When people decide that music is worthy of being remembered or taught in a music history course — in other words, “canonized” — they often justify that decision by explaining how that music fulfills certain criteria/values. These often include: it is new/innovative for its time, it is complex (hard to play, hard to write, hard to analyze), it influenced other music, or “everyone knows” that the piece is worth remembering (and therefore it’s important to know it). (Review the chapter from Resonances that we read for the first assignment if you want a refresher on these ideas.) Our first assignment asked you to think about how you have learned about these values in your own musical life. This assignment asks you to observe those value systems at work in our textbook. We will revisit the completed assignments the week of October 19.

Pick a piece or composer discussed in Part VI of our textbook (pp 607-874. It can be one we have read about or one we have not yet read about.) For this piece or composer, read the section that Taruskin has written about them and explain in about 750 words why you think Taruskin chose to include the piece in the book. Your explanation should answer the following questions (in any order or in any format):

Name the piece/composer, and the pages.
Explain why you think Taruskin chose to include this piece in the book.
As part of your answer: name the criteria/values that we have talked about seem to have motivated him to include that piece. If there are more than one, or ones we haven’t discussed, name those too.
How do you know those are the criteria/values?
As part of your answer: For each criterion/value you noticed, quote the sentence or passage that communicates that value, and explain why it does. Be as detailed as possible.
This might be obvious (as when Taruskin writes about Joseph Haydn that he was “the most influential composer of symphonies in the mid- to late-eighteenth century” (315). But it might also be more subtle. For instance, Taruskin might not tell you directly that the piece was innovative or influential, but might dedicate 6 pages to a close analysis of the hard-to-hear thematic connections in the piece. This suggests that he included the piece because it was hard to write (complicated to keep all those parts in your head, and also hard to analyze), and also because it is “unified,” which is a quality that music theorists often value in music.
Write down one thing about this section that surprised you, and explain why.
If you were in charge of updating this section for the book’s next edition, name something you would add or take away, and explain why.
A note: You might look at a piece of music in the book and think “Well, he also included it because it’s beautiful.” It probably is beautiful! But why does he believe the piece to be beautiful? Was it the harmonies? The rhythms? The audience reaction? In short: a lot of the time, “beautiful” can just be another way of saying “innovative.”

Music history