Musica Practica

Musica Practica: The Social Practice of Western from Gregorian Chant to Postmodernism, Verso, 1996

The idea of writing a history of music spanning around 1,000 years might seem highly impractical, but Michael Chanan has attempted just that. He is not writing a history of compositional style or even of composers’ lives so much as a social history of music, taking in the economic factors which have contributed to the development of music as a profession – how the division of labour has provided us with the standard roles whih we now accept asgiven, and which govern the production, distribution and consumption of music.

“As an extension of the idea of music within society, Chanan also deals at length with the effects of technology on the art, from the invention of printing, through the development of the classical instruments, right up to what he calls ‘the age of electro-acoustics’. One of the real strengths of the book is its refusal to limit itself merely to the consideration of classical music, which thereby allows the reader to understand its specific characteristics more fully.” BBC Music Magazine, March 1995

“…in many ways, Musica Practica can be seen as a kind of greatly expanded translation of [Attali’s] Noise, written this time from the standpoint of a musician… which provides a necessary and detailed supplement to Attali – a very practical venture indeed.” The Musical Times, January 1995

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