Books on General Music


August 21, 2023

780. Books on music

Further Reading:

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Amiri Baraka Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music, 2010.

Scholar Amiri Baraka, African American music and culture commentator, celebrates music and musicians with an emphasis on African American jazz in this collection of essays on famous and relatively unknown musical greats.

Leonard Bernstein The Joy of Music, 1959.

American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein talks about the meaning and wonder of music. He shares the art of music composition, the importance of symphonies, and what was so great about Beethoven. The book was republished in 2004.

Aaron Copland What to Listen for in Music, 1939.

American composer Aaron Copland analyzed how to listen to music most profitably. He said you must be aware of everything happening in a piece and be sensitive to what you hear.  This book shows you how.

Paul Elie Reinventing Bach, 2012.

Johann Sebastian Bach was an 18th-century German composer ahead of his time. Paul Elie shows how modern musical geniuses restored his music beyond its former glory through technological innovations.

Greil Marcus Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads, 2005.

What makes Bob Dylan great? Music and literature critic Greil Marcus answers this question by using the story of one of Dylan’s songs, “Like a Rolling Stone.” He shares how Dylan wrote and recorded it and relates all the times, places, and cultural references that make the song a timeless musical work of genius.

Charles Rosen The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, 1971.

Concert pianist and music professor Charles Rosen shares how three composers–Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven defined the Classical style of music. Republished in 1998, it now contains a new chapter on Beethoven’s later years and a preface that responds to criticism of the first edition.

Alex Ross Listen to This, 2010.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross presents the best of his musical commentary. His sketches and criticisms discuss all things music, from Brahms to Led Zeppelin.

Stanley Sadie and Alison Latham, eds. The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, 1994.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians editors abridged the original 20-volume set to produce this one volume, scholarly reference with biographies of musicians and composers, and listings of musical works and terms.

For more information on the Further Reading series, see Further Reading: Start Here.


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