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What to Listen for in Music

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In this fascinating analysis of how to listen to music intelligently, Aaron Copland raises two basic questions: Are you hearing everything that is going on? Are you really being sensitive to it? If you cannot answer yes to both questions, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Whether you listen to Mozart or Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland's provocative suggestions for li In this fascinating analysis of how to listen to music intelligently, Aaron Copland raises two basic questions: Are you hearing everything that is going on? Are you really being sensitive to it? If you cannot answer yes to both questions, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Whether you listen to Mozart or Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland's provocative suggestions for listening to music from his point of view will bring you a deeper appreciation of the most rewarding of all art forms.


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In this fascinating analysis of how to listen to music intelligently, Aaron Copland raises two basic questions: Are you hearing everything that is going on? Are you really being sensitive to it? If you cannot answer yes to both questions, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Whether you listen to Mozart or Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland's provocative suggestions for li In this fascinating analysis of how to listen to music intelligently, Aaron Copland raises two basic questions: Are you hearing everything that is going on? Are you really being sensitive to it? If you cannot answer yes to both questions, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Whether you listen to Mozart or Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland's provocative suggestions for listening to music from his point of view will bring you a deeper appreciation of the most rewarding of all art forms.

30 review for What to Listen for in Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jana Light

    This is a fantastic book for the layperson who wants to become a more intelligent listener and who wants to understand more of what is going on in classical music (note: all classical music, not just the Classical period). Copland begins with an explanation of what music is and how it functions, moves to instruments, then to forms, adds an apologist chapter for contemporary music, and finishes with a chapter of what it means to be a good listener and the very significant role listeners play in t This is a fantastic book for the layperson who wants to become a more intelligent listener and who wants to understand more of what is going on in classical music (note: all classical music, not just the Classical period). Copland begins with an explanation of what music is and how it functions, moves to instruments, then to forms, adds an apologist chapter for contemporary music, and finishes with a chapter of what it means to be a good listener and the very significant role listeners play in the participation of the music creation. As a book for the layperson, I think it's wonderful. It's smart, detailed, comprehensive, and Copland punctuates his objective analyses with stirring descriptions of the emotional impact of music that remind readers how evanescent and mysterious good music is. It was a real joy to read a work by someone who can describe so well the technical aspects of music, but in a way that refuses to reduce music to something entirely tangible. Copland never loses emphasis on the sublimity of music and the rather inexplicability of why good music sounds and "feels" so good to us. As a decidedly non-layperson to the music world, I found myself skimming the beginning theory sections. The chapters on forms were a fantastic refresher, however (sorry, long-lost college music theory textbooks), and I enjoyed his discussions of music history throughout. As a fan of Bartok and Villa-Lobos and Satie, I loved Copland's apologist chapter for modern and contemporary music (contemporary for the 1957 edition), reminding readers and listeners that though m/c music is much more difficult because it breaks so thoroughly from the forms and tonal sounds with which we have become familiar (and which are scientifically verified to be mellifluous), it is the music of our day and we only do ourselves a disservice by not participating in it and working to understand it. We may never like it, but it contains riches that deserve our effort and appreciation, like any other period and form. Copland suggestively defines music as a language for emotions that are inexpressible in written or spoken language. Like any language, true appreciation and fluency requires what Copland asks of his readers/listeners: a commitment to intentional, repeat, thoughtful, engaged listening across all historical periods and art forms. That starts with a greater understanding of the technical aspects of music and composition (which Copland has provided) and culminates in being able to simply let a piece - no matter how "formless" and atonal - happen, giving it the freedom to create nostalgia, to (re)create an emotional experience that envelops us for 10 minutes or three hours. Reading Copland, you