The World of Music, by David Willoughby

January 31, 2014

the world of musicThe World of Music, David Willoughby. 7th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012.  ISBN: 978-0078025167

In his book The World of Music, David Willoughby, former head of the Music Department at Susquehanna University, presents a concise, yet comprehensive, history of music. By avoiding excessively technical jargon, Willoughby is able to connect to readers with differing levels of musical knowledge. This book is clearly intended for a course in general music, such as Music Appreciation. I would also recommend the title for anyone who wants to brush up on their musical vocabulary and history without the daunting task of reading through more thorough, detailed historical surveys.

The World of Music is divided into thirteen chapters, which are grouped into four topical parts. Part 1, “Preparation for Listening,” begins with a summary of basic musical concepts in Chapter 1 called, “Introducing the World of Music.” Topics such as music labels, music in culture, ethnic diversity in music, artists and artistry, and the business of music are discussed in brief summation. Chapter 2, “The Nature of Music: Vocabulary for Listening and Understanding” truly provides the backbone of information for the remaining chapters, and rounds out Part 1.

Part 2, “Listening to American Music: Folk, Religious, Jazz, and Pop” is devoted to music that is typically more mainstream than Western European classical music. Willoughby begins this delineation of musical history with “Folk Music Traditions” in Chapter 3, which is then followed by “Religious Music Traditions” in Chapter 4. This is advantageous to the general music student, as most likely, he or she will have already heard many of, if not all, the genres Willoughby presents. A potential disadvantage, however, is that this approach does not provide a chronological development of music, and students may become confused thinking that perhaps American folk or jazz music are older than a Mozart opera.

Willoughby then provides his readers with a rather detailed history of jazz in Chapter 5, followed by a discussion of popular music in Chapter 6. Chapter 5 is much more comprehensive than other chapters, paying homage to the complexity of jazz music and its importance to American music as a whole. Several styles of jazz are included, such as New Orleans and Chicago jazz, stride, boogie-woogie, swing, big band, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, and others. Chapter 6 is more condensed than Chapter 5, as Willoughby brings up Tin Pan Alley, country music, Motown, rock, rap, and other genres all within the same chapter. Perhaps a more complete view on American popular music would be beneficial here, as much detail seems to be missing.

In Part 3, “Listening to World Music,” Willoughby presents a rich variety of musical examples from other cultures. Chapter 7, “Music of the Americas” provides a short glimpse into the music of Native Americans as well as music from South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean; genres explored include reggae, zydeco, indigenous folk culture and dances from South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In Chapter 8, “Music Beyond the Americas,” Willoughby expands further with a consideration of music from India, Japan (including gagaku and kabuki), sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Indonesia (including gamelan and popular music). Willoughby rounds out the chapter, and Part 3, with a brief summary of Jewish cultural, liturgical and klezmer music, as well as Celtic music. Together, these chapters provide the student with an opportunity to study previously unfamiliar music. Many students I have taught appreciated Willoughby’s efforts to show how the musical styles can be so vastly different from their own, while others tie the similarities of music such as reggae and klezmer to their own musical interests.

Part 4, “Listening to Western Classical Music,” is separated into five chapters covering music from the five main eras: Chapter 9, “Music to 1600,” Chapter 10, “Music of the Baroque Period,” Chapter 11, “Music of the Classic Period,” Chapter 12, “Music of the Romantic Period,” and Chapter 13, “Music of the Twentieth Century.” Significantly, this comes at the end of the book rather than at the beginning. This is beneficial to the student because, by the time these subjects arise over the course of a semester when this book is used, he or she will already have at least a novice’s ability to talk about the classical forms.

Finally, Willoughby includes two appendices: Appendix A contains a list of recommended DVDs and videos, while Appendix B is a classification of instruments organized according to methods of tone production. The book also contains a glossary of all highlighted vocabulary terms throughout the book.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this book, from an educator’s standpoint, is the Connect Music feature. Connect Music provides the educator with a web-based assignment and assessment platform, interactive listening guides for all students and instructors using the course software, quizzes on listening identification, and critical listening and comparison activities. All of these features can be integrated into an institution’s online education platform, such as Blackboard. The instructor can still tailor quizzes, exams, and assignments, as formats and question types are both vast and flexible. Having utilized both the textbook and the online capabilities for nearly two years, I can confirm that it is incredibly user-friendly.

A significant shortcoming in this book is the selection of musical examples. While every educator should seek ways to supplement the text he or she chooses, it is nice to have supplemental material within the text. Willoughby provides 36 listening examples throughout the book, with a wide variety of choices and, more importantly, examples of musical idioms discussed in the chapters. These examples come with “Listening Guides” which provide the student with background information on the artists, structural and analytical information, second-by-second descriptions of the parts, and, when necessary, lyrics and translations. Willoughby’s examples, however, fall short in terms of how they represent the genres being discussed. There are only two listening examples from operas, yet three examples of chant. Perhaps an opera chorus, ensemble, and more differentiation among the styles would be beneficial. If used as the required text for a course, instructors will need to spend time gathering multiple examples of audio and video to enhance the audio/visual experience.

While most of the content in this book is meant to be concise, The World of Music lacks enough detail in two important genres of musical history: opera and musical theatre. I appreciate that the author explains musical theatre by describing different styles and forms that occur within the genre, but we never really get a solid description of its development. The same can be said of opera, for when we get to the part titled “Listening to Western Classical Music” little is presented in terms of operatic development over time. By contrast, Willoughby explains the processes of sonata form development and changes in orchestral instrumentation, but ignores opera. If the instructor chooses to teach these forms/genres, he or she will want to find a definitive resource and use the class textbook as a supplement.

In sum, Willoughby’s seventh edition of The World of Music is an outstanding resource for general music courses in both high school and college. If followed from beginning to end, the student can learn about music by starting with what they most likely already know rather than the more common chronological approach that follows a typical discussion on musical concepts. While listening examples will need to be supplemented by instructor choices, students will benefit from the useful interactive listening guides provided by Connect Music.

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