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Music: A Very Short Introduction

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What is music? How is it constructed? How is it consumed? Why do you enjoy it at all? In Music: A Very Short plays Introduction, Nicholas Cook invites us to really think about music and the role it plays in our lives and our ears. Drawing on a number of accessible examples, the author prompts us to call on our own musical experiences in order to think more critically about What is music? How is it constructed? How is it consumed? Why do you enjoy it at all? In Music: A Very Short plays Introduction, Nicholas Cook invites us to really think about music and the role it plays in our lives and our ears. Drawing on a number of accessible examples, the author prompts us to call on our own musical experiences in order to think more critically about the roles of the performers and the listener, about music as a commodity and an experience, what it means to understand music, and the values we ascribe to it. This very short introduction, written with both humor and flair, begins with a sampling of music as human activity and then goes on to consider the slippery phenomenon of how music has become an object of thought. Covering not only Western and classical music, Cook touches on all types from rock to Indonesian music and beyond. Incorporating musical forms from every continent, Music will make enjoyable reading for beginner and expert alike. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.


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What is music? How is it constructed? How is it consumed? Why do you enjoy it at all? In Music: A Very Short plays Introduction, Nicholas Cook invites us to really think about music and the role it plays in our lives and our ears. Drawing on a number of accessible examples, the author prompts us to call on our own musical experiences in order to think more critically about What is music? How is it constructed? How is it consumed? Why do you enjoy it at all? In Music: A Very Short plays Introduction, Nicholas Cook invites us to really think about music and the role it plays in our lives and our ears. Drawing on a number of accessible examples, the author prompts us to call on our own musical experiences in order to think more critically about the roles of the performers and the listener, about music as a commodity and an experience, what it means to understand music, and the values we ascribe to it. This very short introduction, written with both humor and flair, begins with a sampling of music as human activity and then goes on to consider the slippery phenomenon of how music has become an object of thought. Covering not only Western and classical music, Cook touches on all types from rock to Indonesian music and beyond. Incorporating musical forms from every continent, Music will make enjoyable reading for beginner and expert alike. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

30 review for Music: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Not much discussion on music itself. Most of the time is spent on explaining how perceptions of music has changed since the times of Beethoven, especially in terms of the role of the authority figure in music production, delivery and appreciation. The focus is clearly to advance the author’s own views on how music should be perceived. Which would have been fine of a specialized discussion, but not for a supposedly descriptive work that announces itself as an introduction to music in general, and Not much discussion on music itself. Most of the time is spent on explaining how perceptions of music has changed since the times of Beethoven, especially in terms of the role of the authority figure in music production, delivery and appreciation. The focus is clearly to advance the author’s own views on how music should be perceived. Which would have been fine of a specialized discussion, but not for a supposedly descriptive work that announces itself as an introduction to music in general, and not to some of the charged political discussions inside it. Misleading VSI, this one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "But when we speak of music we are really talking about a multiplicity of activities and experiences; it is only the fact that we call them all 'music' that makes it seeem obvious they belong together." -- Nicholas Cook, Music: VSI Vol N 2 of Oxford's Very Short Introductins series. 'Music: A Very Short Introduction' is one of the very first books in Oxford's series. It is both MORE and LESS (not to be confused with more or less) than what I was expecting. It was more of an academic, post-modern, "But when we speak of music we are really talking about a multiplicity of activities and experiences; it is only the fact that we call them all 'music' that makes it seeem obvious they belong together." -- Nicholas Cook, Music: VSI Vol N° 2 of Oxford's Very Short Introductins series. 'Music: A Very Short Introduction' is one of the very first books in Oxford's series. It is both MORE and LESS (not to be confused with more or less) than what I was expecting. It was more of an academic, post-modern, post-colonial, Marxist look at music. Since the Western Canon is the elephant in the room for any discussion of Music, it gets most of the attention, but Cook also spends a lot of time wandering around the idea of Music as cultural system, language, and representation of culture and society. He also explores critical theory, musicology, music theory, and the potential for music as a means of cross-cultural understanding and insight. There was a part of me (the part that will occassionally flirt with Wittgenstein AND John Cage) that enjoyed the academic and cerebral approach to understanding Music. There was also a part of me that wanted to tightly wrap a brass trumpet around Cook's neck. I don't think these books need to be easy, but part of the issue with academics in many fields is their tendency to write for their own little group (the less of my more AND less). I'm not sure this book would be of interest for many beyond a MUSIC501 (Introducton to Musicology) course at Duke, etc. I guess for me this type of a book, as an amatuer music listener, would be more Schönberg and less Mozart. It is aimed at the few and not the many.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Al Bità

