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The Language of Music (Clarendon Paperbacks) Paperback – March 8, 1990
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"One of the most important publications of post-war English musicography...its honesty, its individualism, and its empiricism reflect the best intellectual traditions of English literature."--Music and Letters
From the Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
When the book was first suggested to me, based on theme, I was expecting something "wishy washy" and not too keen on it, but for some reason I decided to give it a go, since it touches on one of my areas of reasearch. In the end it turned out to be one of those books that really got the old nogen brewing - - a book that sometimes you have to put down because it really gets your brain going or that if you read it before bedtime, you might wake up at 3:00 AM thinking about stuff he said ! - - Musicians as well as music lovers will appreciate it. You'll need to brush up on (or learn) basic music theory, however, it will be worth the effort... it might even change the way you hear your favorite symphony or music in general forever !
Deryck Cooke is the person who orchestrated Mahler's tenth symphony, starting with Mahler's original draft. Take a listen to the excellent Bournemouth Symphony/Simon Rattle recording.
The Language of Music (****1/2) is a masterpiece of clarity, musical understanding and psychological depth. While it's definitely a shame that so little has been done to develop the ideas in this book since it was written (and so many have attacked his basic premise, unjustly in my opinion), it's interesting to see scientific studies confirming some of what Cooke describes, for example the universality of certain musical characteristics. Musicians will naturally play in certain ways to evoke fear, excitement, sadness, joy. But Cooke's book goes so much further. If you have some musical background (you'll need it to make sense of the examples), do check it out. It's a joy.
First, he assumes that music has a universal meaning. Yet no two people will have exactly the same reaction to a piece of music, even if they like it. It's therefore a little hard to accept his collections of musically emotive examples as altogether valid, though they are impressive enough.
Second, anyone who has brushed around in music theory enough can tell you that if you want to find a certain pattern in a piece of music, you will find it if you look hard enough. And since Cooke only uses about four or five examples to "prove" each point, the possibility of these being the lucky five examples (with multiple exceptions) makes me skeptical. And one's not really sure whether Cooke is implying that his emotive musical phrases always work, or just work some of the time.
Basically, it's impossible to deconstruct how great composers think, in the manner that Cooke attempts. If you don't believe me, try writing music according to the emotive principles he proposes. You won't create anything nearly as good as the music he discusses unless you already have some talent. And the composers' talent, in Cooke, seems to be reduced to their ability to employ the musical phrases he considers emotional.
At the same time, I never thought about the issue of musical meaning very clearly until I read Cooke. Even though I disagree with his approach and his conclusions, reading his book made understand why I think about musical meaning the way I do. A must for students of musical philosophy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love the book! I had it and lost it. New ones sell for $40 or more. This was a real bargain!Published 7 months ago by Peter