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Donald Jay Grout
A History of Western Music

(New York: W.W. Norton, 1960)

Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music

The 1950s and ’60s were a period of rapid expansion for American universities in general, and for music history in particular. Monographs, journals, and doctoral programs proliferated, and so did undergraduate survey courses. Almost every student majoring in music had to take a course in music history, but few textbooks were suitable for such courses. Joseph Machlis’s The Enjoyment of Music (first published in 1957), targeted at music appreciation courses, was too elementary for music majors, and Paul Henry Lang’s widely respected Music in Western Civilization (1941) was too long and complex. Donald Jay Grout’s A History of Western Music (1960) filled this gap, and it soon came to dominate its category. Grout produced a revised edition in 1973, but declining health prevented him from completing the third edition (1980), which passed into the capable hands of Claude Palisca, who also prepared the fourth (1988), fifth (1996), and sixth (2001) editions. After Palisca’s death in 2001, J. Peter Burkholder took over the franchise, with the seventh (2006) and eighth (2010) editions. Although it now has worthy competitors, such as A History of Music in Western Culture by Mark Evan Bonds, it is still the most widely used textbook of its kind and the standard to which all others are compared.

Donald Jay Grout (1902–1987) earned a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1939, at a time when few Americans had doctorates in music history. He taught at Cornell from 1945 until his retirement in 1970. Grout wrote extensively on opera (including A Short History of Opera) as well as the historiography of music, but A History of Western Music has proved to be his most enduring legacy.

Claude V. Palisca (1921–2001) ranks among the most eminent musicologists of the postwar era. Educated at Queens College (CUNY) and Harvard, he taught at the University of Illinois for six years before coming to Yale in 1959, where he remained until his retirement in 1992. A decade after his death, he is still vividly remembered by his many former colleagues and students, including the curator of this exhibit. His papers are held here at the Gilmore Music Library. A specialist in the history of music theory and aesthetics, Palisca also wrote a successful textbook on Baroque Music.

J. Peter Burkholder (b. 1954) was educated at Earlham College and the University of Chicago, and has served on the faculty of Indiana University since 1988. A renowned scholar of Charles Ives, Burkholder is a familiar visitor at Yale, the home of the Ives Papers.

For advice on the section of this exhibit dealing with A History of Western Music, we are grateful to Kristy Swift of the University of Cincinnati, author of the forthcoming dissertation Donald J. Grout, Claude V. Palisca, and J. Peter Burkholder’s A History of Western Music, 1960–2009: Getting the Story Crooked.

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