Thank You

Original movie poster for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Zach and I started this blog with modest ambitions. It was simply an easy way to hold an ongoing discussion between us across distance, and work through our thoughts and reactions as we work through the text of the OHWM. We told some friends and colleagues about it, thinking that maybe—just maybe—a few of them would be interested enough, or have a sliver of time in their busy schedules to drop by the blog and chime in. We were quite surprised with the response.

Since launch day six days ago, the blog has received over 800 hits. Numerous colleagues both known and unknown to us—the wonders of the internet!—have left comments or sent emails expressing excitement in the project, or a wish that they had had such an outlet when they were reading through OHWM. I can only assume that the overwhelming response to the blog is an indication that there is still plenty of room for this type of discussion within the musicological community.

So first we want to say thank you. Thank you for your interest and support. Second, we want to encourage you to continue stopping by when you have the chance, and don’t be afraid to join the conversation. Lively discussion is the life blood of a blog (more on this soon in a post by Zach).

In the meantime, we will press on toward the goal. One week down, only seventy-six more to go!


  1. Nathan Baker says:

    Thank YOU for getting this started! I have greatly missed having these discussions with fellow students and professors at Oregon, and this blog definitely fills an intellectual hunger! =)

  2. Mark Samples says:

    That’s the great thing about this technology. We can keep up a discussion across any distance!

  3. Thanks to you as well. You’ve inspired me to try to keep up with you! Not sure if my teaching schedule will allow me to read the entire work, but I’ll be enjoying your posts this year!

  4. Mark Samples says:

    Shelley—That’s one reason why we kept the number of pages per day small. To encourage participation, and make sure we can hold to the challenge ourselves in the midst of our own teaching and studying.

  5. Nathan Baker says:

    I particularly appreciate you taking the weekends off, as I often find it easier to sit down and digest 50 pages on the weekend than to work smaller readings into the daily teaching duties.

  6. Courtney says:

    Thanks for starting this blog. As you can probably tell I have just come across it and begun reading. I have not yet had an opportunity to read the epic Taruskin history of Western music, but I hope to begin when I arrive at UVA this August to begin working towards a PhD in musicology.

    I am very curious about this multi-volume work based on both of your ruminations on the intro. alone. I have been struggling, and probably will continue to struggle, to determine what defines musical meaning. Maybe by the end of my life I will have at the very least figured out what it means to me personally.

    Does music have some inherent meaning or quality or is musical meaning something that is created by people as they interact with music in a variety of contexts? I am inclined toward a middle of the road response myself. If music had no core meaning whatsoever why would people be so drawn to it? I ask this because, from what I can tell, most people seek meaning in everything, whether or not it was already there. I think the elusive, intangible, and ephemeral qualities of music are what initially draw people to it. People have attempted to pin music down, make it tangible, and imbue it with meaning for centuries, creating an extremely complex network of interpretations, some valued more highly than others, and thus more immediately accessible to music-lovers today. By uncovering and examining different interpretations of music that have developed and evolved alongside the music (in a non-linear fashion of course) we come closer to understanding the music itself. Now I am talking (or rather writing myself in a complete circle) because I am not a fan of the term “the music itself” because it implies that music exists in a vaccuum, however, I did just say that I believe music does have a core meaning. I conclude that although music does have a core meaning which enables most humans to connect with it in some way, shape, or form, we can not tap into this core meaning without first analyzing how people, including ourselves, engage and have engaged with this “core” meaning of music since the “beginning of notated time.” Sorry. This probably wasn’t helpful to you at all as my half-baked response to your response to the Taruskin, which I have yet to read. Anyway, I wanted to say I am intrigued and impressed by the scope of your project and wish you well on your fun intellectual journey, I will continue to follow this blog and will also pick up a copy (or rather copies) of Taruskin’s grand musicological opus. 🙂

  7. Mark Samples says:

    Courtney—Glad you found the site! Musical meaning as a topic has popped up fairly frequently as we have gone through the text. For our thoughts on this topic, try searching the blog for “meaning in music.” A few posts should pop up for you. (I’d put the links in here, but it won’t let me put them in comments.)

    I hope you chime in again in the future.

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