JQAdams's Reviews > Capturing Music: The Story of Notation

Capturing Music by Thomas Forrest Kelly
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This book looks at the creation and evolution of musical notation in medieval Western Europe, showing how transcription came to focus on pitch and rhythm, and the things people tried to convey those aspects of melody. Kelly is infectiously in love with his subject, and manages to throw in a fair amount of humor or at least lightness of tone, but the book takes some deep dives into medieval music theory, which is likely to be pretty heavy sledding for a lot of readers. It's also somewhat off-putting how frequently he declares that something he's talking about is "fascinating" (isn't that for readers to decide?) and how all the musical effects he describes are "beautiful" (obviously as the author he gets to choose examples he likes, but the repetition does eventually make him seem undiscriminating). At least he is self-aware about describing so many things as "breakthroughs."

The high production values may offer distraction to those who do find the material overly academic: the book is lavishly illustrated with both pictures and musical examples in modern notation. It also comes with a CD of music samples, but I didn't get that -- since I'm usually not enthralled by pre-Baroque music, I doubt hearing the examples would have swayed my ranking, but who knows?

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 1, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 29, 2016 – Shelved

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