May seem incongruous to construe "great writing" with "Musicology", because the stereotype would be that of the turgid translated prose of Germanic musikwissenschaft.
But the fact of the matter is that there is great musicological writing out there. Lots of people have lots of different favorites, of course, but the following are the ones that occurred to me when a colleague recently said "Hey, my niece is hating her music history class; any suggestions I could use for an 'Amazon care package'?"
Well, that's a speciality of the house: ask a musicologist to hold forth on her/his favorites, and all you really need to do thereafter is check back after an hour or so to see if s/he has run down yet. Here are the ones I came up with off the top of my head:
- Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm & Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom; and, really, anything that Guralnick has ever written
- David Wooldrige, From the Steeples and Mountains: A Study of Charles Ives; not particularly musicological, but highly evocative
- Philip Norman's Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation
- Scott De Veaux's Bebop
- Christopher Small's Music of the Common Tongue: Survival and Celebration in African-American Music
- Richard Crawford's America's Musical Life
- Eric von Schmidt and Jim Rooney's Baby Let Me Follow You Down: The Illustrated History of the Cambridge Folk Years
- Nick Tosche's Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll
- Glenn Watkins's Pyramids at the Louvre: Music, Culture, and Collage from Stravinsky to the Postmodernists; also, his Soundings: Music in the Twentieth Century (the one I use for my own seminar), and pretty much anything Watkins has written
- Susan McClary Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality
- Ellen Rosand's Opera in Seventeenth Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre
- Ted Levin's The Hundred-Thousand Fools for God: Musical Travels in Central Asia