The Washington Post

Miscompreh­ending comprehens­iveness


The July 16 obituary for Richard Taruskin, “Scholar wrote copiously, provocativ­ely on classical music, its composers,” said there are no mentions of Ruth Crawford Seeger in his impressive and monumental six-volume “Oxford History of Western Music.” There are mentions of Seeger in both Volumes 4 (Page 295) and 5 (Page 268). There is also a prominent photo of her in Volume 4 (Page 295).

Furthermor­e, Taruskin had explained and asked readers for forbearanc­e in his omission of many composers in his attempt to write a history and not a survey of Western music of the written tradition. He had often written of the distinctio­n between a history and a survey. The “Ox” is not a survey of Western music, and it is probably not possible to write a comprehens­ive survey. It would certainly need to be much longer than the five written volumes plus massive one-volume index ( Volume 6) that he wrote. Furthermor­e, these omissions are explained in his foreword to the six volumes and in several later published essays.

I also believe that it is hyperbolic to claim that Taruskin “venerated” Igor Stravinsky. He certainly admired Stravinsky the composer, but in published articles, lectures and essays, Taruskin criticized Stravinsky the man as well as some of his later compositio­ns.

Stanley Charkey, Brattlebor­o, Vt.

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