wonder why more people don't fully engage their intellect with music. It has so much to offer, and we have so much to offer as listeners. Music really is "one of the glories of mankind." (229) Of equal importance to the text itself are Copland's listening suggestions of pieces that exemplify the form or element he describes in the preceding chapter. I had intended to listen as I went along, but when I realized I wouldn't finish the book until summer if I kept up with that model, I decided to finish the book and then spend the next few months listening to each piece after a brief refresher of its chapter context. I highly recommend every reader do something similar. It is no good only reading about music; to know music you obviously must listen to it and Copland has provided a wealth of selections for that purpose.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    Aaron Copland (1900-1990) stands as one of the giants of American composers. Charged by his French music teacher to produce an authentic American style of music, he would compose classics such as Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Rodeo. Copland also would conduct, teach, and write over the course of his prodigious career. Based on a series of lectures and first published in 1939, What to Listen for in Music remains in print. Along with his compositions which are still being performed, this b Aaron Copland (1900-1990) stands as one of the giants of American composers. Charged by his French music teacher to produce an authentic American style of music, he would compose classics such as Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Rodeo. Copland also would conduct, teach, and write over the course of his prodigious career. Based on a series of lectures and first published in 1939, What to Listen for in Music remains in print. Along with his compositions which are still being performed, this book stands as a testament of Copland’s lasting influence on American music. It is Copland’s “prime consideration” that makes What to Listen for in Music as accessible today as when it was first published. Moving quickly to allay the fears of those who don’t consider themselves musical, he strongly asserts that the ability to read music or recognize pitch isn’t necessary to be an “intelligent listener.” All that is necessary is active and conscious listening. Copland illustrates his point by noting three modes of listening to music: the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the musical plane. He describes the sensuous plane as listening to music simply for the pleasure of the music itself. This might include listening to music while driving or turning it on at home for background noise. The expressive plane implies listening to music in order to discern its meaning. While Copland acknowledges that music does, in fact, have meaning, he dissuades the listener from attaching too firm a meaning to any given piece of work. For the feelings or emotion evoked at one time may be quite different when listening to the same piece of music at a later time. It is to the third plane—the purely musical plane—that Copland directs the reader. Going beyond the joy and expressive power, this plane involves the melodies, rhythms, harmonies, and timbre of music. This type of listening requires far greater attention and awareness to the underlying structure of the musical notes themselves. The highest level of intelligent listening, then, is the concerted effort of sustained active listening. “To listen intently, to listen consciously, to listen with one’s whole intelligence...”—Aaron Copland Detailed explanations of the underlying structures of music noted above occupy most of the book. Copland makes generous references to examples of actual pieces of music that illustrate the points he is making. He also includes brief sections of the musical notes for those who have the ability to read music. One of the most endearing aspects of Copland is his insistence on the necessity of listening to and appreciating various genres of music. There’s no instance of him dismissing composers within his own genre and he showers admiration on the complexity of rhythmic drumming styles of indigenous and tribal peoples. “...by comparison with the intricate rhythms used by African drummers or Chinese or Hindu percussionists, we are mere neophytes.”—Aaron Copland What to Listen for in Music likely will appeal most to people who fully appreciate, if not love, fine music and want to move beyond the first and second planes of listening. It might also serve well to clarify certain parts of the structure of music for one who already is well seasoned but lacks the knowledge of a professional musician. It might be helpful for those who, like me can neither read music nor recognize pitch, to supplement Copland either before or after with a work on the general history of Western music. My personal choices include working my way through several selections of “The Great Courses.” It’s ultimately necessary for the reader to remember Copland’s primary exhortation. Music intelligence ultimately can’t be gained by reading about it—it must be listened to. Anyone who does choose to read What to Listen for in Music, however, will emerge a far better listener even if another music book is never touched.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jee Koh

