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What is Early Music?

What is Early Music

Early Music in a sense is any music that is not new now. Mostly, though, the term refers to music in the western tradition originating in times far earlier than our own—from Gregorian chant, say, up until some time in the early part of the nineteenth century (the point at which “mainstream” classical music takes over), a span of about a thousand years. The repertories, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, have needed to be rediscovered, reinterpreted, and reperformed.

A certain attitude to music-making is integral to Early Music. Some might call it letting the music speak for itself. Performers seek to find the sounds that Queen Elizabeth heard, that Bach preferred, that resounded in the Sistine Chapel. To do so requires the right hardware—period instruments and vocal techniques—and the right software: performance style, improvisatory skills, understanding of traditions and conventions. At its best Early Music is the perpetually-new creation of sound-worlds of beauty and excitement.

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Short Bibliography

Books about Early Music in General

The Early Music Revival

The Early Music Revival: A History

By Harry Haskell Thames and Hudson, 1988; Dover, 1996
Inside Early Music

Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers

By Bernard Sherman Oxford University Press, 1997
The Authenticity Wars

Authenticity and Early Music

Authenticity and Early Music: A Symposium

By Nicholas Kenyon Oxford University Press, 1988
Text & Act

Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance

By Richard Taruskin Oxford University Press, 1995
Books about Performance Practices

A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music

A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music

By Ross Duffin Early Music America Performer’s Guides to Early Music; Indiana University Press, 2000
A Performer's Guide Renaissance Music

A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Music

By Jeffery Kite-Powell Early Music America Performer’s Guides to Early Music; Schirmer Books, 1994; 2nd edition, Indiana University Press, 2007
Historical Performance Music

The Historical Performance of Music: An Introduction

By Colin Lawson and Robin Stowell Cambridge University Press, 1999 (discusses Baroque and Classical music)

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