus on Josquin and his contemporaries, the post-Josquin generation (Willaert, national styles and music of the reformation), and the last chapter covers the greats of the late Renaissance (mainly Palestrina, Lasso, Victoria, and Byrd).
Brown's book is designed to be a good undergraduate/graduate text for music majors, and in this respect it is pretty good. Brown's prose is informative and sufficiently analytical. His bibliographies at the end of each chapter can be helpful for those looking for additional information, and he seems to spend the right proportions of pages to those composers of greatest significance (Josquin, Palestrina, Byrd, etc.).
In terms of thoroughness of the information, Allan Atlas' book (part of the Norton series) is clearly better. It's almost twice as long, and its accompanying anthology allows for more thorough study. It's newer than Brown's book, which means that its scholarship is more up to date (for instance, some information we thought we knew about Josquin's history has turned out to be untrue).
Brown's book is not bad. In fact, I prefer Brown's organizational approach, which focuses on the composers one at a time instead of hopping around from genre to genre like Atlas'.
Both books are written with the music scholar in mind--you will be expected to know some of the church modes and the like--but Brown's text is much more accessible to the casual reader. I enjoyed reading it, and find it to be a suitable text.
I really like the way this book focuses on key composers of the period and helps you see the period through the kinds of compositions they wrote and how the style of composition varied by region and changed over time. Since I am a huge fan of Josquin des Prez, I also appreciate the great focus put on his music and how it compares with his contemporaries.
This is a very readable book about some very great music that is not as familiar to the general music lover as it should be. I recommend it to everyone who wishes to gain a firmer appreciation for this wonderful era of music.