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Sudden Music: Improvisation, Sound, Nature Hardcover – January 18, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


David Rothenberg's Sudden Music is a shimmering, picaresque, poly-brilliant book, rather like butterfly flight, but suitably piercing too. And he shares, I think, my hunch that music, like wind, is the lungs of the world, and that Brownian motion seethes at its heart.

(Edward Hoagland)

Wandering monk, lovelorn klezmer, Rothenberg roams the world, ears wide open, ready to jam with veena players in Bangalore or birds in the High Sierra. The news he brings is vital―that nature can teach us how to make music; that music can teach us how to live in nature.

(Evan Eisenberg author of The Ecology of Eden)

How to encounter the vital presence of the present moment, in all its alterity and loopiness, except by cultivating our own animal spontaneity? When cricket-rhythms heat up the night, or a White-Crested Laughing Thrush launches its crazed arpeggios out across the confines of the aviary, how to join one's own rhythms to theirs if not by improvisation? Improvisation, the blessed art, is where we exercise and hone our earthborn spontaneity and wildness. Here David Rothenberg, accomplished eco-philosopher and jazzman, lets loose his rich reflections and riffs on the improvisational craft, discoursing both in words on the page, and in swooping melodies on the enclosed CD―melodies that swerve and dance with his fellow musicians, songbirds, scientists, and sacred texts. Read, listen, and slip back inside 'the music of what happens.'

(David Abram author of The Spell of the Sensuous)

Weaving memoir, travelogue, and reflection, philosopher and musician Rothenberg describes the world as a musical place, where he has found 'a way to hear the whole world as a musical happening, making each step forward a musical gesture, a part in the song of the world.'

(Natural History)

May be the best music lesson I've ever had.


Rothenberg's playfulness will transport you to strange places, exercise your imagination, and stir your soul.

(Spirituality & Health)

It is refreshing to read an author who talks about music in context of the spirituality inherent to playing, composing, listening to, and thinking about music. . . . Sudden Music is a cross between Miles Davis and Arne Naess, Philip Glass and Gary Snyder, Brian Eno and Henry David Thoreau, John Cage and James Lovelock.

(Alternatives Journal)

David Rothenberg has celebrated that unique and ephemeral moment that happens in ordinary life, in nature and music, and in that the transient and the permanent, the godhead and the commonplace become inseparable. The essential preconditions are an alertness of mind, a sense of risk and daring, and an abiding sensitivity to the vibrations, huge or infinitesimal, that surround us. Our senses, in particular hearing, become intelligent, and therefore the world intelligible. And consoling.

(Russell Sherman author of Piano Pieces)

One would think that, with the seemingly endless string of books written about the technical aspects of improvisation, there would be a generous supply of books written about its spiritual rewards. That's far from the case. . . . Sudden Music is a welcome addition to a thin bibliography. . . . Rothenberg's writing is unconventionally structured (or unstructured), yet his prose is clean and direct, his ideas cogent. Sudden Music is best experienced as one would a free jazz performance: with openness and a lack of preconception. Taken on those terms, the book is a small gem. (Chris Kelsey JazzTimes)

Book Description

Improvisation, Sound, Nature --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; 1st edition (January 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820323187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820323183
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,560,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a writer, musician, and philosopher, most interested in how humanity is connected with the natural world. I have explored this connection in music and words, in recordings, books, lectures and performances.

You can look at my five websites for more information:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia M. on July 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is poetry of the soul. Read and you'll want to join in as a traveler....there are so many nuggets of wisdom in this beautiful, poetic book. "He wanted me to make every note matter, to sing like it was the final knell heralding the end of the world, the last gasp of music anyone would hear before time was over." Wouldn't you love to play like that? This book made me want to pick up my instrument and head to the forest to mix the sound of leaves blowing with that passing train, focusing on the blending, and then on that one note. Oh, the purity of sudden music!
Thank you David Rothenberg!
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