Books on General Musical Principles and Forms


September 25, 2023

781. Books on general principles and musical forms

Further Reading:

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Alec Byrne London Rock: The Unseen Archive, 2017.

London’s music scene in the 1960s and 1970s hosted major acts like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and David Bowie. Photographer Alec Byrne was there to capture the era, and now he shares previously unpublished photographs taken on the stage in clubs and other venues around the city.

Matthew Chojnacki Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions Per Minute2011.

Musical art reached its zenith in the 1980s with the introduction of MTV and its music videos, a feast for eyes and ears. Chojnacki discusses these, along with album covers and commentary from the artists themselves.

Mervyn Cooke The Chronicle of Jazz, 1998.

The 20th century saw the birth and growth of jazz music, and Mervyn Cooke traces its roots in African rhythms and ties them to musical styles all around the globe. He discusses the improvisation and innovation unique to the form and provides stellar images for fans.

Lisa Darms The Riot Grrrl Collection, 2013.

Beginning in the 1990s, third-wave feminism swept Western culture. Musical representatives from the Riot Grrl movement urged young women and men to resist sexism and celebrate strong female voices, with bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile at the forefront. This book contains reproductions of the era’s zines, posters, and other print materials.

Nelson George The Death of Rhythm and Blues, 1988.

This controversial history of post-World War II Black music and culture in White society, written by African American culture critic Nelson George, provides a revealing inside look at music and musicians.

George E. Lewis A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and the American Experimental Music, 2008.

George E. Lewis reveals the story of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which has supported young and old musicians from all backgrounds and races.  They all share the desire to stretch the limits of musical forms. From its founding in 1965 by Steve McCall, this is the story of the AACM and its community.

Alan Lomax The Land Where the Blues Began, 1993.

A huge chunk of American music would have gone undocumented without Alan Lomax. The ethnomusicologist traveled the Mississippi Delta in the 1930s and 1940s with his recording equipment, capturing performers like Leadbelly and Muddy Waters. His respect for the people and the music shines through, allowing the musicians to present their stories.

Greil Marcus Mystery Train: Images of American Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, 1997.

In this classic work, acclaimed critic and author Greil Marcus studies rock ‘n’ roll music’s influence on American culture. The book, first published in 1975 is now in the fourth edition.

Tom Sancton Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White, 2006.

Young Tom Sancton grew up on the streets of New Orleans during the 1950s and 1960s when jazz greats like Louis Armstrong were in the final years of their careers. As the son of a liberal civil rights activist, Sancton began hanging out with a group of musicians who called themselves “the mens.” They allowed him into their circle, and he recollects their lives and legacy.

Kenneth Womack Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years, 1926-1965), 2017 and Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years, 1966-2016), 2018. 

Beatles authority Kenneth Womack tells of the producer of the Beatles music catalog, George Martin. The first volume covers his early years as a pianist, while the second narrates his life after the band broke up. The books will interest any Beatles fan, providing insight into the albums, behind-the-scenes information, and the musicians they influenced.

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


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