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What to Listen for in Music (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This is a reprint of the enormously popular 1957 edition of Copland's guide to music. There is no new text by Copland, only a new introduction by composer William Schuman, which is more an encomium to the "Dean of American Music." In large measure, the book owes its success to its simple, jargon-free language and engaging style. One wishes, though, that Copland might have added an assessment of the musical scene of the past 30 years. The bibliography has not been updated and is thus virtually useless, with the most recent entry 1955. Nonetheless, the book remains an excellent guide for the novice. Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, Pa.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Aaron Copland’s well-known and highly regarded compositions, performed and recorded extensively throughout the world, include the Pulitzer Prize–winning ballet Appalachian Spring, as well as Billy the Kid, Rodeo, Lincoln Portrait, and the film scores of Our Town and The Heiress. On being awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 1986, Copland was praised for his “uniquely American music that reflects the very soul and experience of our people.” During his career, Copland taught composition at Harvard and the Berkshire Music Center, lectured all over the United States, and wrote Our New Music and Music and Imagination. He died in 1990.

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Product Details

  • Series: Signet Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Signet; Reissue edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451531760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451531766
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By JR Pinto on May 6, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
THIS IS A BOOK FOR PEOPLE AT ALL LEVELS - LAYMAN, COMPOSER, OR ADVANCED MUSIC LOVER. "Why should one have to learn or need guidance on how to listen to what one is hearing?" is the question that William Schuman asks in his Preface. "The answer is simple. Listening to music is a skill that is acquired through experience and learning. Knowledge enhances enjoyment."
What makes What to Listen for in Music so invaluable is that it is the ONLY book on musical appreciation written by a GREAT COMPOSER. "This is a composer's book," Aaron Copland states. "Given the chance, every composer would like to know two very important things about anyone who takes himself seriously as a music lover...1. Are you hearing everything that is going on? [and] 2. Are you really being sensitive to it?"
The only shortcoming of this book is that it should be taken as part of a class to make sure that one gets everything out of it. It would be great if it came with a CD of all the examples to which Copland makes reference. However, each chapter does end with a list of "recommended listening." To make specific points, Copland does include sheet music (but I didn't read this book sitting next to my piano). However, these problems are minimal, considering we live in an age of the cheap CDs and music downloads.
Copland covers EVERY aspect of music, starting with "how we listen," - on the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane. He then goes on to explain to us the Four Elements of Music - Melody, Rhythm, Harmony, and Tone Color. We find out about all the musical instruments, their history and classifications. We find out about all the genres in music - Sectional Form, Variation Form, Fugal Form, Sonata Form, Free Form. Did you know that Sonata Form includes symphonies as well?
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By L A Spillane-Larke on May 17, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anybody who has any interest in music owes it to themselves to read this book. In this definitive guide to musical enjoyment, Aaron Copeland takes a look at how to listen to music intelligently. Two questions are addressed in this interesting, in-depth study: Are you hearing everything that is going on? Are you really being sensitive to it?
It doesn't matter what kind of music you enjoy, everyone can get something out of this book. Though relating more closely to classical music, Aaron Copeland's ideas for listening to music will give the reader a better appreciation and understanding of whatever music they listen to.
From reading this book you will gain insight into the creative process of a composer. In laymen's terms, the book describes the way composers write music as well as how they actually listen to it. It explains that there are three separate planes upon which music is listened to. They are the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane. Copeland goes on to tell how music is heard on each plane and explains how each works, which I found very interesting.
Overall, Aaron Copeland's What To Listen For In Music is a good book that I recommend to anyone who has an interest in music or enjoys listening to it. A whole new level of listening ability can be gained from reading this book. It explains music from the composer's point of view, giving you insight into how music is composed, and how to listen to it, which gives you a deeper appreciation of music.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Davis on January 26, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
. . . for the listener who enjoys and wants to deepen her understanding of orchestral music.
Aaron Copland built much of his career on writing modern "classical" music that could be enjoyed and appreciated by the common listener. He felt that modern music should communicate to the non-musician, as well as the more experienced one. He knew that if the listener understood what made up the basics of musical composition and structure, that the experience of listening would be tremendously enhanced. This book is in the spirit of that goal, and like his most accessible music, Copland achieves this with a brilliant, conversational eloquence that is neither pandering nor pretentious. I found this book to live up to its title, "What to listen for in music." Copland takes the reader on a step by step journey of what components make up a piece of music; from the different type of composers, through the creative process and the individual elements that support the musical architecture. These elements include rhythm, melody, harmony and tone/texture. Once these are clear, he then is able to talk about a musical work as a whole, which includes its structure the different forms that it takes (eg. sonata form, synphony, opera, etc.) One does not need a musical backround to understand and enjoy this book, and yet the seasoned musician will also find a refreshing review of the basics of music. Copland loved music and this is always obvious in his joyful presentation. All one need to have to benefit from this book is a curiosity of music and its mysterious ability to move mountains.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. Patterson on June 4, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is akin to Einstein giving you a personal introduction to the foundations of physics. Copeland gently gives you the building blocks to comprehending the structure of music. He reveals both the form and the function of music in a way that is applicable to modern electronica as much as orchestra.

You can read all you want about how some band made it to the top through hard work and good songwriting, or you can read how to merch your t-shirts online to get your band out of the garage. Copeland offers you the chance to go under the hood of music and learn how to hear (and then create if you want) music that will endure.

Forget that Copeland used an orchestra - what he's sharing here will give you some of the tools to create fabulous music in many different genres.

This book has done more for my music than a few years of theory or the hundreds of dollars worth of other books I have read.

Yes, some of you have been to Juliard etc. and are beyond this text, but for the rest of us...jumping in at the deep end of the universe is always more rewarding.
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