    A basic and helpful introduction to music for someone like me, i.e., no music training beyond playing the pianica in primary school, and strumming the guitar round campfires in high school. In this book first written in the 1930s, Copland distinguishes between listening on a sensuous plane (mere enjoyment of the quality of sound) and on expressive and sheerly musical planes. While not slighting the first, he contends that a better understanding of music increases our pleasure in it. Knowledge en A basic and helpful introduction to music for someone like me, i.e., no music training beyond playing the pianica in primary school, and strumming the guitar round campfires in high school. In this book first written in the 1930s, Copland distinguishes between listening on a sensuous plane (mere enjoyment of the quality of sound) and on expressive and sheerly musical planes. While not slighting the first, he contends that a better understanding of music increases our pleasure in it. Knowledge enhances passion, as I try (rather vainly) to persuade my students about poetry. A chapter is devoted to each of the four elements of music: rhythm, melody, harmony and tonal quality, and the succinct discussion, giving just enough detail, builds clearly on what has been explained before. There are also chapters on traditional music forms, such as sections, fugues, and sonatas, as well as on free forms. Short passages of score illustrate the point made. They are often from Beethoven, probably because he is most familiar to the reader, but also because he ranks very high in Copland's pantheon. Other composers mentioned more than once include Palestrina, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Roy Harris. As to be expected from a contemporary composer, Copland makes a pitch for modern music: it is difficult, he acknowledges, but it is continuous in its use of musical elements with what has gone on before. To illustrate "free" forms, Copland, rather surprisingly, refers to Bach. Bach wrote a good many preludes (very often followed by a balancing fugue) many of which are in "free" form. It was these that Busoni pointed to as an example of the path that he thought music should take. Bach achieved a unity of design in these "free" preludes either by adopting a pattern of well-defined character or by a clear progression of chordal harmonies which lead one from the beginning of a piece to the end without utilizing any repetition of thematic materials. Often, both methods are combined. By these means Bach engenders a feeling of free fantasy and a bold freedom of design that would be impossible to achieve within a strict form. When one hears them, the conviction grows that Busoni was quite right in saying that the future problems of handling form in music are bound up with this Bach-like freedom in form. There is a chapter on opera and music drama, in which he lines up the composers on opposing sides based on whether they exalt the word or the music. Wagner he praises for his music, but deplores for his ideas and words: total art was a failure. A chapter on film music, a genre Copland himself wrote, focuses on the process of composition and collaboration. A good part of the book's fascination for me lies in this insider's point of view, the perspective of the maker. In an introductory section, Copland defends the "expressiveness" of music against the proponents of "pure" music. That defence seems to rest on the idea of authorial intention. The composer hits upon a musical theme and develops it the way he does because he wishes to express "something" through the music. Though that "something" is necessarily general, like an emotion, it matters as what the composer wishes to communicate to his listeners. Copland urges the reader to listen for "the long line," the path along which a piece of music develops, and finally coheres. He describes la grande ligne this way: It is difficult adequately to explain the meaning of that phrase to the layman. To be properly understood in relation to a piece of music, it must be felt. In mere words, it simply means that every good piece of music must give us a sense of flow--a sense of continuity from first note to last. Every elementary music student knows the principle, but to put it into practice has challenged the greatest minds in music! A great symphony is a man-made Mississippi down which we irresistibly flow from the instant of our leave-taking to a long foreseen destination. Music must always flow, for that is part of its very essence, but the creation of that continuity and flow--that long line--constitutes the be-all and end-all of every composer's existence. In his references to the evolution of musical forms, he highlights the trend, without reifying it, towards the blurring of boundaries between sections, movements etc., and therefore a greater organicity. The "dissonance" of modern music lies in our unfamiliar ears, and is not so very different from the dissonance of earlier innovative music in the ears of its own contemporary audience. The difference is a matter of degree, and not of kind.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Quiver

    If you do not have any musical training, but are a fan of the aural arts, you might be tempted by a book which promises to show you what you're missing out on. Copland's is a good starting point. He identifies three planes of listening: the sensuous (which is practised by anyone who enjoys music by "getting lost in it"), the expressive (which is practised by anyone who tries to understand the mood, the message, the idea behind the music), and finally, the musical plane (for which you need a degr If you do not have any musical training, but are a fan of the aural arts, you might be tempted by a book which promises to show you what you're missing out on. Copland's is a good starting point. He identifies three planes of listening: the sensuous (which is practised by anyone who enjoys music by "getting lost in it"), the expressive (which is practised by anyone who tries to understand the mood, the message, the idea behind the music), and finally, the musical plane (for which you need a degree of technical knowledge). The sensuous plane cannot be taught, the expressive can be developed, but Copland focuses on the last of the three, teaching in fairly basic terms about the elements of music (rhythm, melody, harmony, tone colour), the musical texture, the musical structure, and the fundamental forms (sectional, variation, fugal, sonata, free). There are also chapters on opera, contemporary music, and film music. This is a short book—do not expect an overly detailed account, and if you are not familiar with music notation, do not expect everything that is presented to be completely clear or thoroughly explained. Copious listening suggestions are provided in and at the end of each chapter. In a sense, the ideal listener is both inside and outside the music at the same moment, judging it and enjoying it, wishing it would go one way and watching it go another—almost like the composer at the moment he composes it; because in order to write his music, the composer must also be inside and outside his music, carried away by it and yet coldly critical of it. A subjective and objective attitude is implied in both creating and listening to music. A book for the lay listener by the Aaron Copland of Appalachian Spring? Yes, please. Highly recommended for the insight and the sensitivity (without condescension) with which the reader is guided through the basics of listening to music.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Shafel

