Unfortunately, Mr. Ewen's sketchy history of vocal music (the fourth volume in his Mainstreams of Music series) as seen through the ""lives and works of its foremost composers"" gives us neither a clear idea of its development nor a complete picture of the musicians' lives and works. Though the general approach is chronological, with chapters divided according to musical periods, there is little cohesion. Although there are, to be sure, interesting anecdotes inserted here and there, equivalent biographical information on most of the composers included could be gleaned from any standard reference work. Much of the content appears to be little more than elaborate name-dropping, complete with lots of long translations of long titles. The author offers good and coherent descriptions of some musical forms such as the cantata, but he is equally vague in describing others, such as the German lied (to which he nonetheless devotes much space). His approach to the actual music is unlikely to have much meaning for one unfamiliar with the works discussed. Readers can learn far more from far fewer pages of Grout's History of Western Music or even Appel's Harvard Dictionary of Music.