In a time when school music classes (if they exist at all) teach their students the finer points of the themes from The Twilight Zone and Jaws instead of real music; when classical radio stations are converted to Lite Rock or switched to a "top 100" classical jukebox format; and when even churches increasingly favor banal "Jesus Is My Boyfriend"-style slop instead of Bach, Mozart, and Vaughn Williams, classical music may legitimately be seen as an endangered cultural species. Enter Scott Speck and David Pogue, who take out the unnecessary mystery, and offer an easy-to-swallow quickie education, ranging from Gregorian chants to contemporary composers such as John Adams and John Corigliano. If you can't tell an oboe from a bassoon, there's also a dandy guide to the instruments of the orchestra, and once you're through that information you'll know the difference between a concerto and a sonata. Best of all is the introduction to music theory, which actually makes a daunting subject seem easy. It's all supported by a helpful enhanced compact disc (it works in your CD-ROM drive; it plays on your stereo's CD player) containing more than an hour of representative musical tidbits from good EMI recordings. Although the tone is unremittingly flippant and the jokes are, for the most part, pretty bad, Classical Music for Dummies is one of the better works in this series, and really does provide a useful reference for a subject too often seen as arcane.
From Library Journal
Though musicians and other music lovers continue to lament the lack of classical music enthusiasts, their concern may have diminished somewhat over the last 25 years. The "Hooked on Classics" recording series, Peter Schickele (a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach), the Three Tenors, and the movie Shine are but a few of the media phenomena that have popularized classical music. Lately, some authors have taken a lighthearted approach to the genre, hoping to make it less intimidating; Barry Scherer's delightful Bravo! A Guide to Opera for the Perplexed (LJ 11/15/96) is an example not to be overlooked. It does appear, however, that with these two books from IDG's ever-expanding "For Dummies" series, classical music has finally arrived. Orchestrator, synthesizer programmer, music copyist, and vocal arranger Pogue and symphony conductor Speck have collaborated to make musical facts fun to peruse. In some cases, the information may seem oversimplified, but novices will come away with a fairly good idea of the important composers, the main periods of music, the instruments, the conductors, the artists, when to applaud at a concert or opera, and even what to wear to a performance. Icons throughout pinpoint tips, advanced information, listening guides, when to use the accompanying CDs, and stories to use in conversations. Both books are recommended for public libraries.?Kathleen Sparkman, Baylor Univ. Lib., Waco, Tex.
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