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Music History: 101

Recently, we mentioned the Music Section’s acquisition of the sixth edition, Norton Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 3, Twentieth Century. This time of year also marks the beginning of the college spring semester, and we have seen a rise in the average amount of our music history related inquiries. Music history has been on the “brain” of the Music Section so-to-speak.

In the spirit of collegiate music studies, I have picked out a few items from our collection that correspond with some of the major musical time periods. I hope that they will spice up your typical music preferences, and encourage you to try learning about, listening to, or playing some new music:

From our large print music collection, check out a copy of Source Readings in Music History: From Classical Antiquity through the Romantic Era, by W. Oliver Strunk, LPM 00175. It contains selections from Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, and many, many more.

Ask any college music student nowadays what their first lessons in music history were about, and they will likely say chant. Or, some may hold up their hand and point to various joints or areas of the palm (the Guidonian Hand) and say, “that Guido guy!” They are referring to 11th century music theorist, Guido of Arezzo, who developed a system of sight-singing using syllables ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la. You can read a couple of Guido’s 11th century writings within the Strunk work. It is a great resource for first hand information, no pun intended.

Skipping ahead in time to the Baroque period, I have to mention J.S. Bach, and not just for his long-standing fame. Within the last few weeks, the Music Section has filled multiple requests for Bach’s, Two and Three Part Inventions. I am beginning to think it is a New Year’s Resolution for pianists to learn these! We have the whole collection of them in braille, BRM 32105 (also available on BARD). In large print, a new acquisition of the Two Part Inventions are available at book number LPM 00786. The Three Part Inventions can be found at book number LPM 00396.

J.S. Bach

Photo of J.S. Bach

Continuing onward in time, another one of our new acquisitions is Joseph Haydn’s classical period piece, Missa in angustiis, known as the “Nelson Mass.” This five volume work, transcribed for SATB chorus and accompaniment arranged for piano, is available both in English, BRM 35997, and Latin, BRM 35995. And, it may be downloaded from BARD.


Photo of Joseph Haydn.

The Romantic era has to be one of my favorite time periods to discuss at the moment. If I were asked who my favorite composer is today, I would probably mention Czech composer Antonín Dvo™ák, or Russian Pytor Il’yichTchaikovsky. Maybe it’s this winter weather, the cloudy skies, which make the atmosphere great to listen to dramatic works by these composers. On the other hand, the Metropolitan Opera has an upcoming production (Saturday January 31- March 21) of Les Contes d’Hoffman with music by 19th century German/French composer Jacques Offenbach. Aside from opera and other works, Offenbach truly made a lasting name for himself in the success of his operettas.

A favorite among our opera enthusiast patrons, are audio books with the lecturer Michael Barclay. Barclay’s discussion of Les Contes d’Hoffmann is available at DBM 00859 (also available on BARD). And, a braille transcription of the full-opera libretto in four-acts is available in both English and French at BRM 35160 (also available on BARD).

This list encompasses some of the old, as well as the new, and it draws from all three of the formats we serve our patrons in, braille, audio, and large print. Happy studies!

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