The Taruskin Challenge is officially over for me. (How about you Zach?) It’s bizarre to think about what my life was like when we started this Challenge. I was a student and hadn’t started my dissertation yet. Now I’m no longer a student, and the dissertation has been on the shelf for 10 months. I have definitely taken a considerable amount of Taruskin’s arguments into the classroom, and not just for music majors. My Understanding Music students (freshman non-majors) have heard plenty of Taruskin as well, though they didn’t know it. One of the great strengths of Taruskin’s writing is that the reader doesn’t have to guess about Taruskin’s opinion on the matter. I find that his strong argument construction makes lectures infinitely more interesting—especially when I can get my students to critique the argument and decide for themselves if they agree.

This Challenge has been a unique experience for me; I don’t think I’ll ever read a book in quite the same way again. (No, we’re not planning to launch “The Strunk Challenge” anytime soon. We’ll leave that to other enterprising grad students out there…) And the next time I read the OHWM I will do it as fast as humanly possible. I’ll get a chance to do that for the last two volumes when I teach the 20th-century graduate survey this summer. (Having my students read the last two volumes in 4 weeks, counterpoints to Taruskin, plus primary sources, articles, and other book chapters is reasonable, right?)

Now it’s time to gather up my thoughts, ruminate, and come to some conclusions about this whole endeavor. Plus there is plenty more about the last volume’s content that bears comment. I imagine Zach and I will be doing just that over the next few weeks.


  1. rlocke says:

    Bravo, Mark and Zach! Sorry I didn’t keep pace with you all the time. But I’ve enjoyed dropping in to see what you’re saying and to take part sometimes in the discussion….

    I love the plan for a four-week course, Mark. Just find a way for nobody to need any sleep the whole time, and all will be fine! 🙂

    In the meantime, I suggest a continuing thread for this blog (if you’re going to keep it going for a while): what readings might one use in class that would offer the “counterpoints” to NOHM that you mention.

    1. Mark Samples says:

      Ralph: We are going to keep it going for a while, but not forever. That’s one of the benefits of this blog project—we don’t have to figure out how to end it. It ends itself.

      Pending a fuller answer to your question, I’ll say this to start. I’d like some readings that represent a view of the 20th century that Taruskin has in his sights, for instance Robert Morgan’s history (which is also the textbook that has been used for the 20th-century graduate course at the UO in the past).

      Secondly, I want to give readings that don’t draw such a dividing line between “oral” and “literate” musics, which of course is the great dichotomy of the OHWM. Off the top of my head I’m thinking of Mark Katz’s book Capturing Sound, Scott DeVeaux on bebop, Robert Fink on minimalism. I’m also thinking of texts that shine light on the other side of the dividing line, namely Anne Dhu McLucas’s recent book on oral traditions. I’ll be thinking about this a lot more as I prep the course in the coming months. Of course, suggestions are welcome!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Mark and Zach,

    Well done.

    One more question:

    What is Taruskin’s opinion of Hindemith’s great (but very rarely performed) opera ‘Mathis der Maler’?

    Does he think that its semi-obscure status is justified?

  3. diberjones says:

    Good job! Another grad student here–I’ve popped in here and there since the beginning. I’ve been using Taruskin to (heavily) supplement Grout/Palisca/Burkholder/KitchenSink this year in my own teaching.

  4. Mary says:

    Mark and Zach,

    Thanks for your inspiration—it’s now 2016, and I’m quite thankful that you kept this blog up this long! I began the Taruskin challenge a little over 3 years ago when I stumbled upon your website somehow, and just finished the last book today. It began as a mere curiosity, having just read “Text and Act,” and turned into a highly captivating journey through musical history (and a kind of passive, long-term prep for DMA comps). I’ve been quite grateful to stop by your blog every once in a while to check in with your insights and musical examples!

    1. Mark Samples says:

      Congrats Mary! Thanks for letting us know that you have still been stopping by the blog. Zach and I have been amazed by the consistent traffic the site gets even though we have not added content in quite some time.

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