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Comment: There is no writing or highlighting throughout the book. The pages & cover have some wear. Overall, the book is in really good condition.
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The Language of Music (Clarendon Paperbacks) Paperback – March 8, 1990

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"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

This important book has come to be regarded as a modern classic. Originally published in 1959, it has exerted a profound influence on all subsequent discussion in the field of musical aesthetics. Deryck Cooke's thesis is that the fundamental characteristic of music is the expression and evocation of emotion. He argues that all composers whose music has a tonal basis have used the same, or closely similar, melodic phrases, harmonies, and rhythms to express and evoke the same emotions. He supports this view with numerous musical examples, ranging from plainsong to Stravinsky, and he argues that music is a language in the quite specific sense that idiom can be identified and a list of meanings compiled. While acknowledging that a 'dictionary' of the language of music cannot easily be provided, he here attempts to supply at least a 'phrase-book'.
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Product Details

  • Series: Clarendon Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press (March 8, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198161808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198161806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What gives music its meaning... is music akin to pure mathematics, to language... how do composers use forms and sounds to convey emotions, pictures and ideas and what are the basic idioms that are used to express those ideas in western music ?
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 !
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Format: Paperback
This wonderful little book explains how the basic elements of musical expression communicate emotional content, both locally and on a larger scale. Highly recommended to anyone trying to understand how music works.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This is a truly wonderful book. I happened upon a copy in a used book store and it immediately grabbed my attention. I had wondered about the possibility of music being a language, and speaking to a deep and emotional part of human nature, but had never seen the idea developed or argued at length. Within just the first few pages, however, I knew I'd found something special. Cooke argues that Western (mostly classical) music is truly a language, but one that speaks to the emotions and not to the intellect. Music is felt, and certain musical motifs or phrases evoke certain emotions in certain contexts. He provides copious examples showing this to be the case, with meticulous attention given to all basic aspects of music: pitch, volume, time, intervals, rhythm, melody, harmony. His writing is crystal clear, his reasoning is well thought out, and his presentation is both entertaining and heartfelt. He shows himself to have a deep understanding of human psychology, emotional depth, and of course, music. (This is the guy that orchestrated Mahler's Tenth, after all.) Cooke closes the book with extended analysis of Mozart's Fortieth and Vaughan-Williams' Sixth symphonies, showing how all the individual elements discussed previously come together in a fully realized work.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Cooke raises THE fundamental question of music--what does music mean?--but his technique seems a little flawed.

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.
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