    2.5/5 stars. Full disclosure: I am a professionally trained musician (bachelor and master's degrees in composition, double bassist for more than fifteen years), so I realize this book isn't really intended for a person like me. But from a historical standpoint, I do appreciate this set of lessons. Through most of it, it was a nice little refresher for me. Everything is educational from a technical standpoint, and it was interesting to read a composition giant's musings, however opinionated and d 2.5/5 stars. Full disclosure: I am a professionally trained musician (bachelor and master's degrees in composition, double bassist for more than fifteen years), so I realize this book isn't really intended for a person like me. But from a historical standpoint, I do appreciate this set of lessons. Through most of it, it was a nice little refresher for me. Everything is educational from a technical standpoint, and it was interesting to read a composition giant's musings, however opinionated and dated (can't say I agree with Copland that the double bass isn't used as a solo instrument! and he is very vocal about which composers he thinks are best in various eras and styles). I think Copland articulated very well the act of listening to music on different "planes": sensuous (for pure pleasure), expressive (composer's meaning), and "sheerly musical" (acoustic/structural elements). I enjoyed his chapter on the craft of composing—all the different methods and processes. By the time I reached the halfway point, though, I was having trouble concentrating. I slogged through the second half. Read my entire review of What to Listen for in Music on mylittleheartmelodies.com.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    This book is cut up by a damaging assumption: classical music is difficult. Popular music is easy. Therefore elitism reduces the usefulness of this book. The best components of the book probe the four essential elements to music: rhythm, melody, harmony and tone colour. Besides that - it is not worth reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I found this book very interesting, and thought it said more about its author than its subject, at least for me. Copland provides explanations of and thoughts on all the main elements of and aspects of music: melody, rhythm, harmony, and formal structure, plus some additional special topics like opera, film music, and contemporary music. Copland's aim is to help the non-musician become a better, more sophisticated listener, so none of the information was news to me. However, I often found his ta I found this book very interesting, and thought it said more about its author than its subject, at least for me. Copland provides explanations of and thoughts on all the main elements of and aspects of music: melody, rhythm, harmony, and formal structure, plus some additional special topics like opera, film music, and contemporary music. Copland's aim is to help the non-musician become a better, more sophisticated listener, so none of the information was news to me. However, I often found his take on it interesting and occasionally illuminating. The only downside was that Copland is very much a man of the mid twentieth century - he adheres strongly to a very evolutionary view of music, is often a little ethnocentric, and uses language such that you would think the only time women are professionally involved with music is when someone needs a soprano. Nonetheless, What to Listen for in Music is a very good read. Copland really knows his stuff and has some great insights into things. His prose flows well and strikes the right balance between straightforward and poetic, technical and non-technical. He is extremely successful in his aim, too - this is a great introduction to how to approach classical music for serious listeners.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Genni

    A wonderful explanation of the basic principles of classical music, not an easy task! He also does an admirable job of attempting to put in words some of the more mysterious elements of music. Although I have a degree in music, I still learned a few things, and benefitted from those things that were review. What I enjoyed the most about this book, indeed, the reason I read it, was "listening" to Aaron Copland talk about music. You can often learn a bit about a composer's personality by listening A wonderful explanation of the basic principles of classical music, not an easy task! He also does an admirable job of attempting to put in words some of the more mysterious elements of music. Although I have a degree in music, I still learned a few things, and benefitted from those things that were review. What I enjoyed the most about this book, indeed, the reason I read it, was "listening" to Aaron Copland talk about music. You can often learn a bit about a composer's personality by listening to his works, but hearing him give a discourse on the subject was invaluable in appreciating his pieces more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Martin Read

