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Classical Music For Dummies Paperback – September 4, 1997

79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (September 4, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764550098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764550096
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 97 people found the following review helpful By R Rheaume on November 19, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
I picked this book up because I was looking for a CD-book combo that would give me some good tips on the art of listening. This did that and much more. The book is extremely comprehensive and systematic in its coverage of classical music. The authors provide a lot of information simply and efficiently so that within a few pages, the reader is no longer such a dummy. This book goes beyond an academic explanation of the subject to being a real "how to" - how to listen, how to prepare, how to behave at a concert, how to get good tickets on the cheap... No stone is left unturned. The only drawback is that in an effort to dumb down the book, they inject corny jokes into almost every sentence. In small doses this is OK but, depending on your tastes in reading material, THIS GETS VERY ANNOYING after a few pages! Despite this drawback I pressed on because the content under the jokes was too good to miss.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Arlin Rogers on January 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
In the school of the "--For Dummies" introductions to basically every topic in life, David Pogue is the class clown. I became acquainted with his breezy style in the "Macs for Dummies" series. Here he leaves the dry world of computers for the even drier world of classical music and succeeds in making it accessible and fun. Along with Scott Speck, he tackles topics like the entire history of music in 80 pages, how to upgrade your seat in a live concert for free, and why the shoes of brass players tend to stick to the stage. I highly recommend this book to anyone who feels there's more to classical music than the movie "Amadeus". The tone in "Classical Music for Dummies" is refreshingly irreverent. They even have a little "snob alert" icon to prepare you for the blusters of philharmonic poseurs. Be warned though that the constant stream of one-liners in the book tend to miss as often as hit. One other word of warning: forget the video portion of the attached CD-ROM. It's worthless and actually corrupted some of my computer files. Just listen to the CD through your stereo and follow along in Chapter 5 of the book. After reading the book and listening to the CD I'm fired up to broaden my classical music CD collection and attend more live symphonies - upgrading my seat for free, of course.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 29, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've always loved all kinds of music but never really listened to or understood what's going on with classical music. This book was incredible. Just playing the CD that comes with the book and reading the section that walks you through each piece of music opened up a whole new world of music appreciation. With each piece they present possible interpretations of what the composer was actually trying to do/say. This combined with an explanation of the musical forms that they used make you realize that it's not just a random collection of musical phrases. There's very interesting things going on there! There's also a great history section covering all of the big names of classical music and there are plenty of musical recommendations to listen to throughout the book. This is just a great education in music (I've been a musician for 20 years and I still learned something!)
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on August 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
You have to be careful with the Dummies series. Some authors use humor with discretion, others, as in this case, lard on so much humor that it gets in the way of learning and turns what should be a pleasure into an ordeal of extracting the useful information from the attempt at clever wise-cracks, puns and general satire.

Yes, there is information here if you are willing to work to get it, but a good 50% of the text is gratuitous laughs. There are other books, such as "The Classical Music Experience" by Jacobson, that treat the reader as someone intelligent who seeks to know rather than to be entertained.

The best advice is to go to the library and look in the music appreciation section. You'll find many superior alternatives to this book.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen on May 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
My music education, having been neglected, is in better shape after I read this book. The appendices direct the reader where to start buying good classical music, the names of the various works, and their difficulty.

The authors do an amazing job of condensing 2000 years of classical music into one slim book.

The attached CD is very helpful. Chapter 5 explains the eight selections on the CD. There is a represenative sample of the best composers on it.

The authors try a little too hard to be funny. They seem to feel they have to end every paragraph with a one liner. I ignored this annoying trait because the rest of the book is so informative.

I plan to start my classical music collection soon.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Roberge on April 5, 2004
Format: Audio Cassette
I've always liked listening to Classical Music but didn't know my Brahms from my Bach. I decided recently to try and learn more about this music. There are plenty of books that are hard to read and technical and then there's this book. This is a great crash course in classical music. Learn what all those Allegro con moto things mean. How many movements are there in a symphony, in a concerto?
The book contains a ton of short light biographies on composers along with nice recommendations. Besides that, the book comes with a CD with nine selections of classical music that are broken down moment by moment in the book. It was sheer joy learning how sophisticated and structured the music is. How themes are introduced and worked, how some works tell stories or represent storms, tranquil seasons or the struggles of heros!
If you know almost nothing about classical music and want a great introduction, this is the book. I read it cover to cover in a week and now I can't stay out of the library, I'm too busy listening to classical music with a much greater appreciation!!
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