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Harrison Birtwistle: Man, Mind, Music Paperback – March 27, 2000

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Paperback, March 27, 2000
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (March 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801486726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801486722
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Excellently written. . . recommended to very serious music libraries."—Choice. November, 2000

"In this book, Jonathan Cross studies the sources of Birtwistle's art and presents an account of his musical, aesthetic, and dramatic preoccupations through an exploration of such topics as myth, theater, ritual, pastoral, pulse, and line."—Chamber Music. October, 2000

"Jonathan Cross. . . makes these complex works accessible to the non-specialist. . . Cross's accounts of the operas. . . are among the most interesting passages, managing simultaneously to convey a sense of what the music 'sounds like' and an idea of its wider resonances."—Michael Downes, Times Literary Supplement. January 2001

"This is a lucid, detailed, and eloquent study of a powerful, uncompromising composer. It will surely deepen understanding and maybe even enjoyment of Birtwistle's formidably difficult music."—American Record Guide, January/February 2001

About the Author

Jonathan Cross is Lecturer in Music at the University of Bristol. He has written and lectured widely on twentieth-century music, and is the author of The Stravinsky Legacy. He is associate editor of Music Analysis.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus on September 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book by Jonathan Cross is of tremendous value for anyone interested in the music of the British composer Harrison Birtwistle. Finished in 1999, and published in 2000, it remains one of the main sources. Cross, who was a Lecturer of Music at the University of Bristol at the time of publication, and is now Professor of Musicology at Oxford University, is obviously immersed in Birtwistle's music.

The book is organized into eight chapters. The first, called "Origins, Contexts, Models," is mainly an extensive discussion of Birtwistle's influences, including the painters Cezanne, Picasso and Klee, and the composers of the Second Vienna School, Varese, and above all Stravinsky. Six chapters cover 1) Theatres, 2) Myth and Ritual, 3) Pastoral, 4) Verses and Refrains, 5) Pulse, and 6) Line, Melody, Tonality. This is the bulk of the book, and consists of close readings by Cross, illustrating the structural and symbolic character of the music with many examples. I found the bulk of it to be quite fascinating and readable, though I did wear out toward the end under the onslaught of example after example. I was most intrigued by Cross's extended discussion of "The Second Mrs. Kong," one of Birtwistle's operas that has yet to be recorded. The concluding chapter focuses mainly on "The Last Supper," which as of 1999 was Birtwistle's latest and forthcoming opera.

Cross nicely summarizes the nature of "Birtwistle's Modernism":

"...Birtwistle's art is firmly rooted in early European modernism. The primitivism of his music, its formality, its concern with ritualized, anti-narrative structures and with myth, its interest in rhythm and in constructing new kinds of temporality, are all indicators of his engagement of that modernist tradition" (14).
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