    I enjoyed reading it. I felt that it improved my understanding of classical form considerably although my lack of musical knowledge made some chapters difficult. I have been reading it in conjunction with Bernstein and a variety of Youtube clips. I think it's a book I shall return to on occasion to deepen my understanding. I've already gained immensely in the area of early 20th century works and am looking forward to extending my listening range. It has also reinforced my interest in the period 1 I enjoyed reading it. I felt that it improved my understanding of classical form considerably although my lack of musical knowledge made some chapters difficult. I have been reading it in conjunction with Bernstein and a variety of Youtube clips. I think it's a book I shall return to on occasion to deepen my understanding. I've already gained immensely in the area of early 20th century works and am looking forward to extending my listening range. It has also reinforced my interest in the period 1890-1930 when so much happened artistically that we still seem to be processing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This is a wonderful introduction to "classical" music by the American composer Aaron Copland. It is highly readable and chockfull of examples for laymen like myself armed with Deezer and largely illiterate in reading musical scores. It definitely enhanced immensely my listening skills and opened my mind to new works and composers with which I was previously unfamiliar. A must.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Laflamme

    Copland takes a fascinating topic and manages to make it seem tedious. Fraught with elitist overtones, this book takes on the tone of a lecture by an academic long past the prime of his tenure. Classical music is fascinating, a joy, a thrilling adventure. In Copland's hands it feels as if was left too long in a dehydrator.

  12. 5 out of 5

    JJ

    A tight overview of the most significant things to look out for when listening to classical music. This guide is a very easy read for anyone with at least a rudimentary musical education, and is unlikely to lose many readers who lack one. Perhaps some of the discussion on harmony might be a little confusing, but if one takes it slowly, it is not difficult. For the uninitiated, Aaron Copland, the author, is one of the most highly regarded American composers. During his ninety years, he made major A tight overview of the most significant things to look out for when listening to classical music. This guide is a very easy read for anyone with at least a rudimentary musical education, and is unlikely to lose many readers who lack one. Perhaps some of the discussion on harmony might be a little confusing, but if one takes it slowly, it is not difficult. For the uninitiated, Aaron Copland, the author, is one of the most highly regarded American composers. During his ninety years, he made major contributions to the distinctly American style of classical music, producing such ballets as Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, as well as the perennially recognizable (and also distinctly American) Fanfare for the Common Man. He wrote What to Listen for in Music as a guide for people unfamiliar with classical music. In the book, Copland covers all the key elements of music, beginning with the foundations: Rhythm, Melody, Harmony and Tone Color (Timbre). He then briefly outlines some of the most common musical forms found in classical music: Sectional, Variation, Fugal, Sonata and Free, tracing as he does so the historical development of some classical styles. He closes the book with a discussion on Opera, Contemporary Classical Music and Film Music. The concluding epilogue is written by music critic Alan Rich. I can recommend this as a good introduction to classical music, and as a great refresher for those who have studied the basics, but left them out of mind for some time. It is well-structured and clear, and it doesn't waste words. It's a quick read that nevertheless covers a great deal of material.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Matteo

    While this book may clarify musical forms in the way an "Introduction to Music Appreciation" lecture might, its chapters on "Contemporary Music" (c. 1939) and "Film Music" are so short as to be meaningless, and even if they were more expansive, they have not aged well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A very nice book if you want to understand classical music better. I'm a regular concert goer, with some background in music, but nothing really in classical. I've been curious about the forms of the music and how to better understand this sometimes complex music I hear in the concert hall. This book was a great introduction. It gives you tips and ideas for listening to the different elements of classical music, melody, harmony, rhythm with examples of works to listen to. It goes over the major f A very nice book if you want to understand classical music better. I'm a regular concert goer, with some background in music, but nothing really in classical. I've been curious about the forms of the music and how to better understand this sometimes complex music I hear in the concert hall. This book was a great introduction. It gives you tips and ideas for listening to the different elements of classical music, melody, harmony, rhythm with examples of works to listen to. It goes over the major forms too which was perfect for me. It doesn't get too much into the history and times of the composers, which many books on classical music tend to. All that is interesting but not so much if you want to focus the nature of the music itself. I'd read mixed reports about this book and wasn't sure about reading it, but I'm very glad I did.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Standard issue for Freshman majors (or it least it was once upon a time) "What to Listen for..." runs the traditional wire between genuine approachability, and the deeper, music-nerd-driven understanding of music, composition, form, and the artist's own context. Although this is not quite the emotional trip as "Joy of Music" by Bernstein, it is the affections of a master laid in front of those of us who are interested. Highly recommended as a first read for the concert-goer, the enthusiast, the b Standard issue for Freshman majors (or it least it was once upon a time) "What to Listen for..." runs the traditional wire between genuine approachability, and the deeper, music-nerd-driven understanding of music, composition, form, and the artist's own context. Although this is not quite the emotional trip as "Joy of Music" by Bernstein, it is the affections of a master laid in front of those of us who are interested. Highly recommended as a first read for the concert-goer, the enthusiast, the budding musician, and even egg-heads from other fields. Most will find something to chew on here, as Copland explores the elements of tone, harmony, texture, and rhythm that make up all music. Genuinely good, even if it is popular.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric McLean

