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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » The story of music: from Babylon to the Beatles: How music has shaped civilization » User review

Music history allegro

  • May 8, 2014
Goodall spans the entire history of music (including why musical notations like allegro are in Italian) in just over 300 small format pages.   The coverage of the roots of music as sound, as oral communication, as notations that can be read and repeated, as emotional and spiritual and political devices, and as recorded entertainment is fascinating and deep and worth the price of admission.  The coverage of more recent history as music has exploded into popular mass consumption, and recording and playback technology have improved in quality and lowered in price is necessarily not as deep;  the chapter on music since World War 2 is only 30 pages long.

But where Goodall  and his subject really come to life are in tracing the early history of music.  The technical explanations of what music sounded like before recording and how and why it sounded the way it did are deeply fascinating.  We often say a person can read music as if musical notation were a single universal language and as if reading musical notation was the same as making music.  After reading Goodall  (even if you can't read music) you will start to see and hear the difference--it was centuries after humans were making music (20,000 year old cave paintings show musicians playing flutes) that we figured out how to write it down.

And the why is equally interesting.  Much of the early musical innovation was driven by worship music--David's Psalms name musical instruments and gives their purpose as making a "joyful noise" into God (he must have known about my future drum playing), and Martin Luther adopted and adapted popular secular tunes with worshipful lyrics because he wanted his congregation to worship actively not just listen passively.

So if you want to learn about the distinctions between the numerous shadings of musical genres on your iPad, this probably isn't the place to end up, but it might be a good (and enjoyable) place to start.

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May 22, 2014
Good stuff!
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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