- Series: The Norton Introduction to Music History
- Paperback: 752 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (February 17, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393971694
- ISBN-13: 978-0393971699
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Renaissance Music: Music in Western Europe, 1400-1600 (The Norton Introduction to Music History) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Allan W. Atlas is Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and Chair of the Graduate Music Department at The City University of New York.
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On the other hand, I believe that Atlas has boxed himself into a corner with his adamant effort to avoid the "great composers" approach. As a result, his organization becomes idiosyncratic and occasionally haphazard. Atlas invariably begins focusing on a particular composer while discussing a genre, and then finds himself forced to summarize the composer's life (sometimes as an afterthought). He interrupts the text proper with historical interludes (Intermedios) and chapters on translation, but their presence can be distracting rather than illuminating. Just as he seems ready to make a relevant point or observation, he switches subjects or just stops altogether (the analysis of Dufay's belongings at the time of his death is one example).
This textbook almost requires the purchase of the companion anthology, "Anthology of Renaissance Music (Norton Introduction to Music History)." Atlas frequently cites works presented in the anthology; without it, the reader may become lost. When Atlas does present a score in the text rather than the anthology, he usually presents only excerpts (as he does with Josquin's "Nymphes des bois" or Willaert's "Aspro core e selvaggio e cruda voglia"). This can make it difficult to follow the score while listening to the music, unless the reader has impeccable timing.
Finally, Atlas' presentation of instrumental music suffers in comparison to his comprehensive discussion of vocal works. He almost completely ignores lute music, admitting he discusses it "only in passing" at one point - even though other scholars estimate that lute music accounted for a majority of 16th century instrumental scores.
Despite these considerable complaints, "Renaissance Music: Music in Western Europe" is a worthwhile and much-needed addition to the Renaissance music literature. An astute professor (like the one I had for a recent course in "Music of the Renaissance") should be able to cherry-pick Atlas' text for the highlights and take advantage of this sporadically brilliant volume.
The anthology, which is sold as a separate book, is almost a must-have, since Atlas discusses most if not all works contained with it. (Also, it's a well-chosen anthology, and worth adding to your library.)
Therefore, if you like Renaissance music and want to learn more, or if you know a little about it and enjoy reading academic textbooks, this is the book for you.
His analysis of pieces is helpful and fascinating, but he also makes sure all of this detail is contextualized in the major changes in Western Europe during the time (the rise of humanism, other arts, changes in politics, the Reformation). It presents a great general history.
Always the historian, Atlas applies historiographical methods to show too how our conceptions of the music and the Renaissance as a whole has changed over time. He also develops how frame of reference can affect the way one interprets the music and the history (for example when talking about Spain, he points to how the music of 1492 was celebratory, but hid a sort of nasty events of Jews and Muslims expulsion and the Inquisition).
If you love Renaissance Music or you want to learn about it, then read this book.