THE PANTHEON STORY OF MUSIC FOR YOUNG PEOPLE by Joseph Wechsberg

THE PANTHEON STORY OF MUSIC FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Names, places, dates, compositions, anecdotes. . . and applause: a flaccid, fulsome catalog that offers no coherent account of music or its development. Moreover, over half the 122 pages are devoted to illustrations, mostly of musical performances, many of them redundant, few specifically revealing, some misleading (a fifteenth-century relief to prove that the ancient Romans were ""enthusiastic"" about music; but the lyre, the chief Greek instrument, is shown only indistinctly as against three clear representations of pipes--and there are other lacunae. Imprecision verging on inaccuracy abounds: Greek music, ""more important... than painting, sculpture or architecture"" (?) isn't characterized as, the accompaniment to poetry and dance that it was; the Greek-derived Kyric eleison was not originally an invocation to one or more gods, as implied here, but a supplication to a secular ruler; etc. Skipping some centuries, two innovations, the sequence and the trope, attributed to ""the century following (Charlemagne's) death,"" were in use by the eighth century; the origin of polyphony is similarly, and dogmatically, post-dated. Further, the history of notation is almost impossible to follow in the examples given, and the distinction between modality and tonality is unclear, their connection to Greek theory, primarily a matter of names, exaggerated; many other terms are un- or ill-defined. Composers are under-scored and overpraised: Palestrina is described simply as a master of counterpoint and harmony (hardly distinguishing): ""Mozart is the only composer who could express suffering and agony"", etc. So-called ""modern music"" is covered in four pages, 2(apple) columns for Schoenberg. Berg, Webern; 1(apple) columus for all of American music concluding with Gershwin. Obscure without a knowledge of music, superfluous and irritating with.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1968
Publisher: Pantheon