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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. 5 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

    Jonathan O'Neill

    4 ⭐ Thanks, first and foremost, to Diane for the (ongoing) buddy read/discussion. I, being the undisciplined and selfish buddy-reader that I am, skipped ahead but I’ve been the beneficiary of her great wealth of musical knowledge so far and am looking forward to continuing what’s been a great back-and-forth! - Aaron Copland “Plunged into the creative heart of the music of the master composers, we become master listeners. Dinner can wait.” Why should one read a book on what to listen for in m 4 ⭐ Thanks, first and foremost, to Diane for the (ongoing) buddy read/discussion. I, being the undisciplined and selfish buddy-reader that I am, skipped ahead but I’ve been the beneficiary of her great wealth of musical knowledge so far and am looking forward to continuing what’s been a great back-and-forth! - Aaron Copland “Plunged into the creative heart of the music of the master composers, we become master listeners. Dinner can wait.” Why should one read a book on what to listen for in music? Well, in this case, if for no other reason, it was written by one of the twentieth century’s great American composers, Aaron Copland, so not only should you come away knowing how to listen to music with greater attentiveness and understanding, but additionally, with a rare insight into the creative mind of a successful composer and perhaps a couple of juicy little anecdotes. William Schuman writes, in the introduction, that “listening to music is a skill that is acquired through experience and learning. Knowledge enhances enjoyment.”, and in keeping with this , Copland’s main objective here is to make the reader a better listener by empowering them through the acquisition of knowledge; knowledge of musical history and developmentally important epochs, of fundamental forms and musical structures, and of the orchestra and its multitudinous instruments and effective pairings. The book is, therefore, more an introduction to all of these aspects (“What to listen for…”) rather than a comprehensive “How To listen…”, as the title accurately suggests. In the interest of finding out whether anything here might tickle your fancy, a number of areas covered in the book include: The 4 elements of music (rhythm, melody, harmony and tone colour), Musical textures (monophonic, homophonic and polyphonic), fundamental forms (sectional, variation, fugal, sonata and free-form), and some brief chapters on Opera and Musical Drama, contemporary and film music. The Opera chapter is merely a historical account of the form, while the chapters on contemporary and film music were later additions to the 1957 revision of the text, so read contemporary as ”contemporary”. Overall, the depth of exploration is really only satisfactory for the musical novice but the book has the universal appeal of having these ideas expressed through the filter of a very successful composer. ”Unfortunately for music, many listeners are content to sit in an emotional bath and limit their reaction to music to the sensuous element of being surrounded by sounds. But the sounds are organized; the sounds have intellectual as well as emotional appeal.” As you read through, you’ll also accumulate a ridiculous number of fantastic listening recommendations from Copland which are collected from the body of the text and placed in a list at the end of each chapter. I was left with roughly two A4 pages full of recommendations of which I’ve only heard about half. The half that I have heard gives me faith that the entire list is likely top notch. Among these listening recs are a small number of listening exercises that Copland suggests, almost always revolving around the works of JS Bach. One such inclusion is the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 which, in keeping with his belief in the necessity of repeated listening (”If you really wish to hear what goes on in these forms, you must be willing to go after them again and again”), Copland urges ”the lay listener… to study the notes or the recording or both many times, as few compositions will better repay careful listening”. Well, I took this very seriously; I must’ve listened to it 15 times a day for a week straight; on Organ, piano four-hands, orchestra, you name it - and indeed, it is a bit of an onion! During this intensive listening program, I was feeling a bit under the weather and was doing a pretty menial task out the back at work when I started experiencing a stabbing chest pain! I’d love to tell you that my life flashed before my eyes or that I feared death or mourned those I would leave behind in the case of a heart attack but, honestly, as I clutched my chest—as the Fugue reached its peak and the Organ sang out from the castle of heaven—the prevailing thought in my mind was “Man! What if I die with THE most epic background death track and no one sees OR hears it!” I suggested my partner save it on her phone, so if there's even a hint that I'm on the way out, I'll pull her in and, using my last few dying breaths, compel her to "p..play the... the bloody...passacaglia!" and the fugal climax of Bach's passacaglia will be witnessed by all present as the theme to my death. Marvellous!... Look, I’m not a mind reader but the look on her face suggested a hard no… I’ll keep chippin’ away! “Music can only be really alive when there are listeners who are really alive. To listen intently, to listen consciously, to listen with one’s whole intelligence is the least we can do in the furtherance of an art that is one of the glories of mankind.” All has been pretty hunky dory so far but there are a couple of minor issues I have with the book. The first is the great number of times Copland avoids deeper discussion of interesting areas of musical theory with some variation of ”in a nontechnical book of this sort, it is not possible to make the measure-by-measure explanation” of this or, Oh, that?...that’s "too technical for discussion here". I understand and appreciate that the target audience for the work is the layman, however, teasing the reader so very often with just the foreplay of a tantalising idea and then retreating to another topic leaves one just a bit unsatisfied with the resulting depth, or lack thereof, of meaningful analysis. Being only a very short book, I feel there was space here to expand on certain areas without scaring away a broader audience; anyone who can understand what is in this book will still get as much, if not more, out of a slightly more complex text. Come on, Cops! Give the average musical nuffy (me) a bit of credit. The second negative is, honestly, still up for discussion for me; I’d love to know what others think. Pretentiousness, in Copland’s writing, is entirely absent from this work until the chapter on “contemporary music”(circa 1957) added to the revised edition of that year. I don’t think it’s intentional, and I might be out of line here, but sentences like these really grind my gears: ”when [a piece of music] seems to be giving off little feeling or sentiment, there is a good chance that you are being insensitive to the characteristic musical speech of your own epoch.” OR ”If… you find yourself rejecting music because it is too dissonant, it probably indicates that your ear is insufficiently accustomed to our present-day musical vocabulary, and needs more practice…” Despite the fact that Copland adds the caveat, ”there is always the possibility that the composer himself may be at fault through the writing of uninspired or wilful dissonances”, the general tone of the entire chapter would suggest that if you don’t like the sound of something than you are probably just not ready for it and, while I don’t entirely disagree with his point, I do think it sets a murky precedent; it’s almost like musical gaslighting and Copland comes off as more than a little defensive of the contemporary music of his time and, perhaps specifically, the lukewarm public reception his own piano variations received when first released. At the end of the day, if you can explain to someone why Copland’s piano variations are so great, and after listening a dozen times, they still come away feeling like they’ve just listened to the dissonant tones of 100 screeching cats having their tails stepped on in varying sequences, by different sized feet and a myriad selection of variegated footwear; well, so be it, that person’s experience was a negative one, but no less valid for it! “The destiny of a piece of music, while basically in the hands of the composer and performer, also depends on the attitude and ability of the listener. It is the listener in the larger sense who dictates the ultimate acceptance or rejection of the composition and performer.” A fantastic launch pad for those looking to learn the basics of “Classical” music. You’ll come away with a good birds-eye view of musical forms and textures as well as collecting an enormous playlist of new music to work through; a detour past that that frustrating early question of “Ok, Classical Music… Where do I start?!”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Curie

