Monday, May 6, 2013

Music Books I Wish I Had Time to Read #2

I've been busy processing new books for the music library (about 100 per month), and I write down the ones that I think would be interesting to read, had I the time. Here's my second installment. Maybe you'll see something that you would like to explore.

    Henri-Edmond Cross, Les Iles d'Or

  • Debussy: La musique et les arts - a French coffee-table book covering an exhibition in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris last year. There’s been a lot of speculation about the role art played in Debussy's composition, but this book puts Debussy in the context of the artists he was viewing and collaborating with, instead of simply showing a couple of Impressionist paintings (a movement considered old-fashioned when Debussy was starting to write music) and then listening to his Nocturnes, which is the normal music education route.
  • ‘Rock On’: Women, Aging, and Popular Music, edited by Ros Jennings and Abigail Gardner - It seems that some women can keep on making popular music, but only if they look almost like they did at 25.
  • The Saxophone by Stephen Cottrell - History of the saxophone, its uses and symbolism from its invention to the present.
  • Whose Spain? Negotiating “Spanish Music” in Paris, 1908-1929 by Samuel Llano - Paris was the place to get a music education or to make new music during the early twentieth century, so many Spanish composers went to Paris to study and wrote their own Spanish music, and then the French composers started writing “Spanish” music, too.
  • Redefining Mainstream Popular Music, ed. by Sarah Baker, Andy Bennett, and Jodie Taylor - A few Australians asking the question: What is mainstream music, anyway? Has it changed over time?
  • Music in Science Fiction Television: Tuned to the Future, ed. by K.J. Donnelly and Philip Hayward - Those stereotypical music cues in SciFi television had to come from somewhere. Essays about the music in Lost, Star Trek, Doctor Who (old and new), the Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, and others.
  • The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination by Matthew Guerrieri - I don't think I've ever seen a book on just four notes before, but I guess in the case of Beethoven's fifth, that first motive has accumulated a lot of extra meaning over the years.
  • Greenback Dollar: The Incredible Rise of the Kingston Trio by William J. Bush - Ever wondered why the Kingston Trio broke the charts in the 1950s when their music was nothing like the rest of the popular music of the day? And how they influenced other musical groups that followed? By the way, the place where "Tom Dooley" first hit no. 1 and so caught national attention? Salt Lake City.
  • Contemplating Shostakovich: Life, Music, and Film, ed. by Alexander Ivashkin and Andrew Kirkman - Essays on the Soviet composers whose musical meanings were and had to be cryptic. Will we ever know what he really meant? At least he provided endless work for generations of scholars.
  • The Violin: A Social History of the World's Most Versatile Instrument by David Schoenbaum - Did you know that the violin is used for music in almost every culture? More a popular book than scholarly.
  • The Accessibility of Music: Participation, Reception, and Contact by Jochen Eisentraut - Have you ever wondered why some music is easier to listen to than other music? What effect does that have?
  • Understanding Society Through Popular Music by Joseph A. Kotarba, Bryce Merrill, J. Patrick Williams, and Phillip Vannini - Music surrounds us, so what better way to understand society than by studying the music most heard by the culture? Sections on self identify, families, religion, politics, globalization, subcultures. Meant as a text for undergrad courses.
  • Gender, Branding, and the Modern Music Industry by Kristin J. Lieb - A really interesting exploration into the idea of the female pop star, prioritizing sexual attractiveness and their body over their music, and the changing roles they have to play to stay on top until they age out ungracefully.
Any of those books sound interesting (or uninteresting) to you? Are there any other music books you wish you had time to read?

Vocab: motive


  1. Hey Peter, it's Virginia. Great blog, and great list of books here! I wanted to add these two by former professors of mine:

    "Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture," by Aaron Fox

    "A Race of Singers: Whitman's Working-Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen," by Bryan Garman

    I'm also hoping to start reading some of the music biographies Peter Guralnick has written - "Dream Boogie," his bio of Sam Cooke, is at the top of my to-read list now.