    This book is probably great for musicians, but non-musicians should be careful picking this up. I am a musician and read this as part of a Humanities class and was worried about half the people in the room who had never taken a music lesson in their life. I thought that it was a good book on how to listen to music and what to listen for, bringing it back to the basics of many genres. I do not appreciate the writing style and Copland comes off as being a bit arrogant and high-brow in his writing, This book is probably great for musicians, but non-musicians should be careful picking this up. I am a musician and read this as part of a Humanities class and was worried about half the people in the room who had never taken a music lesson in their life. I thought that it was a good book on how to listen to music and what to listen for, bringing it back to the basics of many genres. I do not appreciate the writing style and Copland comes off as being a bit arrogant and high-brow in his writing, which can be annoying after reading the entire book. Overall, a decent book on music.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jakob Hansen

    This was a required book for a very basic music appreciation course I had to take. It isn't a bad introduction to classical music, though in some parts it is a little dated. The best parts were Copland's descriptions of the compositional process, since, well, he was Aaron Copland. Also, I appreciated his moralizing about putting effort into music listening. Everything else in here you can find on Wikipedia.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Wonderful introduction to music. Starts getting into modern and contemporary music, though it's not fully updated. Still, if you want to understand Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky, or opera better in a painless and entertaining way, this book is for you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I'm learning to listen for melody, theme, drama - in music. It's fun! Remember, Aaron Copeland is one of America's classic composers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This book is interesting to read as an artifact.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Pohl

    Fine one, will use some ot very direct and explicit remarks of Mr. Copland in my educational work for sure...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gage Garlinghouse

    Most people only hear one level of music when just listening to it, but as Aaron Copland explains in his book there are actually three. And he argues that a person should train themselves to listen for all three to better appreciate the music that they hear. In his book the Composer Aaron Copland explains what makes music music, and why you should care. Granted he makes assumptions based on this, being that you know what lots of musical jargon means, but if one is going to read this book that c Most people only hear one level of music when just listening to it, but as Aaron Copland explains in his book there are actually three. And he argues that a person should train themselves to listen for all three to better appreciate the music that they hear. In his book the Composer Aaron Copland explains what makes music music, and why you should care. Granted he makes assumptions based on this, being that you know what lots of musical jargon means, but if one is going to read this book that can be assumed. However that definitely makes the reading difficulty harder than it would be otherwise, even for a proficient musician. The style of the book is quite the opposite however as it is very simple to follow with the beginning explaining how a composer sees his music, and then it goes into the elements of music and so on. The books flows natural, just like one of Copland's pieces. The theme as stated before is why one should learn to better listen to the music that they are hearing. Its kinda like when your parent would tell you that you are hearing them but not listening to them. The meaning is the same as copland argues the one is merely listening to the music that is presented to them and not hearing the beauty and the layers of it. The first impression that this book gave me was that there was so much I didn’t understand when it came to music despite how long I’ve spent with it. This book made me realize the importance of tone color, and the basic percussion writing of Northern and Western composers, when compared to the likes of Cuban and other cultures. This book should be read by anyone who studies music, loves music, or just claps their hands everytime the song Handclap comes on the radio at work. This book will make a music lover out of you, or will give you a far greater appreciation for what they are hearing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    William Schram

