The Oxford History of Western Music

The Oxford History of Western Music is a narrative history from the "earliest notations" (taken to be around the eighth century) to the late twentieth century. It was written by the American musicologist Richard Taruskin. Published by Oxford University Press, it is a five volume work on the various significant periods of Western music and their characteristic qualities, events and composition styles.

The Oxford History of Western Music appeared in 2005. A paperback edition in five volumes followed in 2009.

Previous histories of musicEdit

Oxford University Press had previously published narrative histories of music, although Taruskin's was the first sole author work spanning over five volumes and 4000 pages focused on an in depth period-based analysis of western music history.[1]

The Oxford History of Music was first published in six volumes under the general editorship of Sir Henry Hadow between 1901 and 1905. The first two volumes, written by H. E. Woolridge, were entitled The Polyphonic Period, and began with the music of ancient Greece: these volumes dated quite quickly. Other volumes were reprinted as they stood, but Sir Percy Buck , who was also involved with the OUP's Tudor Church Music, revised the first two volumes (1929 and 1932), and edited a new introductory volume (1929). The introductory volume included a contribution from Sylvia Townsend Warner.[2]

The New Oxford History of Music, produced under the general editorship of Sir Jack Westrup, began to appear in 1954. Contributors included Paul Steinitz.


  1. ^ "A History of Western Music? Well, It's a Long Story" (brief interview with Taruskin by James Oestreich in the New York Times)
  2. ^ Anne Pimlott Baker, ‘Buck, Sir Percy Carter (1871–1947)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 16 Aug 2016 (subscription or membership of a UK public library required)

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