Composer Gagné has been writing on the topic of modern and contemporary classical music for about three decades. Her dictionary focuses on composers of and, occasionally, the musicians performing, concert music during the 19th and 20th centuries. It consists primarily of an alphabetical listing of almost 400 people and topics and lacks a table of contents that would alert readers to other, smaller sections. These include a key to acronyms and abbreviations, a chronology, and a useful introduction that defines modern and contemporary classical music and describes “how techniques and technology interacted with the art."... The bibliography begins with a table of contents and an introduction that suggests several seminal books on broad topics, essential writings by composers, and books about composers and compositional analysis. It is divided into sections by composer and by format (e.g., books, journals, and websites about individual composers, multiple composers, and organizations). BOTTOM LINE This dictionary will be an excellent and useful addition to high school and college libraries as well as to the collections of modern classical music aficionados. (Library Journal)
When most people think of classical music, they summon up images of tinkly baroque or sweeping Romantic music. Relatively few instinctively go for the dissonance, polyrhythm, and atonality of the modernist movement, still fewer for the minimalism, multimedia, and free improvisation movements that are hallmarks of postmodernism. The Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Classical Music focuses on these movements worldwide, from 1890 to the present. Included are pop, jazz, and rock composers and musicians whose work overlaps classical music or is radical enough in its own field to merit inclusion.The lengthy introductory essay provides a comprehensive introduction to the field, covering not just the movements, composers, and musicians but methods, styles, and media peculiar to modern and contemporary music. A detailed chronology sets the stage, beginning in 1890 with Satie and Debussy and ending in 2010 with Tyranny’s Scriabin’s Chord―surely a broad swath―encompassing works by Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, and the Beatles. The more than 400 alphabetically organized entries are brief but informative, running from a paragraph for lesser-known composers (e.g., Ursula Oppens) to two pages for movements (e.g., Postmodernism). The writing style is smooth and engaging, informative without being belabored. Cross-references are noted within entries by bold type, and see also references end the entries. The organizational structure and cross-referencing work well in lieu of an index. A long bibliography is extensive enough to need its own table of contents and is organized by categories covering print works of general interest, histories, individual and multiple composers, and interviews. There are separate sections for journals and reviews as well as websites. Virtually alone in its field, where many competing works are more specialized or narrowly focused, the Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Music provides a good starting point for those seeking to understand a somewhat esoteric field. A sound purchase for large public and academic libraries. (Booklist)
Primarily biographical, this concise dictionary for music of the 20th and early 21st centuries describes 350 composers and performers; the author contributes 400 dictionary entries, many of which present styles or instruments. Composers known at the turn of the 20th century are covered only if their music and ideas were futuristic; also included are composers of jazz and popular songs who overlapped into concert music (e.g., Ornette Coleman). Gagné (independent scholar) presents a wide array of international musicians, including those that are exclusively performers (orchestras, singers, instrumentalists). A chronology from 1890 to 2010 lists major works. The introduction presents a concise history of modern music, and identifies several composers and titles of the various styles (harmonic, rhythmic, timbral) that became 20th-century music. This dictionary introduces many terms not present in previous works, such as "Extended Performance Techniques." It also divides terms into multiple entries with more details; e.g., "Aleatory" music is supplemented by "Chance," "Open Form," "Indeterminacy," and "Elastic Form." Extensive bibliographies conclude the dictionary. Boldface font for references helps users relate various composers to each other, their styles, and their genres. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-level undergraduates. (CHOICE)
This book is a handy reference tool for students and researchers who need basic information about modern and contemporary classical music and musicians, both famous and obscure....Gagné’s Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Classical Music is recommended for research libraries or libraries that serve ambitious undergraduates. It is an extensive, easy-to-use dictionary that provides quick reference to numerous topics and can serve as a spring- board for further investigation. (Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association)
The dictionary provides basic information about each topic (e.g., methods, styles, and techniques), with bolded cross-references in each entry. The emphasis on biographical fact, not music criticism, provides in a nutshell the essence of the contribution of the composer to the development of twentieth-century music. The entries do not include a complete work list, rather just those works that the compiler deemed the most representative, important, or well-known. Some entries are also followed by a list of cross-references. The 57-page bibliography is comprehensive and well organized; it is particularly outstanding in the number and quality of print and Web resources for individual composers. The dictionary is preceded by an introduction that sets the framework for the historical development of the period and by a useful chronology, which even includes occasionally premiere dates for the works tracked. The work is commendable for its coverage of women, minority, and international figures as well as the inclusion of performers in the related fields of jazz, pop, and rock, like Duke Ellington and the Beatles, whose influence impacted the realm of classical music. This dictionary is an appropriate addition to both public and academic music reference collections as an introduction to the composers and movements for the general public and undergraduates as well as a jumping-off resource for further investigation. (American Reference Books Annual)
Such a well-produced and authoritative book is the newly-published Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Classical Music by Nicole Gagné from Scarecrow Press. It is indeed far more than an excellent dictionary of modern composers and music – although it is those too. It amounts to a perceptive and ultimately very creative assessment not only of how "classical" music (with all its many influences) has developed since the 1890's; of who has played which roles; where have been the developments, major and minor; in which contexts; but – significantly also – why music has developed as it has. How it has happened that music has made the progress which it has; how the slices of these changes fit and clash, bend and sprint. (Classical Net)
About the Author
Nicole V. Gagné is the co-author of Soundpieces: Interviews With American Composers and the author of Sonic Transports: New Frontiers In Our Music and Soundpieces 2: Interviews With American Composers.