Date of this Version
A review of Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle Ages, edited by Reinhard Strohm and Bonnie J. Blackburn. The New Oxford History of Music, 2d Edition. Vol. 3, Pt. 1. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). xxxii, 460 p. ISBN 0-198-16205-7. $115. Music examples, illustrations, maps, bibliography, index.
This is a valuable book, in which senior scholars approach topics with which they have been closely associated for many years. While its essays vary in their mix of original material and synthesis--and achieve varied success at the subordination of fact to generalization--they are without a doubt the best accounts now of their subject at their length in English. Not the least of the book’s virtues is how much one can learn simply from observing how these authors organize and proportion their material within the constraints assigned them. Oxford University Press has permitted generous footnoting, substantial bibliographies assembled at the rear of the volume (up-to-date as of the late 1990s), and good indexing. Moreover, the volume is handsomely produced following the familiar NOHM series design, and it has enjoyed excellent copyediting. Its most natural audience will be the more sophisticated upper-level undergraduates and graduate students who are looking for a first orientation to its topics in more detail than that provided either by encyclopedias or by single-volume, single-author period surveys such as those in the Norton Introduction to Music History series. My overriding concern with NOHM 3², part 1 is that this book is in danger of being overlooked. It is not going to be a textbook, and its non-mainstream contents (for the most part new to the NOHM series), its chronological spread, and its lack of a central focus, all conspire to make it hard to hold in one’s head. One is not easily going to remember what is here. And that problem can really only be addressed by those who will seek out and use this book, and transfer what is of interest to them into their personal bibliographies and course syllabi.