    What to Listen For In Music is a primer on Music Appreciation written by Aaron Copland. While I do enjoy Copland’s arrangements, but I was not aware of his position as a music professor. This book is pretty old. The edition I read came out in 1988, but the first edition had a copyright of 1939. According to the author information, Copland was still alive at the time of publication. Anyway, the book talks about the different aspects of music and how to listen to them in practice. The book mainly f What to Listen For In Music is a primer on Music Appreciation written by Aaron Copland. While I do enjoy Copland’s arrangements, but I was not aware of his position as a music professor. This book is pretty old. The edition I read came out in 1988, but the first edition had a copyright of 1939. According to the author information, Copland was still alive at the time of publication. Anyway, the book talks about the different aspects of music and how to listen to them in practice. The book mainly focuses on Classical Works. This is not an issue for me since I really enjoy the Classics. When I was younger, Classical was the only thing I listened to besides Hymns, Church Music and the music my mom listened to, but that is a tale for another day. Interspersed within the book are excerpts of sheet music demonstrating the ideas that he is writing about. So Copland divides the book into eighteen chapters where he talks about the basics of music. Not surprisingly, Copland also discusses the idea of inspiration and how he comes by his own themes. Copland speaks of Rhythm, Melody, Harmony, and Tone Color in the earlier chapters. Then he moves on to Musical Themes with stuff like the Rondo form. The book flows well. Although the sheet music sections are interesting, I really can’t read sheet music with any fluency. Therefore, I feel that it is slightly inappropriate for a person of my skill level. The prose has a sort of quality to it that makes you imagine a 1950s radio announcer reading the book to you. Maybe if this came out as an audiobook they would do something like that. Perhaps the book had a record or LP to go along with it so you could understand what he was talking about. All in all, the book was enjoyable.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book is good for what it is: an investigation into the elements and construction of (primarily classical) music for the layman. I am a classically trained pianist, and despite Copland asserting at the beginning that even professional musicians can get value from this book, the value diminishes pretty rapidly. This book is at its best in the beginning when Copland first distinguishes his four basic elements (rhythm, melody, harmony, and tone color). These are such fundamental ideas that it's This book is good for what it is: an investigation into the elements and construction of (primarily classical) music for the layman. I am a classically trained pianist, and despite Copland asserting at the beginning that even professional musicians can get value from this book, the value diminishes pretty rapidly. This book is at its best in the beginning when Copland first distinguishes his four basic elements (rhythm, melody, harmony, and tone color). These are such fundamental ideas that it's worthwhile to hear Copland's musings on the historical and cultural developments of rhythm, or of why the tone color of certain parts of the orchestra change what can be accomplished. After that the book switches into discussion on musical forms, which are almost exclusively classical like the Fugue and Sonata. Here it becomes more academic, as if an English Poet began describing the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare. These topics would mainly interest the student of classical music who had not yet learned it from a teacher. That being said, I believe this book is good for giving direction to an aspiring music lover that lacks such a direction. And as long as you approach this book from that perspective, you probably won't be let down.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Philip Riley

    This book starts from a simple base, dissecting aspects of classical music. While this can get boring for page after page, it does sink in and helps one appreciate the varied forms of that style. Aaron Copland has a strong personality in his writing. At times I found this off putting, but it also helped color the text. He references plenty of pieces, so I found myself listening to a lot of music I probably would not have listened to otherwise. (Jupiter Symphony, Well Tempered Clavier, Waldstein This book starts from a simple base, dissecting aspects of classical music. While this can get boring for page after page, it does sink in and helps one appreciate the varied forms of that style. Aaron Copland has a strong personality in his writing. At times I found this off putting, but it also helped color the text. He references plenty of pieces, so I found myself listening to a lot of music I probably would not have listened to otherwise. (Jupiter Symphony, Well Tempered Clavier, Waldstein Sonata) One of my favorite ideas in the book was when Copland talked about repetition as a tool composers can use. The way he framed such a simple concept as brought the value of it to light for me. But I was a little bored by the material itself, the personal narrative, and some of his strong opinions. Go music.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    A good, solid guide for the lay person hoping to better understand classical music. Some of the musical vocabulary he expects non-musicians to know is probably beyond what your average person today is familiar with, but it gives a great introduction to the different elements and forms found in classical music, as well as a few interesting chapters on contemporary and film music from a composer’s perspective. If you haven’t had much musical training and wish to be able to listen to classical musi A good, solid guide for the lay person hoping to better understand classical music. Some of the musical vocabulary he expects non-musicians to know is probably beyond what your average person today is familiar with, but it gives a great introduction to the different elements and forms found in classical music, as well as a few interesting chapters on contemporary and film music from a composer’s perspective. If you haven’t had much musical training and wish to be able to listen to classical music better, this is a great book for you. If you already have had musical training, especially in theory, most of this will not be new but it is still interesting to read about music from Copland’s POV.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rafaela de Marsillac Garcia

