780. Books on music
Amiri Baraka Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music, 2010.
African American music and culture commentator, scholar Amiri Baraka, 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 importance of symphonies, the art of music composition, and what was so great about Beethoven. The book was republished in 2004.
Aaron Copland What to Listen for in Music, 1939.
No matter what type of music you prefer, acclaimed 20th-century American composer Aaron Copland can help you enjoy it more by helping you understand and answer two questions. First, do you hear everything there is to hear? And second, are you sensitive to what you are hearing?
Paul Elie Reinventing Bach, 2012.
Eighteenth-century German composer J.S. Bach created many musical sounds we still enjoy today. In Reinventing Bach, Paul Elie explains how Bach inspired musicians that followed him in experimenting with his sounds for their uses. Using Walt Disney and Yo-Yo Ma as just two examples, Elie provides a delightful collection of Bach-inspired entertainment for his fans.
Sasha Geffen Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary, 2020.
Sasha Geffen explores pop music and its popular gender-bending artists such as David Bowie, Prince, and Missy Elliot. From early blues performers to Frank Ocean, Geffen looks at how music, clothes, lyrics, and even technology have been used to push boundaries on expressions of gender.
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 examining one of Dylan’s songs, “Like a Rolling Stone.” He shares how Dylan wrote and recorded it. Then he relates all the times, places, and cultural references that make the song a timeless example of musical genius.
Winifred Phillips A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, 2014.
Award-winning American music composer Winifred Phillips explains how and why music for video games is more complicated to compose, in many ways, than classical pieces. But she goes beyond explaining why; she also provides a guide to help gaming composers obtain the skills they need to create gaming music, a lucrative and growing industry.
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.
As a music critic writing for the New Yorker, Alex Ross knows a thing or two about the field. In this collection of his essays, he covers music from the classical past to recent years. He looks at Western music and how it is being played all over the globe.
Solomon Volkov Shostakovich and Stalin: The Extraordinary Relationship between the Great Composer and the Brutal Dictator, 2005.
Dimitri Shostakovich was an early 20th-century Soviet Russian composer who wrote music of extraordinary originality that made him an avant-garde sensation. But once Joseph Stalin became dictator, Shostakovich managed to voice his opinions while staying alive by playing a “holy fool.” Volkov provides a fascinating look at one of the most fraught relationships in music history.
For more information on the Further Reading series, see Further Reading; Start Here.