The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles

How Music Has Shaped Civilization
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (46 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Music is an intrinsic part of everyday life, and yet the history of its development from single notes to multilayered orchestration can seem bewilderingly complex.

In his dynamic tour through forty thousand years of music, from prehistoric instruments to modern-day pop, Howard Goodall leads us through the story of music as it happened, idea by idea, so that each musical innovation - harmony, notation, sung theater, the orchestra, dance music, recording - strikes us with its original force. Along the way, he also gives refreshingly clear descriptions of what music is and how it works: What scales are all about, why some chords sound discordant, and what all postwar pop songs have in common.

The story of music is the story of our urge to invent, connect, rebel - and entertain. Howard Goodall's beautifully clear and compelling account is both a hymn to human endeavor and a groundbreaking map of our musical journey.

©2014 Howard Goodall (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great intro to musc history

If you could sum up The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles in three words, what would they be?

I really enjoyed this book it gradually teaches you some simple music theory and how music evolved over the centuries in an extremely entertaining way, not dry and academic. It also teaches the language to talk about music which I didn't even know I was missing.
One criticism of the book is that some parts were hard to follow and were begging for an audio example - since this was a direct reading of a book this was obviously not possible.
There is a BBC documentary that seems to be a shortened version of this book, in fact some sections are identical and in the documentary he provides lots of examples of the techniques and details in the book - really brings the subject to life.
If you search on Youtube or Amazon for Howard Goodall you should be able to find them.

I gave it 5 stars as it got me enthusiastic for learning more about music and its structure not just listening to it.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

pdf Missing

Any additional comments?

The book comments on music and information provided in the pdf that is available with the audiobook. This was not provided bu audible as a reference.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Educational, enjoyable, and stimulating

Would you listen to The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles again? Why?

Yes, it is full of information and my memory leaves much to be desired.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. He is very good here, as he usually is.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I immediately and spontaneously gave copies to friends.

Any additional comments?

An apparently informed negative review on amazon.com very nearly kept me from buying this book. Good thing I took a chance!

It is not that I disagree with all the criticism that reviewer and other commentators have put forth. However, these are minor when weighed against the remarkable quality of the book as a whole. (Incidentally, I do not think Goodall presents as negative a view of Wagner as some commentators pretend). Another reviewer cites Robert Greenberg's lectures (Great Courses series) as being all that Goodall's book is not: I have listened to 90% of Greenberg's numerous courses and recommend them highly. However, this in no way impinges on my enthusiasm for Goodall's book, which does something quite different.

I have learned a great deal from listening to this stimulating audiobook and recommend it to anyone with an interest in music or in cultural history. It is quite dense with information and references, so the better informed you are, the more you can make associations and are likely to enjoy it.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great book, look for the BBC documentary

Howard Goodall is great in all of his BBC work and now he has written this book. Really enjoyable to learn the components of music composition and find out when in (western) history each musical component/idea/approach was invented.

I wish I could purchase a version of this audiobook with imbedded audio samples of the musical pieces that he references in each chapter. The BBC documentary does a great job of playing examples as he describes the parts of the music to listen for.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Heard this on the plane, came home, and bought it.

I have a new appreciation for music! Knowing what, who, and where the advances were made in the history of music is incredible. I just wish I had the samples to listen to - it's the only drawback. Oh, and you don't have to know music theory to appreciate this book (although it might help). :)

1 person found this helpful

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  • LS
  • 01-24-20

For the novice

This book is clearly meant for the person who knows very little about musical history. This is not a fault. The history is clearly laid out and the author constantly draws connections between the historical goings-on and modern events and people that shows both his respect for the material and his respect for the audience.