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Books About Music


Cage | Callas | Carter | Chávez | Chopin | Clementi | Copland | Corelli | Couperin

John Cage

The Music of John Cage
The Music of John Cage. James Pritchett. Cambridge University Press. 1996. ISBN 0521565448 (hardcover).
Although John Cage has been almost universally recognised as the leading figure of the post-war musical avant-garde, this is the first book to present a complete and coherent picture of Cage the composer. Providing a historical account of Cage's musical concerns and changing style, James Pritchett describes just what it was Cage did and why and how he did it. The book is centred around extensive descriptions of the most important works and compositional techniques, including in-depth explanations of the role of chance and indeterminacy in Cage's music. Dr. Pritchett also considers the relationship of Cage's musical thought to his interests in such diverse subjects as Eastern philosophy and religion, Marshall McLuhan, and anarchism (among many others). This book thus makes the essential introduction to Cage's musical world.
John Cage
John Cage (Critical Lives Series). Rob Haskins. Reaktion Books. 2012. ISBN 186189905X (paperback).
In this biography, Rob Haskins explores Cage’s radical approach to art and aesthetics and his belief that everyday life and art are one and the same. Scrutinizing Cage’s emphasis on chance over intention, which rejected traditional artistic methods and caused an uproar among his peers, Haskins elucidates the ideas that lay behind these pillars of Cage’s work. Haskins also demystifies the influence of Eastern cultures, particularly Zen Buddhism, on Cage, including his use of the Chinese text I Ching as his standard composition tool in all his work after 1951. Adding to our understanding of the art, music, and ideas of the twentieth century, this book provides an engaging look at a man who continues to challenge and inspire artists worldwide. Read the Classical Net Review of this book.

The Roaring Silence
The Roaring Silence: John Cage, A Life. David Revill. Arcade Publishing. 1992. ISBN 1559701668 (hardcover), 1559702206 (paperback).
Composer John Cage is often described as the most influential musician of the last half-century. He has defined – and continues to define – our whole concept of "avant-garde", not just in music but increasingly as writer and visual artist. "The Roaring Silence" is the first full-length biography of Cage. It documents his life in unrivalled detail, interweaving a close account of the evolution of his work with an exploration of his aesthetic, political and philosophical ideas. David Revil maintains that Cage's extraordinary productivity and versatility are best understood in the light of his inner development. His life, work and ideas have clarified, refined and reinforced one another, and thereby Cage has made himself what he is. While never assuming specialist knowledge, this book discusses all of Cage's works in depth and sets them in the context of his compositional, theoretical and personal development. Also included are the most comprehensive worklist, discography and bibliography available to date, as well as many previously unpublished photographs. The author draws judiciously on extensive library and archive material, and on exclusive interviews and conversations with Cage and many of his friends and associates. The result is a true-to-life and true-to-form appreciation of a genuine original, of interest not only to the serious researcher and the musician but to everyone interested in the cultural influences that have shaped, and are shaping 20th century thought.
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Maria Callas

The Autobiography of Maria Callas
The Autobiography of Maria Callas, a Novel. Alma H. Bond. Birch Brook Press. 1998. ISBN 0913559490 (hardcover), 0913559482 (paperback).
"The Autobiography of Maria Callas" is written in the first person, as if Callas herself were speaking. According to Kathryn Lance in the Arizona Daily Star, "Bond has truly seen to the heart of the form of an autobiography that reads as if authentically written by her subject." Ed Ditterline in a syndicated column headed "Bond With Callas in a Brilliant New Masterpiece" writes, "For four years Dr. Bond has lived, breathed, studied, analyzed and absorbed the music an the life of Maria Callas. I believe that her resulting work may well give more reality to her life than the 40 or so byzantine biographies that have been written about the great singer and actress.Buy a first edition.and wait for the Wagnerian scream which will soon be emitting from the emotionally deaf opera world."

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Elliott Carter

The Music of Elliott Carter
The Music of Elliott Carter. David Schiff. Da Capo Press. 1983. ISBN 0903873060 (hardcover).
Arguably the most important American composer of the century, Elliott Carter often has been more highly regarded in Europe than in his native land. Interest in his work has grown rapidly in recent years, however, and the celebration of his ninetieth birthday in December, 1998, accompanied by numerous performances and new recordings, undoubtedly will increase the attention of his fellow citizens to this remarkable figure. Authoritative and gracefully written, The Music of Elliott Carter engages composers, performers, and critics, and speaks to concert-goers, whether attuned to or alarmed by the formidable difficulty of Carter's music. David Schiff views the music from the perspective of the composer's development and relates his compositional techniques to those nonmusical arts – contemporary American poetry in particular – with which Carter has been deeply involved. The volume benefits from Schiff's extensive discussions of Carter's works with their most noted performers, including Heinz Holliger, Oliver Knussen, and Ursula Oppens, and from the generous cooperation of the composer himself. This new edition, a thoroughly reorganized, revised, and updated version of the book published in 1983, accounts for the many new works written by Carter since 1980 and accommodates the burgeoning critical literature on his music. Its features include many musical examples and a selected discography. In addition to the new foreword, the composer has provided his listing of three-to-six note chords and a note on "Voyage."
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Carlos Chávez