    This short, immensely readable book was first published in 1998 in the UK and then re-published in 2010 (with some additional material) by Sterling Publishing Company (NY) as part of its “A Brief Insight” series. It provides a fascinating discussion about music as it has developed in the West during the 20th-century. Most interesting is the line of inquiry taken: our understanding of music in the West stems from what Cook calls the ‘Beethoven Phenomenon’ of the 19th-century which more or less This short, immensely readable book was first published in 1998 in the UK and then re-published in 2010 (with some additional material) by Sterling Publishing Company (NY) as part of its “A Brief Insight” series. It provides a fascinating discussion about music as it has developed in the West during the 20th-century. Most interesting is the line of inquiry taken: our understanding of music in the West stems from what Cook calls the ‘Beethoven Phenomenon’ of the 19th-century which more or less established what might be meant by the term ‘great music’. The 20th-century, however, with its advances in instrumental and recording technology, and the increasing availability of wider concepts than merely European interpretations (making music from all over the world readily accessible, for example) permitted the questioning and even overturning of the previous century’s aesthetic assumptions. By the turn of the 21st-century, themes such as the spirit realm, of Nature or Music speaking through the genius composer had become foreign. Cook examines concepts developed particularly as a result of the increased academic studies (such as the re-discovery of ‘early music’, for example, or cultural and multicultural ‘musics’, the use of music in politics and advertising, and the more recent considerations relating to gender studies) in a series of chapters relating to specific subject matters: music as an ‘imaginary object’; music as a matter of ‘representation’; the influence of academic analysis in the discipline; and problems of ‘gender’ and interpretation. None of this is presented in any difficult-to-understand way — indeed, the very opposite is the case. The discussion about Western musical notation (found in the chapter on music as an imaginary object) I found to be particularly interesting: the fact that the notation of the earliest music we have is not so precise as one might think — that we really do not have any truly good idea as to how such notation was ‘interpreted’ and/or performed, let alone how they might have been heard and interpreted by their listeners; and the fact that for some musical cultures even today, such ‘notation’ may not even be possible in any practical sense of the word. It makes one re-think any preconceptions in this regard… In the end, all of this seems to result in the ‘conclusion’ that music can have both good (if you’re optimistic) and bad (if you’re pessimistic) influences, and that therefore we have to be engaged actively with it. Two quotes from the end of the book: “…music is not a phenomenon of the natural world but a human construction. It is, par excellence, the artifice which disguises itself as nature. That is what makes it not only a source of sensory pleasure and an object of intellectual speculation, but also the ultimate hidden persuader.”; and “We need to understand [music’s] working, its charms, both to protect ourselves against them and, paradoxically, to enjoy them to the full. And in order to do that, we need to be able not just to hear music but to read it too: not in literal, notational terms, to be sure, but for its significance as an intrinsic part of culture, of society, of you and me.” I have quoted these statements because, having read this book after Kevin Kelly’s 2010 “What Technology Wants’ and Denis Dutton’s 2009 “The Art Instinct” I feel that perhaps both these authors present alternative understandings relating to art and technology, and the interested reader might find them of particular interest. Cook’s 1998/2010 book limits itself to considerations of music only, but it appears to me that a rather comprehensive view is taken of the subject, and presented in a way that any reader will find informative, instructive and thought-provoking, and best of all, very easy to read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Music: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #2), Nicholas Cook What is music? How is it constructed? How is it consumed? Why do you enjoy it at all? In Music: A Very Short plays Introduction, Nicholas Cook invites us to really think about music and the role it plays in our lives and our ears.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mikael Lind