    "We expect a fine composition brilliantly performed, but how often do we think that it should also be brilliantly heard?" Music is notoriously difficult to write about and classical music particularly is notoriously difficult to listen to. Aaron Copland, an important composer and conductor of the 20th century himself, makes you disagree with both. This is the perfect book for people who want to enhance their own listening experience and broaden their understanding of what it really means to l "We expect a fine composition brilliantly performed, but how often do we think that it should also be brilliantly heard?" Music is notoriously difficult to write about and classical music particularly is notoriously difficult to listen to. Aaron Copland, an important composer and conductor of the 20th century himself, makes you disagree with both. This is the perfect book for people who want to enhance their own listening experience and broaden their understanding of what it really means to listen to music. This is written for laypeople with a curiosity for classical music, making this easily accessible and enlightening. "Listening to music is a skill that is acquired through experience and learning. Knowledge enhances enjoyment." Copland begins by explaining the importance of the listener and also notes how we need to give ourselves more credit – people without musical education tend to say that they can't form an opinion about a musical piece, yet we don't think that way in other fields where we might not have an extensive expertise (think reading books or watching films for example). He then covers everything from the creative process of making music, musical structure, harmonies, rhythm, texture and forms before addressing more contemporary music alongside film scores and operas, too. I'm personally not new to the subject, but still enjoyed his way of explaining things and the way he illustrated seemingly difficult matters of subject. I know people who feel alienated by classical music and just don't get it. This book perfectly proves that's it's about the commitment and interest one shows – through intentional, repeated listening new structures will be unveiled to the listener.

  4. 5 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Romeo Talks Books

    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. 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Felix

    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.

  11. 5 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.

  12. 4 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.

  13. 5 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.

