- Series: Mentor Series
- Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Signet (January 1, 1953)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451627350
- ISBN-13: 978-0451627353
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 95 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,709,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What to Listen For in Music (Mentor Series) Mass Market Paperback – November 7, 1989
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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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where he discusses composition using the varied characteristics of the orchestra.
This is not a book that will provide the reader with all that is needed to completely own this art form. However, it is a book that should be read by anyone that intends to grasp more enjoyment out of serious concert music. His point of view on many aspects of the music appreciation practice are very valuable. Throughout his discussion, he manages to present many useful tips that help the reader to better concentrate on what is important on any piece.
In his book, Copland mentions many examples of pieces to make his point, and I guess one has to be familiar with those works in order to get it. However, here and there I found mentions of examples for which I am not familiar with, and even then, I could very well understand what he was trying to say.
He does not assume that the reader is very knowledgeable about music and at the same time, he does not write as if the reader was stupid, as some of the books from the series “…For Dummies” series do.
I highly recommend this book to better learn about appreciating music from the humble words of a great composer who is caring enough to make his reading enjoyable.
Copland does this, by taking the reader through the building blocks of music. He starts with what he calls the four elements: rhythm, melody, harmony and tone color, Then he proceeds to musical texture, to musical structure, and then to five fundamental forms: sectional, variational, fugal, sonata, and free. After this, he concludes with brief surveys of opera, film music, and what was then contemporary serious music. Each chapter is followed with a list of suggested pieces of music to listen to.
The book's advanced age has remarkably little impact on its usefulness, except for the fact that the "listening lists" refer to old recordings. The book first appeared in 1939 and was revised in 1957; the Signet edition that I read has a short chapter on music since Copland. Copland was a teacher of music as well as a composer, and it shows -- I would love to take a class for which this was the text.
This book does, however, demand lots of effort, and lots of listening, at least for us "I don't know much about music, but I know what I like" types. What Copland wants the listener to do is go beyond pure sensuous enjoyment and use his or her brain to follow the music as it unfolds -- to listen, not just hear. Doing this requires listening again and again to pieces he discusses.
Like some other reviewers, I wish very much that some kind person would put out a CD (or set up a website) with the specific passages Copland cites, as well as his broader listening list. Even without this, however, I have learned a great deal from this book. I expect to learn more, since I will be reading again and again as I listen.
I doubt that the book would be nearly so useful to people who already know a lot about how music works, but for the groundlings, Copland's book is masterful
As a musician myself it is very interesting to hear one of America's finest composers talk about music in a way that demystifies the listening process. To paraphrase Mr. Copland, people have no trouble going to the theater and then discussing how they felt about the performance with little or no background in the dramatic arts, yet people who go to classical music concerts are not sure they are qualified or educated enough about music to "understand" or form and opinion about it.
This book teaches the reader that "I don't know anything about music" doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. By applying the information in this book one can potentially learn to hear more by becoming an active listener, which in turn increases understanding and enjoyment.