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A unified theory of music?

Richard Taruskin's six-volume history of western classical music is personal and incomplete. But it offers a magnificent glimpse of the whole

The Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin (Oxford University Press, £280)

Writing a history of music, even a history of western music, begs some big questions. Is there such a unified entity as “music” of which a history can be written, or is it not the case that in the west there have been several musics: folk, dance, “high art” (or classical), jazz, pop, to name just a few?

Richard Taruskin states plainly in his introduction that his book is about the classical music composed in Europe and America. For the most part it excludes discussion of orally…

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