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.
On the whole, this is a good introduction to early music. It's not quite what I expected, however. I went into this with the definition of early music being limited to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, and while this book did encompass that, it also included Baroque. And that would be even better, save for the fact that most of the material herein was about the Baroque, and thus not the reason for me picking it up in the first place. Still, nothing wasted in that regard. The lessons can be applied all around. The ideas presented here regarding the recreation of early music are fascinating and complex. Once you wrap your head around it, it'll change the way you listen to and appreciate music of any kind. That alone makes this title worth it in my mind.
Anyone coming to this topic with no background and truly looking for an introduction should probably be aware that the information herein comes rapid fire. Vocabulary is defined, but once an idea is introduced, it's assumed you know it, and information is built from there. Newcomers will probably want a print version of this for that reason, and for the reason that the end of the book comes with a rather hefty list of bands, ensembles, and recording labels.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful