Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West

Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West

Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West

Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West

Excerpt

In the Preface to Part III of this history Wilfrid Mellers remarks that a music historian should approach his task with both "circumspection and humility". He is undoubtedly right, for when one considers what is involved in such an undertaking one should be extremely chary of adding to what has already been achieved in this sphere; indeed, it is doubtful whether the attempt should ever be made unless one is convinced that the kind of history one has in mind is sufficiently distinctive to justify the writing of yet another.

In this series the authors have been guided by three chief aims, and we believe that it is in the combination of these aims that the distinctiveness of this particular history lies.

To begin with, we have tried to convey something of the feelings aroused in us by the music we write about and to give as many aesthetic judgments on individual works and composers as is possible in a work of this size and scope, for although we realize that such feelings and judgments are purely personal and that therefore it is hardly likely that everyone will agree with them, we believe that a history which does not seek to arouse a critical enthusiasm for each and every period and in which there are few or no aesthetic judgments to guide the taste of those less familiar with the music in question is not fulfilling one of its functions.

Our second aim has been to write a history that would be of use in both schools and universities, and while conscious that there is a marked difference in ability and attainment between young people of the level of the English fifth-former and the third-year university student, and that hence this history will provide more for the one and less for the other than is needed, we hope that both will find something of value, even though what is found may only have an indirect bearing on their examinations.

But a history of music should do more than stimulate enthusiasm, or assess greatness, or pass aesthetic judgments; it should do more than present facts and reasonable deductions, or include well-chosen examples and quotations, or give accurate analyses of styles and techniques, important as all these are; it should also (to quote The New Oxford History ofMusic . . .

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