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Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music

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This is an analysis of popular music from a musical, as opposed to a sociological, biographical or political point of view. The author surveys Western popular music in all its forms - blues, ragtime, music hall, waltzes, marches, parlour ballads and folk music - and uncovers the common musical language which unites these disparate styles. The book examines the split betwee This is an analysis of popular music from a musical, as opposed to a sociological, biographical or political point of view. The author surveys Western popular music in all its forms - blues, ragtime, music hall, waltzes, marches, parlour ballads and folk music - and uncovers the common musical language which unites these disparate styles. The book examines the split between classical and popular Western music in the 19th and early 20th centuries, shedding light on the serious music of the time. With musical illustrations ranging from Strauss waltzes to Mississippi blues and from the Middle Ages to the 1920s, the author lays bare the tangled roots of the popular music of today.


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This is an analysis of popular music from a musical, as opposed to a sociological, biographical or political point of view. The author surveys Western popular music in all its forms - blues, ragtime, music hall, waltzes, marches, parlour ballads and folk music - and uncovers the common musical language which unites these disparate styles. The book examines the split betwee This is an analysis of popular music from a musical, as opposed to a sociological, biographical or political point of view. The author surveys Western popular music in all its forms - blues, ragtime, music hall, waltzes, marches, parlour ballads and folk music - and uncovers the common musical language which unites these disparate styles. The book examines the split between classical and popular Western music in the 19th and early 20th centuries, shedding light on the serious music of the time. With musical illustrations ranging from Strauss waltzes to Mississippi blues and from the Middle Ages to the 1920s, the author lays bare the tangled roots of the popular music of today.

40 review for Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    Fascinating; a deep weird dive. Might want a piano, and the ability to sight read

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kiof

    Elegantly written, deeply learned and full of original insights and speculations (to cite just one example, the argument that blues songs often end on a dominant seventh chord because of the influence of the barbershop quartet) but also somewhat unfocused. We meander about, learning some of the musical intricacies of parlour music, blues, African music, British folk, among other subjects, without a clear picture of why we are hearing about it or what thesis the author is driving at, in a particu Elegantly written, deeply learned and full of original insights and speculations (to cite just one example, the argument that blues songs often end on a dominant seventh chord because of the influence of the barbershop quartet) but also somewhat unfocused. We meander about, learning some of the musical intricacies of parlour music, blues, African music, British folk, among other subjects, without a clear picture of why we are hearing about it or what thesis the author is driving at, in a particular section or, more crucially, the entire book. Obviously the goal in some sense is to divine the origins of the so-called “popular style” but I do not think nearly enough time is spent clarifying the boundaries of that term. (To those who say it is simply about nonclassical music, Van Der Merwe writes in his introduction that the book is as much about classical as it is popular music—and most of its pages are in fact spent analyzing folk music.) Van Der Merwe at the beginning sketches out the many things the book is not, and claims that the book is merely a work of musicology—which itself isn’t necessarily the most clear designation—to remedy some of this confusion, but that kind of definition by antithesis only goes so far. However, as long as the reader doesn’t worry too much about where they’re going, or why they’re going there, they’re likely to enjoy themselves.

  3. 5 out of 5

    J.O. Teague

    This is very dense, very informative book on music development and history recommended by Rhiannon Giddens in an interview. Highly recommended to serious musicians. This is not written for laymen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bill Mayer

    Even though most of the music theory was over my head, I found this book to be enlightening and well written.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  6. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stuart David

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eve

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Eck

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nacho Martín

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eddie

  14. 4 out of 5

    Juliana Perez

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jesper Juellund

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Kirk

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Nitsch

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  19. 4 out of 5

    Axel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  21. 5 out of 5

    Max Renn

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Henrique

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Syed Farhan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

  28. 5 out of 5

    ZM

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bri

  31. 4 out of 5

    David Glenn Dixon

  32. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

  33. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  34. 4 out of 5

    Vic Dillahay

  35. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  36. 4 out of 5

    Isabela

  37. 5 out of 5

    aleph3

  38. 5 out of 5

    N. N. Santiago

  39. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn Townsend

  40. 5 out of 5

    Lysander

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