  14. 4 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. 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    william ellison

    What to look for in a layman 's guide It's so good to hear from the horse's mouth even when some of the technical detail goes over, or under one's head. It's not a difficult read however and with a basic grasp of musical notation you can follow the musical quotations. These are a significant part of the early chapters. It really gets interesting when he gets on to contemporary music, an addition for a later edition. The description of various compositional forms is also reassuring for those of us What to look for in a layman 's guide It's so good to hear from the horse's mouth even when some of the technical detail goes over, or under one's head. It's not a difficult read however and with a basic grasp of musical notation you can follow the musical quotations. These are a significant part of the early chapters. It really gets interesting when he gets on to contemporary music, an addition for a later edition. The description of various compositional forms is also reassuring for those of us with a still simplistic ken of serious music. The pedagogical assumptions behind the text may be outmoded but Copland's heard was in the right place in sharing his experience with so who bothered to enquire.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aravind Prasad

    It is exactly how the title of the book said. Focusing mainly on what to listen was addressed in deep but i wish to find a book with title as "how to listen what in Music" but never mind. It is not waste of time, at least as i learned many things. One thing i learned is " we humans are dynamic as well as our feeling". Listening to same music can feel different as time goes on, So, it is better to listen music without concrete attachment to music. Other thing i learned is "we need to be inside an It is exactly how the title of the book said. Focusing mainly on what to listen was addressed in deep but i wish to find a book with title as "how to listen what in Music" but never mind. It is not waste of time, at least as i learned many things. One thing i learned is " we humans are dynamic as well as our feeling". Listening to same music can feel different as time goes on, So, it is better to listen music without concrete attachment to music. Other thing i learned is "we need to be inside and outside to the music". it means thinking like a composer and fetching for the notes to make it beautiful is one part of listening as well as enjoying it like a dancer is other part. Few other things were brief which are interesting to know but i don't think i remembered it well as I suck at history and this book reminded me of my history text book. Luckily, in between ingredients about music helped me survive the war. Hence, it is a good book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thuy Dinh

    Great introduction to classical music for laylistener, but written in textbook style. Still a very good book for a fan of aural arts to begin with

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin Ross

    Approachable written and fascinating.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lee Lin

    Clear and concise. A much more interesting read than any theory book by music boards. I took out my well-tempered clavier and Beethoven’s sonatas to revisit the scores and to appreciate the music anew after reading this book.

  20. 5 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. 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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Owen Goldin

    The book is of course dated -- how could it not be? -- but Copland's general sense of what is important and what is not in early 20th century concert music has been vindicated -- who else was championing Mahler and Ives in the 30s? And though Copland would not himself take a whack at serialism for decades, he is sympathetic to the project and his advice is still good advice -- listen to the stuff over and over again until your really know the music -- only then can you decide whether you like it The book is of course dated -- how could it not be? -- but Copland's general sense of what is important and what is not in early 20th century concert music has been vindicated -- who else was championing Mahler and Ives in the 30s? And though Copland would not himself take a whack at serialism for decades, he is sympathetic to the project and his advice is still good advice -- listen to the stuff over and over again until your really know the music -- only then can you decide whether you like it or not. The style is somewhat condescending and of course you would not expect Copland to be aware of Robert Johnson . . . and the other great music being made outside of the narrow limits of accepted concert music (though he does have some faint praise for Duke Ellington and other jazz). His insistence that to appreciate music "intelligently" is to be aware of formal elements of composition ignores the meditative and physical (rhythmic) aspects of listening, that are dominant in non-Western traditions and became so important from the 60s on --- and are I think important in earlier music as well. He praises African rhythms for their intricacy but surely does not mean to say that appreciating them requires analyzing them. Still, the book has many virtues. It gives a clear and succinct account of what is a fugue, a sonata, and so forth, and lays out what the dispute between the Wagnerians and the classicists like Brahms was all about. As in Copland's music, there is lots of good stuff to be found in here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul Manytravels

    Composer Aaron Copeland begins by reminding people that the best way to learn to appreciate music is to just listen to it. Nevertheless, understanding a little about the various elements that comprise music, the building blocks of a composition, can help listeners not only enjoy but also more deeply understand any musical composition. I cannot say I have completed the book because I am actually reading it more like a study guide or textbook. I read a little, then turn to either the music Copland Composer Aaron Copeland begins by reminding people that the best way to learn to appreciate music is to just listen to it. Nevertheless, understanding a little about the various elements that comprise music, the building blocks of a composition, can help listeners not only enjoy but also more deeply understand any musical composition. I cannot say I have completed the book because I am actually reading it more like a study guide or textbook. I read a little, then turn to either the music Copland has suggested or to other music where I hope to find the components of music the composer incorporated into his work. I feel like the book has made a difference for me and that I am feeling more closely engaged with the music I am hearing, especially Classical Music which so often carries a deeper meaning and message than is readily available from simply listening to it.

  23. 5 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.

  24. 4 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.

  25. 5 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.

  26. 4 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. 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.

  27. 5 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. 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.

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

  29. 4 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...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donald Heitland

    Pitchy at times but a sweet melody with nice backbeat

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