TAL #TBT: “If Music History is Written by the Victors”

In preparation for our September 5 re-launch of The Avid Listener, I offer one of our most popular essays, Sara Haefeli’s “If Music History is Written by the Victors,” as this week’s #TBT essay. Remember this?

“Winston Churchill claimed that ‘history is written by the victors.’ If this is true of our history of music, then who won? What does ‘winning’ mean? Why is it that musicologists have historically chosen to focus on what we generically call ‘classical’ music (or ‘art’ music, or—even worse—’serious’ music) and not on all the other musical practices around us?”

This essay is a useful tool to get discussions going about how certain bits of music and certain composers (and heck, even certain countries and traditions) make it into our music history classrooms and textbooks, while others don’t. Who makes those decisions? How did we get to the narrative(s) we have?

This fall we’re going to move to a publishing schedule of two essays per month. We’ll kick off our third year with two essays by Joanna Smolko about Bruce Springsteen. If you are new to The Avid Listener and want to take a look at our back catalogue, take a look at our most recent digest in .pdf form. Each title is hyperlinked to the online essay. Essays are open access (no fee, no paywall) and aimed at a non-specialist audience. Please share widely and often, pitch us essays, and adapt for classroom use (for college-level classrooms, here’s a Guide to Integrating TAL into the Classroom; for high-school classrooms, here’s a guide to using TAL to meet Common Core ELA standards).

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

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