    The author says it's a book even for lay people, when, in fact, it would be preferable to have a minimum of sensitivity and musical knowledge. If that IS the case, then it's an AMAZING book that opens the door to a semi-lay music lover for a world of technicalities, of variations, behind the scenes of the final result that we listen to, and makes us have a much more complex understanding of the music we listen to. It is really inspiring to put yourself in a composer's shoes and go through the st The author says it's a book even for lay people, when, in fact, it would be preferable to have a minimum of sensitivity and musical knowledge. If that IS the case, then it's an AMAZING book that opens the door to a semi-lay music lover for a world of technicalities, of variations, behind the scenes of the final result that we listen to, and makes us have a much more complex understanding of the music we listen to. It is really inspiring to put yourself in a composer's shoes and go through the steps of creating a new work of art! Excellent book for those who are interested in a more technical approach. (I HIGHLY recommend you listen to the works he mentions while reading the book, it gives you a much much clearer understanding of what he is trying to explain)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    A very good book for both musicians and non musicians! If you're a musician, read it anyway. A lot of the information was covered in music theory/history courses during your undergrad, but it's a great refresher. If you're a music teacher, you should DEFINITELY read it because it's an excellent example of how to explain difficult concepts to non-musicians. If you're not a musician, you might need a little bit of help understanding some of the more complicated concepts, but don't be afraid to ask A very good book for both musicians and non musicians! If you're a musician, read it anyway. A lot of the information was covered in music theory/history courses during your undergrad, but it's a great refresher. If you're a music teacher, you should DEFINITELY read it because it's an excellent example of how to explain difficult concepts to non-musicians. If you're not a musician, you might need a little bit of help understanding some of the more complicated concepts, but don't be afraid to ask for help or do extra research. I'm sure you won't regret it! Not to mention, you get to read the voice and advice of Aaron Copland HIMSELF! Overall, a really fantastic book written by one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    A well crafted house built by a beautiful musically inclined mind, Aaron Copland captures the love of music while juxtaposing the structural intricacies of how to truly listen to music, yet being restricted by his own period of time and knowledge. Though unable to foresee the future coming changes in the ever-growing and changing musical structures and experimentations that has occurred in the past 50 years, Copland's analysis and brilliance outlined throughout this book still gives much for the A well crafted house built by a beautiful musically inclined mind, Aaron Copland captures the love of music while juxtaposing the structural intricacies of how to truly listen to music, yet being restricted by his own period of time and knowledge. Though unable to foresee the future coming changes in the ever-growing and changing musical structures and experimentations that has occurred in the past 50 years, Copland's analysis and brilliance outlined throughout this book still gives much for the composer, musician, and layperson to learn from, even with the changing and fluid styles of music in this current sonic period. A must read for any avid music lover.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Chapters 1-8 are quite good. To me those are the bits that are true to my initial interpretation of the title of the book. Chapters 9-14, which focused on the structure of fundamental forms (e.g. sonata) in music, were not what I was looking for. The remaining chapters (15-18) were also not what I bought the book for, but had some interesting parts. In particular, chapter 15 taught me some fundamental facts about opera which helped me understand its seeming pretensions, and chapter 17 provided i Chapters 1-8 are quite good. To me those are the bits that are true to my initial interpretation of the title of the book. Chapters 9-14, which focused on the structure of fundamental forms (e.g. sonata) in music, were not what I was looking for. The remaining chapters (15-18) were also not what I bought the book for, but had some interesting parts. In particular, chapter 15 taught me some fundamental facts about opera which helped me understand its seeming pretensions, and chapter 17 provided interesting insights into movie scores. Chapters 9-14: 1 star - didn’t like it Other Chapters: 3 stars - liked it

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