first Edition


by Ray Allen, Douglas Cohen, Nancy Hager, Jeffrey Taylor

The course has a number of interrelated objectives:

1. To introduce you to works representative of a variety of music traditions. These include the repertoires of Western Europe from the Middle Ages through the present; of the United States, including art music, jazz, folk, rock, musical theater; and from at least two non-Western world areas (Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent).

2. To enable you to speak and write about the features of the music you study, employing vocabulary and concepts of melody, rhythm, harmony, texture, timbre, and form used by musicians.

3. To explore with you the historic, social, and cultural contexts and the role of class, ethnicity, and gender in the creation and performance of music, including practices of improvisation and the implications of oral and notated transmission.

4. To acquaint you with the sources of musical sounds—instruments and voices from different cultures, found sounds, electronically generated sounds; basic principles that determine pitch and timbre.

5. To examine the influence of technology, mass media, globalization, and transnational currents on the music of today. The chapters in this reader contain definitions and explanations of musical terms and concepts, short essays on subjects related to music as a creative performing art, biographical sketches of major figures in music, and historical and cultural background information on music from different periods and places.

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Music: Its Language, History, And Culture
1. Elements of Sound and Music
1.1. Elements of Sound: Frequency, Amplitude, Wave Form, Duration
1.2. Elements of Music: Rhythm, Meter, Pitch, Melody, Texture, Tone Color, Form
2. Musical Instruments and Ensembles
2.1. Instruments: A World View
2.2. Human Voice as Instrument
2.3. Western Categories of Instruments
2.4. Ensembles
3. Composer, Performer, Audience
4. European Art Music: Middle Ages through Romantic
4.1. Middle Ages
4.2. Renaissance
4.3. Baroque
4.4. Classical
4.5. Romantic
5. European and American Art Music since 1900
6. American Vernacular Music
6.1. Introduction
6.2. American Folk Music
6.3. Anglo American Ballads
6.4. African American Spirituals and Gospel Music
6.5. The Blues
6.6. Rock and Roll
6.7. Rap
7. Jazz
7.1. Characteristic Features
7.2. Brief History
8. World Music
8.1. Selected World Cultures and Repertories
8.2. Africa
8.3. India
8.4. Indonesia
8.5. China
8.6. The Caribbean
8.7. South America
8.8. Jewish Klezmer Music
9. Appendix 1: Musician Biographies
9.1. Anderson
9.2. Armstrong
9.3. Bach
9.4. Bartok
9.5. Beethoven
9.6. Bernstein
9.7. Cage
9.8. Chopin
9.9. Coltrane
9.10. Copland
9.11. Davis
9.12. Dvorak
9.13. Dylan
9.14. Ellington
9.15. Gershwin
9.16. Gillespie
9.17. Handel
9.18. Hardin
9.19. Haydn
9.20. Ives
9.21. Joplin
9.22. Josquin des Prez
9.23. King (B. B.)
9.24. Mingus
9.25. Monk (Meredith)
9.26. Monk (Thelonious)
9.27. Mozart
9.28. Parker
9.29. Piazzolla
9.30. Presley
9.31. Puccini
9.32. Reich
9.33. Schoenberg
9.34. Schubert
9.35. Schumann (Clara)
9.36. Seeger (Pete)
9.37. Seeger (Ruth)
9.38. Shankar
9.39. Smith
9.40. Stravinsky
9.41. Varèse
9.42. Verdi
9.43. Vivaldi
10. Appendix 2: Glossary

Original text by Ray Allen, Douglas Cohen, Nancy Hager, and Jeffrey Taylor with contributions by Marc Thorman.

Music: Its Language, History and Culture by the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

The author(s) of this volume are not affiliated in any manner with