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Choral Music history textbooks

When I asked for resources and references for a choral music history
timeline- I had no idea what a hot topic this would be- I received many
more requests for compilations than I did suggestions- so I guess I'm not
the only one looking. Although, there are some great ideas here--thanks
to those who offered suggestions and advice.

It seems there is a small circle of "classic" choral texts (most of which
I already knew) but it was interesting to read why people preferred one
book over another, what combination of texts was helpful or how they
prepared for their own exams. So, I've cut and pasted the responses thus
far- (if there are more later, I can add to it.) Meanwhile, I have
exhausted my university library of choral texts, made a few interlibrary
loan requests, xeroxed several New Groves articles and am busy preparing
my own timeline, flash cards and composer lists. Thanks again for the
suggestions--hope this helps those of you who were looking as well.

I took the advice of the lit prof as I contemplated my orals: Use index
to write down the information you think you need from the textbook the
requires, and sort/study them in three different formats: 1- in a real
time-line sort; 2- on a country/regional basis, and; 3- according to
genres and their own particular timelines. Know at least two works of
minor composers and several by major ones that you can cite as examples-
specific when describing how the works illustrate points you want to

It was LOTS of work. I started two months before orals. By the time I'd
completed the project I knew the material backwards and forwards. Choral
history was the least of my worries when I finally went before the

Good luck- BTW, the New York Public Library Desk Reference provides a
wonderful skeletal outline you might want to look at as a starting point.

For my DMA exams, I found Fleming's "Arts and Ideas" to be most
helpful. This way, one can get a broad perspective of all of the
contemporaneous arts of WESTERN CIVILIZATION with reference to choral
music as well.
I still use three books from my doctoral studies in the 70's.

CHORAL MUSIC by Arthur Jacobs, Penguin Books, 1966

THE CHORAL TRADITION by Percy M. Young, Norton, 1971

A SURVEY OF CHORAL MUSIC by Homer Ulrich, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973
The chronologically-arranged choral composer list appendix in Garretson's
"Choral Conducting" is quite up-to-date. No works, just dates by birth
date, but countries of origin as well. If you can't find the book
let me know and I could photocopy the relevant pages.

There's a similar database of composers on the ChoralNet site, but it's
extensive that it's not that useful for comps. You want the sweep of
history, not every single minor composer ever living.

The works lists in the back of the out-of-print "The Choral Tradition" by
Philip Young are helpful, although organized alphabetically and not
up-to-date past 1940 or so.
Actually, that was my master's thesis.

University of Akron, 1981
Choral Literature: A Stylistic Approach Through
Historical Research and the Analysis of Selected

Don't know if you can get it through interlibrary
loan or not.

James D. Feiszli
One book that organizes the material in a chronological manner is Homer
Ulrich's "A Survey of Choral Music". Within each historical period he
also discusses the development of specific forms, i.e., motet, mass, etc.

In my own studies I've found it most hopeful, albeit more time-consuming
to create my own time line with information culled from various sources
no one book seems to present the 'whole picture.'
I believe either "Choral Music" edited by Arthur Jacobs (Penguin, NY,
or "The Choral Tradition" by Percy M. Young (W.W. Norton, NY, 1962, rev
would do the trick. The Jacobs goes back to the Middle Ages, while the
only begins at the 16th c.
Inadequate as it is, Homer Ulrich's "A Surevey of Choral Music" remains
the standard history of the genre. Arthur Jacobs' "Choral Music" is more
detailed, but, as a festschrift it leaves areas unexplored and the
is uneven. Blume's "Protestant Church Music," Wienandt's "Choral Music
the Church," and Einstein's "The Madrigal" give excellent coverage to
their respective areas. These are the classic, English-language texts on
the subject. Other strategies might include surveying the standard
musical dictionaries and encyclopedias (Margaret Bent's article on the
Motet in the New Harvard for example gives the best thumbnail history of
that major choral form by far)
Choral Music" or a similar title, by Homer Ulrich (might be
Prentis-Hall--my copy is on loan). Don't let the 1973 copyright date put
you off. It's very thorough up through that time. The only two problems
have with it are that (a) he defines "choral" music as beginning in the
15th century, which is technically correct but a bit restrictive for me,
and (b) he didn't know about the new Bach chronology, which he should
in 1973. It is a small book but a thorough one, because he had the gift
introducing a subject, saying what needs to be said, and then stopping!
You can probably read it in one or two sittings and get a good big
view. Might even be in your university library.
When I did my DMA comps, I found that the Ulrich "Survey of Choral Music"
published by Harcourt Brace to be helpful. It's organized
and groups works by genre within each era.
Check out ChoralNet for several such lists, under "Resources/Reference."

Have you checked the Choral Music article in the Grove? I would think
is a great place to start. Others may suggest the Ulrich book but I find
that hard to read. If I remember correctly, the Grove has the best
While studying choral conducting at the doctoral level a few years back,
I found no single "choral music history" source. Some of the sources I
used, in addition to all the major music history texts, were:
Wienandt's Choral Music of the Church (Da Capo), Choral Music, ed. Ray
Robinson (Norton), and, for a good outline, Poultney's Studying Music
History (Prentice Hall).
Try "Studying Music History" by David Poultney,
published by Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-13-190224-5. It is
concise and well-laid out. I used it when studying
for my Master's Program Entrance Exams.
There is a wonderful book that I used while taking a choral conducting
at the graduate level. It has been extremely helpful, and just might be
thing for which you are looking. The title is A Survey of Choral Music,
Homer Ulrich (Publisher Harcourt Brace College Publishers). It
the Renaissance through the twentieth century.
For my doctoral exams I read the New Grove articles on Mass, Motet,
Madrigal, Part-Song, Oratorio, Passion, etc. and made my own graph, one
piece for every 25-50 years.