Editors: Mark Everist and Thomas Forrest Kelly
Publisher: Cambridge University Press – 1,248 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

In general, few books on music are available on the market today than on other broad areas of knowledge. Leaving the ‘Subject’ tab open, we typed in ‘music’ as a keyword in a search on Amazon.com of books published by Cambridge University Press, and the result was a listing of 915 books relating to music. Typing in ‘religion’ yielded over 2,000 books, and the keyword ‘language’ took us to a list of over 3,000 books.

For other knowledge areas, we found even larger numbers of lists. For ‘law’ we found more than 4,000 books, and for ‘politics’ it was over 6,000 books. For the keyword ‘media’ a listing of a whopping more than 10,000 books was made available to us. Note that this was limited to books published by only Cambridge University Press, and no other book publisher was included.

A search for books on ‘music’ in the Books section of our website BIZ INDIA Online News at www.BizIndia.net led us to around 110 content items having the word ‘music’ in them, and these were not limited to only book titles containing this word, but much else. In any case, we have not reviewed many books on music and so we decided to review this book for those who are interested in the music of Western Europe, particularly during the Middle Ages.

Classical and popular music of all types in the western world is listened to collectively, by billions of people. Much is also read about the history of such types of music. But how much interest is out there on the history of what is called ‘medieval’ music?

‘Medieval’ refers to, per its editors Mark Everist and Thomas Forrest Kelly, the period beginning from around the fall of the Roman Empire circa 476 and going forward a thousand years (a millennium). Perhaps there is some interest worldwide on the history of music dating so far back.

So, this book of two volumes comprising of nearly 1,250 pages was published in 2018. One reason this book became a reality is that books on medieval European music by other publishers had been commercial successes. Otherwise, it would have made no economic sense for this one.

Thirty-nine specialists in medieval music (including the two editors) from all over the United States and seven other countries – Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, and the United Kingdom – authored as many chapters contained in this book.

We list the chapter titles below to provide you a broad overview of the contents of this book:

  1. Volume I
  2. Introduction and Context
  3. Musical Legacies from the Ancient World
  4. Origins and Transmission of Franco-Roman Chant
  5. Sources of Romano-Frankish Liturgy and Music
  6. Regional Liturgies: Spanish, Beneventan, Gallican, Milanese
  7. Nova Cantica
  8. Music and Prosopography
  9. The Silence of Medieval Singers
  10. Notation I
  11. Tropes
  12. Sequence
  13. Music Theory
  14. Vernacular Song I: Lyric
  15. Vernacular Song II: Romance
  16. Instruments and Their Music
  17. Teaching and Learning Music
  18. Music in Drama
  19. The Sources
  20. The Revival of Medieval Music
  21. Medieval Performance Practice
  22. Issues in the Modern Performance of Medieval Music
  23. Volume II
  24. Institutions and Foundations
  25. Notation II
  26. Rhythm and Meter
  27. Tonal Organization in Polyphony, 1150-1400
  28. Liturgy and Plainchant, 1150-1570
  29. Early Polyphony
  30. Notre Dame
  31. Liturgical Polyphony after 1300
  32. The Emergence of Polyphonic Song
  33. Vernacular Song III: Polyphony
  34. The Thirteenth Century Motet
  35. The Fourteenth-Century Motet
  36. Latin Song I: Songs and Songbooks from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Century
  37. Latin Song II: The Music and Texts of the Conductus
  38. Trecento I: Secular Music
  39. Trecento II: Sacred Music and Motets in Italy and the East from 1300 Until the End of Schism
  40. Ars subtilior
  41. Citational Practice in the Later Middle Ages
  42. ‘Medieval Music’ or ‘Early European Music’?


Mark Everist is Professor of Music at the University of Southampton. His previous publications include: Mozart’s Ghosts: Haunting the Halls of Musical Culture (2013), The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music (2013), and French Motets in the Thirteen Century (1994).

Thomas Forrest Kelly is Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University. He has published numerous books including Early Music: A Very Short Introduction (2011), The Exultet in Southern Italy (1997) and the Kinkelday Award-winning The Beneventan Chant (Cambridge, 1989)