Carlos Chávez - A Guide to Research
Carlos Chávez - A Guide to Research. Robert L. Parker. Routledge (formerly Garland Press). 1998. ISBN 0815320876 (hardcover).
The first extensive guide to the life, music, and writings of Carlos Chávez, Mexico's most influential musician of the 20th century. Included is a characterization of his compositional styles as well as a comprehensive listing of Chávez's compositions and arrangements by genre and performance medium, and reviews the composer's own abundant writings on a broad range of musical subjects. The chapter on Research Aids includes annotations of pertinent general reference works, catalogs, and collections of letters, in addition to three indices covering compositions and arrangements, authors and titles, and subjects.

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Chopin: The Man and His Music

Frédéric Chopin

Chopin: The Man and His Music. James Gibbons Huneker, with Herbert Weinstock (Editor). Dover Publications (paperback), Scholarly Press (hardcover). 1966. ISBN 0403015871 (hardcover), 048621687X (paperback).
This classic in music biography and criticism reflects the intimate, thorough knowledge of Chopin's music Huneker acquired while studying to be a concert pianist and his unusually keen insight into the character of the composer. Part One deals with Chopin's life; the second offers brilliant piece-by-piece analysis of the entire body of his music.

The Parisian Worlds of Frederic Chopin
The Parisian Worlds of Frederic Chopin. William G. Atwood. Yale University Press. 1999. ISBN 0300077734 (hardcover).
This book may be of greater interest to the historian – political, social, and cultural – than to the musician. As its title indicates, it is about France, particularly Paris, more than about Chopin, and presupposes considerable knowledge of French history. Chopin wanders through its pages as a peripatetic presence; there are quotes from his letters commenting on whom he meets, where he plays, what he sees and hears, with references to his friends, pupils, and publishers.

Chopin at the Boundaries: Sex, History, and Musical Genre
Chopin at the Boundaries: Sex, History, and Musical Genre (Convergences, Inventories of the Present), Jeffrey Kallberg. Harvard University Press. 1996. ISBN 0674127900 (hardcover), 0674127919 (paperback).
The complex status of Chopin in our culture – he was a native Pole and adopted Frenchman, and a male composer writing in "feminine" genres – is the subject of Jeffrey Kallberg's absorbing book. Combining social history, literary theory, musicology, and feminist thought, Chopin at the Boundaries is the first book to situate Chopin's music within the construct of his somewhat marginal sexual identity and to explore how this should figure in our understanding of his compositional methods. Through this novel approach, Kallberg reveals a new Chopin, one situated precisely where questions of gender open up into the very important question of genre.

The Music of Chopin
The Music of Chopin. Jim Samson. Clarendon Press. 1994. ISBN 0198164025 (paperback).
The lasting popularity of Chopin's music has reached "from salon to slum." He captured and expressed the spirit of the age of Romanticism, its ardour and idealism, its longing and restlessness, its love of spontaneity, with an authority his contemporaries immediately recognized and which successive generations have admired and loved. Much of the Chopin literature in English is biographical, but this book is a critical study of the music itself and of the creative process which is central to the life of any composer. Samson provides a detailed analysis of the style and structure of the music in the light of recent Chopin scholarship on the one hand and recent analytical methods on the other. The early chapters deal mainly with the sources and the characteristic profile of Chopin's musical style, relating his music to a wider context in social and stylistic history. Later chapters look rather at the structure of his music and how it functions, with many examples highlighting the discussion.
The Cambridge Companion to Chopin
The Cambridge Companion to Chopin. Jim Samson, editor. Cambridge University Press. 1995. ISBN 0521477522 (paperback).
This collection of essays is designed to provide the enquiring music lover with helpful insights into a musical style that recognizes no contradictions between the accessible and the sophisticated, as well as the popular and the significant.
Chopin: Pianist and Teacher - As Seen by His Pupils
Chopin: Pianist and Teacher - As Seen by His Pupils. Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, with Roy Howat (Editor), Krysia Osostowicz (translator). Cambridge University Press. 1989. ISBN 0521367093 (paperback).
Well-researched and richly-annotated accounts of Chopin's pupils, acquaintances, and contemporaries, as well as his own writings, reveal much about his pianistic and stylistic practice, teaching methods and aesthetic beliefs.

Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer
Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer. Tad Szulc. Da Capo Press (paperback), Scribner (hardcover). 1998/2000. ISBN 0684824582 (hardcover), 0306809338 (paperback).
Biographer Tad Szulc has produced a dishy account of Chopin's most creative and tempestuous period, his 18-year sojourn in France. It's also a portrait of a unique time, when musical and artistic luminaries such as Chopin, Balzac, Hugo, Liszt, Berlioz, Delacroix, and Schumann ran in the same heady Parisian circles. What it's not is a detailed study of Chopin's music. Szulc sets out in search of Chopin the man, "the human dimension" he finds missing in other, more musically oriented biographies. What he finds is not always attractive; tortured through much of his life by physical and psychological illness, Chopin emerges as an often fussy, distant, manipulative man, as well as something of a snob. It's a tribute to his genius as a composer, Szulc writes, that he was befriended by some of the greatest minds of his age, including the larger-than-life figure of George Sand: "Fryderyk Chopin gave the world a treasure in music. The world gave Chopin a treasure in human beings." The author refrains from editorializing about the composer's life and habits, in particular Chopin's break with Sand.
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Muzio Clementi

Clementi: His Life and Music. Leon B. Plantinga. Oxford University Press . 1977. ISBN 0193152274 (hardcover).
Muzio Clementis Leben. Max Unger. Da Capo Press. 1971. ISBN 0306701928 (hardcover).
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Aaron Copland - The Life And Work Of An Uncommon Man

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland - The Life And Work Of An Uncommon Man. Howard Pollack. Holt. 1999. ISBN 0805049096 (hardcover), 0252069005 (paperback).
A candid and fascinating portrait of the American composer. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Aaron Copland (1900-1990) became one of America's most beloved and esteemed composers. His work, which includes Fanfare for the Common Man, A Lincoln Portrait, and Appalachian Spring, has been honored by a huge following of devoted listeners. But the full richness of Copland's life and accomplishments has never, until now, been documented or understood. Howard Pollack's meticulously researched and engrossing biography explores the symphony of Copland's life: his childhood in Brooklyn; his homosexuality; Paris in the early 1920s; the Alfred Stieglitz circle; his experimentation with jazz; the communist witch trials; Hollywood in the forties; public disappointment with his later, intellectual work; and his struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, Pollack presents informed discussions of Copland's music, explaining and clarifying its newness and originality, its aesthetic and social aspects, its distinctive and enduring personality. Read the Classical Net Review of this book.
Copland 1900-1942
Copland. by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis. St. Martin's Press. 1987.
Volume 1 "1900-1942" - ISBN 0312011490 (paperback).
Volume 2 "Since 1943" - ISBN 0312050666 (paperback).
Vivid and entertaining memoir of the composer's boyhood in Brooklyn, studies with Boulanger in Paris and adventures in Mexico, Hollywood and Tanglewood. Volume 1 begins with Copland's Brooklyn childhood and takes us through his years in Paris, the creation of his early works, and his arrival at Tanglewood. Rich with remembrances from Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, and Nadia Boulanger, as well as a trove of letters, photographs, and scores from Copland's collection, this is one of our most vivid musical autobiographies, and an enduring record of an American maestro's explosively creative coming of age. Volume 2 is Copland's irresistible account of the latter half of his career--a career that brought us such pioneering works as Appalachian Spring and Lincoln Portrait, the movie scores for Of Mice and Men and Our Town, and numerous other orchestral and chamber works. It tells the story of how a self-described "brash young man from Brooklyn" went on to become one of the founding fathers of "serious" American music. Featuring cameos by luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, Agnes de Mille, Benny Goodman, and other peers of Aaron Copland during this explosively creative period, Copland: Since 1943 is an invaluable memoir that charts the crescendo of one of the most accomplished careers in the modern canon.
The Music of Aaron Copland
The Music of Aaron Copland. Neil Butterworth, with preface by André Previn. Toccata Press. 1996. ISBN 0907689078 (hardcover), 0907689086 (paperback).
This is the first book in 30 years on the music of one of America's best-loved composers. Neil Butterworth surveys all of Copland's published output and examines his various writings on music. It includes a conversation on the piano music with Aaron Copland and Leo Smit, illustrated with sketches of Copland in rehearsal by Milein Cosman.
Read the Classical Net Review of this book by Steve Schwartz.
Read the Classical Net Review of this book by Karl Miller.
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Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli - New Orpheus of Our Times
Arcangelo Corelli - New Orpheus of Our Times. Peter Allsop. Oxford University Press. 1999. ISBN 0198165625 (paperback).
The first full-length study for forty years, Arcangelo Corelli offers a much needed reassessment of the seminal composer's life and works. His current historical perspective is still largely conditioned by the opinions of Burney and Hawkins in the late 18th century who saw him as the consolidator of past trends rather than an instigator – a view fully endorsed in the two biographies of the present century. Neither of these writers was truly in a position to make such judgements if only because neither was aware of the contributions of the Roman School to which Corelli emphatically affirmed his allegiance. Extensive archival research over recent years now dispels much of the anecdote and hearsay accumulated over the centuries and makes possible a more balanced evaluation of Corelli's true status in the development of the prime instrumental genres, accounting for his phenomenal success both during his lifetime and in the creation of musical canon in the decades after his death.
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François Couperin

François Couperin. Phillippe Beaussant, Alexandra Land (Translator). Amadeus Press. 1991. ISBN 0931340276 (hardcover).
Organist to the court of Louis XIV, Couperin left a vast body of works for harpsichord that epitomize the elegance of classical French art and are keystones of the instrument's repertoire.
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