2017Arts and PhilosophyMusic
Richard Taruskin photo

Richard Taruskin

  • U.S.A. / April 2, 1945
  • Musicologist
  • Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

A Musicologist and Critic of Prodigious Erudition Who Has Transformed Contemporary Perspectives on Music through Historical Research and Essays That Defy Conventional Critical Paradigms

Dr. Taruskin has pioneered a new dimension in Western music culture through musicology research that transcends conventional historiographical methodologies, issuing sharp critical analysis backed by exhaustive knowledge of many diverse fields. His unrivaled perspective has significantly influenced both performance and study, elevating the importance and creative value of critical discourse to the music world.

Profile

Brief Biography

1945
Born in New York City, U.S.A.
1975
Ph.D. in Historical Musicology, Columbia University
1975-1981
Assistant Professor of Music, Columbia University
1981-1986
Associate Professor of Music, Columbia University
1986-1997
Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley
1997-2014
Class of 1955 Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley
2015-
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

Selected Awards and Honors

1980
Alfred Einstein Award
1987
The Dent Medal
1993, 2005
ASCAP Deems Taylor Award
1996
Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award
1997, 2006
Otto Kinkeldey Award
Memberships:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Selected Publications

1981

Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced in the 1860s, UMI Research Press, 1981.

1993

Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue, Princeton University Press, 1993.

1995

Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance, Oxford University Press, 1995.

1996

Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra, University of California Press, 1996.

1997

Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays, Princeton University Press, 1997.

2005

The Oxford History of Western Music, Oxford University Press, 2005.

2008

The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, University of California Press, 2008.

2008

On Russian Music, University of California Press, 2008.

2016

Russian Music at Home and Abroad: New Essays, University of California Press, 2016.

Achievement

A Musicologist and Critic of Prodigious Erudition Who Has Transformed Contemporary Perspectives on Music through Historical Research and Essays That Defy Conventional Critical Paradigms

Dr. Richard Taruskin is a musicologist and critic whose revolutionary approach to early music, modern Russian music and Western music history inspires and fascinates music lovers worldwide.
Born in New York in 1945, Dr. Taruskin studied Russian language at Columbia University before entering its graduate school of musicology, where he focused on Western music history under Professor Paul Henry Lang, and joined the faculty after earning his Ph.D. In those days, he performed as a viola da gamba player, and served as the choral conductor of the Collegium Musicum of Columbia University. These experiences provided a prelude to the considerable controversy surrounding early music that he would ignite later in life. In the 1980s, while writing for The New York Times, other newspapers and academic journals, he provocatively asserted that contemporary performances of early music were not true examples of “authenticity,” as was commonly claimed, but rather reflections of late 20th century aesthetics. This argument influenced the performance world of early music in tangible and intangible ways, and even today, Dr. Taruskin’s argument underlies the varied approaches these performances tend to take.
Dr. Taruskin has left an even larger mark in the music world through his Russian music research, evident in his books; Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced in the 1860s (1981), Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (1993), and Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra (1996). These works, spawned from a revolutionary method of analyzing original compositions alongside extensive study of contextual circumstances, including folkloristics, have radically reshaped our image of the original composers?and updated the methodology of musicology research itself.
His 6-volume The Oxford History of Western Music (2005), focusing exclusively on music in the Western literate tradition, represents a literary landmark in musicology and perhaps the largest overview of music history ever written by a single author. Under the influence of ethnomusicology and historical science which has critical approach to historiography, Dr. Taruskin critically overstepped the description method based on some aesthetic and/or historical universality and presented an enormous amount of descriptive evidence that Western music history written under homogeneous standards actually consists of an aggregation of historical matters that are minuscule and heterogeneous. His deep knowledge of such diverse fields as history, culture, politics, art, literature and religion allows him to make an incisive analysis of the literate tradition of Western music in the socio-cultural context. Every chapter of his first-edition Western musicology history, which exceeds 4,000 pages, is both thrilling and illuminating.
Dr. Taruskin’s critiques have consequently set a new standard in musicology, influencing audiences and performers alike. His critical practices and deep academic insights have changed music as we know it, pioneering a new realm of music research which can go beyond the boundary between conventional criticism and musicology, and between historical musicology and ethnomusicology.
The quality and volume of his work reveal that in music, creativity can be found not only in composition and performance, but also in meticulous discourse contextualizing the art?and that this, in itself, can contribute significantly to the world’s music cultures.

Lecture

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