The Christian West and Its Singers


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The First Thousand Years

Christopher Page

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A renowned scholar and musician presents a new and innovative exploration of the beginnings of Western musical art. Beginning in the time of the New Testament, when Christians began to develop an art of ritual singing with an African and Asian background, Christopher Page traces the history of music in Europe through the development of Gregorian chant—a music that has profoundly influenced the way Westerners hear—to the invention of the musical staff, regarded as the fundamental technology of Western music. Page places the history of the singers who performed this music against the social, political and economic life of a Western Europe slowly being remade after the collapse of Roman power. His book will be of interest to historians, musicologists, performing musicians, and general readers who are keen to explore the beginnings of Western musical art.

Christopher Page is Professor of Medieval Music and Literature in the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, and founder of the acclaimed ensemble Gothic Voices.

“The range of primary and secondary sources cited is phenomenal, and all of it has obviously been mastered—quite astonishing. The Christian West and Its Singers aims to be definitive book on the subject and surely will be.”—Joseph Dyer, University of Massachusetts, Boston

“Brilliantly reasoned and elegantly written in a style intended to include the nonspecialist, this is an extraordinary book.”

--Library Journal, starred review

‘This is a beautiful book that, unlike most musicology, reaches out to all sorts of readers, and is written by a distinguished scholar who can present his arguments in convincing and readable prose.’ — Early Music Review

"Shrewd and perceptive. . . . Virtually every sentence bristles with detail and the meticulous care required to negotiate such complex and contested territory."--Jeremy Begbie, Books and Culture

"[This] is a magnificent book, brimming with fresh insights and with unexpected pieces of information drawn from little known sources and unpublished manuscripts."--Robert L. Wilken, First Things

“Once or twice in a generation a book comes along that crosses disciplinary boundaries to make unexpected connections, open up new imaginative vistas, and refocus what had seemed familiar historical landscapes. Christopher Page’s musician’s-eye view of the evolution of Western Christendom is one of those books.”—Eamon Duffy, The New York Review of Books

‘For my own part, I will be re-reading and recommending it for years to come…Page has written a book of great importance not only for students and scholars of music, late antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also for anyone involved in overseeing or participating in music-making in religious contexts. These readers may find (as I did) surprising resonances with, and thought-provoking differences from, their own experiences, on almost every page.’—William Flynn, Early Music

“Christopher Page sweeps with consummate ease through a thousand years of the history of European sacred music, relating and explaining so much of the historical context that any reader interested in the religious life of those days will be enlightened and rewarded, often amused and delighted as well, for Page is a master storyteller, who can convey facts and relate events with marvellous felicity . . . In many respects, a revelation."---David Hiley, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“For a long time now Christopher Page has established himself as one of the most insightful and erudite scholars of medieval music today. Trained in medieval languages and literature, and an extraordinarily accomplished musician, he has published a number of important monographs on different aspects of medieval music as well as founding and directing Gothic Voices, one of the most influential early-music ensembles in the last three decades. The present volume is by far his most ambitious undertaking as well as one of the most successful, even in comparison with his own earlier writings, which is setting the bar astonishingly high."--Alejandro Planchart, Speculum
“. . . this book is a magnificent accomplishment, and I will read and reread it for years to come."--Alice V. Clark, The Medieval Review
“Replete with creative insights and compelling new interpretations, astonishingly rich in detail and breadth of coverage, this book is Page’s crowning accomplishment to date. Only he could have told this tale, not only because of the knowledge and skills that he brings to it, but also, perhaps more importantly, because of the imagination that characterizes all of his research…It will provide information and inspiration to the disciplines of musicology, literary studies, liturgical studies, and medieval his- tory for a long time to come."--Elizabeth Aubrey, Journal of the American Musicological Society
“Christopher Page has challenged the entire field to follow where he has led, and to undertake the painstaking work of exploring with care the citations he has unearthed, thereby drawing as closely as we can to the singers of the Christian West."--Margot Fassler, Plainsong and Medieval Music

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2010 in the Music category
ISBN: 9780300112573
Publication Date: May 18, 2010
694 pages, x
50 b/w + 12 color illus.
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