Charmingly written, with plenty of interesting historical tidbits—recommended for anyone interested in early music.



A comprehensive account of one of the key inventions in music history: a method for writing down a composition so someone could learn it without hearing it performed.

Kelly (Music/Harvard Univ.; Music Then and Now, 2012, etc.) assumes neither familiarity with medieval music nor the ability to read music. Instead, he focuses on the conceptual breakthroughs that led a few medieval musicians and scribes to devise a way to make it easier to teach novices the extensive body of music that filled the church year. The very idea required something of an intellectual leap; after all, music cannot be seen, and when a song is over, it lives only in memory. Still, over several centuries, a system of marks, or neumes, was developed to record Gregorian chant. At first, the system was rather inexact; the neumes recorded the general shape of the melody but not the exact pitches. The key invention came in the early 11th century, when an Italian monk named Guido drew a set of parallel lines—the ancestor of the staff—to define the pitch that each neume represented. Guido also named each note of the scale, making it easier to teach music. The pope enthusiastically endorsed his system, and it caught on throughout Western Europe. But Guido made no attempt to notate rhythms, leaving subsequent scholars to guess at a key component of how chant was sung. A couple of centuries later, masters Leoninus and Perotinus hit on the idea of changing the shape of the notes to show how long to hold them. Their system, codified in the next century, became (with additional adjustments as styles changed) the core of our modern musical notation. With over 100 illustrations from original manuscripts, Kelly makes the story clear enough for nonmusicians to follow, and the book includes a CD to let readers hear how many of the examples actually sound.

Charmingly written, with plenty of interesting historical tidbits—recommended for anyone interested in early music.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0393064964

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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