The Christian West and Its Singers The First Thousand Years Christopher Page

Publication date:
28 Apr 2010
Yale University Press
694 pages:
50 b-w + 12 color illus.
Sales territories:


A renowned scholar and musician presents a new and innovative exploration of the beginnings of Western musical art. Beginning in the time of the New Testament, when Christians began to develop an art of ritual singing with an African and Asian background, Christopher Page traces the history of music in Europe through the development of Gregorian chant—a music that has profoundly influenced the way Westerners hear—to the invention of the musical staff, regarded as the fundamental technology of Western music. Page places the history of the singers who performed this music against the social, political and economic life of a Western Europe slowly being remade after the collapse of Roman power. His book will be of interest to historians, musicologists, performing musicians, and general readers who are keen to explore the beginnings of Western musical art.

Christopher Page is Professor of Medieval Music and Literature in the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, and founder of the acclaimed ensemble Gothic Voices.

“Christopher Page sweeps with consummate ease through a thousand years of the history of European sacred music, relating and explaining so much of the historical context that any reader interested in the religious life of those days will be enlightened and rewarded, often amused and delighted as well, for Page is a master storyteller, who can convey facts and relate events with marvellous felicity…In many respects, a revelation”. David Hiley, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“For a long time now Christopher Page has established himself as one of the most insightful and erudite scholars of medieval music today. Trained in medieval languages and literature, and an extraordinarily accomplished musician, he has published a number of important monographs on different aspects of medieval music as well as founding and directing Gothic Voices, one of the most influential early-music ensembles in the last three decades. The present volume is by far his most ambitious undertaking as well as one of the most successful, even in comparison with his own earlier writings, which is setting the bar astonishingly high”. Alejandro Planchart, Speculum

“…this book is a magnificent accomplishment, and I will read and reread it for years to come”. Alice V. Clark, The Medieval Review

“Replete with creative insights and compelling new interpretations, astonishingly rich in detail and breadth of coverage, this book is Page’s crowning accomplishment to date. Only he could have told this tale, not only because of the knowledge and skills that he brings to it, but also, perhaps more importantly, because of the imagination that characterizes all of his research…It will provide information and inspiration to the disciplines of musicology, literary studies, liturgical studies, and medieval his- tory for a long time to come”. Elizabeth Aubrey, Journal of the American Musicological Society

“Christopher Page has challenged the entire field to follow where he has led, and to undertake the painstaking work of exploring with care the citations he has unearthed, thereby drawing as closely as we can to the singers of the Christian West”. Margot Fassler, Plainsong and Medieval Music