    It is important to have one thing in mind before buying/borrowing this book: If you want a book about music that will teach you about notation, scales, chords or sound frequencies, then stay away from this one. This book is about music in context, and also about music and philosophy (and, to my delight, music and language) and whether you actually can listen to music in a context-free fashion at all. There is an unfortunate confusion (albeit kind of small) with the views of the earlier and the It is important to have one thing in mind before buying/borrowing this book: If you want a book about music that will teach you about notation, scales, chords or sound frequencies, then stay away from this one. This book is about music in context, and also about music and philosophy (and, to my delight, music and language) and whether you actually can listen to music in a context-free fashion at all. There is an unfortunate confusion (albeit kind of small) with the views of the earlier and the later Wittgenstein, but apart from that the author poses interesting questions about music and representation. (What does music represent? Does music represent something by nature, or does our language used to describe the music also illuminate a certain representation?) I would have enjoyed a broader spectrum of composers taken into account in this book, as well as some more thoughts on not only modern musicology but also on musical styles (minimalism, serialism, spectral music and so on). There is a lot about Beethoven here. A lot of it is interesting, and I like how the author investigates the social construct of the imagined composer genius that receives musical pieces from above and doesn't have to edit an already finished product (Beethoven were repeatedly revising his musical scores, and composed music by the piano and not only at the desk), but towards the end of the book I would have enjoyed a few words about Glass, Pärt, Feldman, Cage or other important composers. The book gets a bit repetitive; Cook has some important things to say about music and context but I think he shouldn't have done it so much at length for this series. A broader approach would be more in style with the other Very Short Introduction books. (Maybe he wrote the book for other purposes, and then sold it to this Oxford series, but my opinion still stands since I believe the book would have been even more interesting had it been more diverese.) All in all, still, this is a thought-provoking little book that you should read if you are interesting in music, philosophy and social relations.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Music is endless. That Oxford University Press thought it could make even the smallest progress towards explaining it in their series A Very Short Introduction initially seems ridiculous. But instead of trying to describe the entire history of human expression through sound, Nicholas Cook's little book focuses on identifying and challenging the preconceptions that Western readers might ascribe to the term "music". What preconceptions, for example? The distinction between musicians and Music is endless. That Oxford University Press thought it could make even the smallest progress towards explaining it in their series A Very Short Introduction initially seems ridiculous. But instead of trying to describe the entire history of human expression through sound, Nicholas Cook's little book focuses on identifying and challenging the preconceptions that Western readers might ascribe to the term "music". What preconceptions, for example? The distinction between musicians and non-musicians is a product of Western culture; in other cultures, all members of a community may participate. The phenomenon of classical music where a core repertoire is venerated like objects in a museum arose in the 19th century. That music must spring from the heart, must be "authentic" arose with the 20th-century ascendency of popular music. The last 50 pages are a description of the field of musicology, especially the shakeups of the 1980s that led musicologists to believe any writing on music is inextricably biased. The music and gender debate (e.g. McClary's claim that Beethoven's Ninth expresses the desires of a rapist) closes the book. Well, Cook's point that there is more to music than a typical English-language reader might think is all well and good, but I wish he had gone on to say something about the possibilities of music outside our preconceptions. At least a mention of non-Western scales that might sound dissonant and grating to us but smooth and pleasant within their native culture, or the frequent link between music and tribal ritual. There are some factual errors (like saying that György Ligeti was born in Hungary) and distortions like the myth of serial tyranny after World War II. Readers with an wide interest in music probably won't find much here. The key point is made just a few pages in and from there it's simply repeated.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Nicholas Cook's sense of humor and the overall tone of this work make it different from other books in this series. Particularly his humor takes some getting used to, at least for me. If Cook were an Oxford professor in a British crime show, he'd be one of Morse's top suspects. Much of the book is about unlearning "Western" assumptions about how we think about music, or a kind of history of how the "West" thinks about music, maybe. I would say post-post-modern but that makes it sound like Nicholas Cook's sense of humor and the overall tone of this work make it different from other books in this series. Particularly his humor takes some getting used to, at least for me. If Cook were an Oxford professor in a British crime show, he'd be one of Morse's top suspects. Much of the book is about unlearning "Western" assumptions about how we think about music, or a kind of history of how the "West" thinks about music, maybe. I would say post-post-modern but that makes it sound like impenetrable gobbledygook when it's the opposite of that, so clearly written that it all seems kind of obvious. In fact, at a few points in the book I was thinking, "this is useless," but I kept returning to it mainly because the other books I am reading are kind of depressing and thinking about music is nice. The final two chapters are the best, especially the one about gender and music.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Castles

    A very good little book with an interesting, and quite original, discussion about music. Of course, there is a huge academic perspective to this book, which makes me think that perhaps that’s the reason its reviews and ratings are so low.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grig O'

    First of all, as other reviewers have noted, this is not in fact an introduction to music. Can there even be such a thing actually, a written introduction to music? This question is actually a good starting point for this book, and if your answer is "of course there can be, don't be silly", then you'll probably be disappointed by Cook's little book. If your answer is "don't be pedantic, obviously the first introduction is through sound but we need words to make sense of it" you'll be happy to First of all, as other reviewers have noted, this is not in fact an introduction to music. Can there even be such a thing actually, a written introduction to music? This question is actually a good starting point for this book, and if your answer is "of course there can be, don't be silly", then you'll probably be disappointed by Cook's little book. If your answer is "don't be pedantic, obviously the first introduction is through sound but we need words to make sense of it" you'll be happy to find out that Cook isn't as wise-assly pedantic as I was just here - in fact, he appreciates your critical instinct and hopes to open you up to new ways of reasoning about music. The main takeaway from the book is its enthusiasm for the participative aspect of music, music's ability to construct meaning (as opposed to simply reflecting it). Cook cautions us not to slip into a fully constructivist utopian mode, seeking a sort of academic middle ground, radical (esp. by late-XX century standards) yet realistic. And he does play a little loose with the facts (this is a "short introduction", not an authoritative treatise), which usually helps with the book's readability. I've been pretty favourable so far, so why only 3 stars? Well, as helpful as I agree the book must be to many people, I feel like the practical imperative is missing. It's like "OK, we agree that composing/performing/discerning music are all equally important and we should blur the lines between them and get everyone involved, but what are we doing about it?" Arguably it's unfair to ask this of an introductory book, but hey, the book made me do it! I find myself more interested in how musicians grapple with these things, or how they perceive other musicians, than the musicological perspective, as nuanced and insightful as it might be in this book for example. Which isn't to say I'm giving up on it or on musicology, not just yet. I still recommend this book, but it may not exactly change your life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bayan Al-Ragheb

    Not focusing on music itself .. The name it self guided me to think about various topics to be discussed about music that I didn't find ..Though I was interested to explore .. Honestly , for the first time ever , I read almost fourth of the book , skimmed the others , scanned the pictures , and ended the journey with this book .. I have tried to force my self complete this book , but found it meaningless for me after a while to do that if I am skimming even if it is a very short book.. I may Not focusing on music itself .. The name it self guided me to think about various topics to be discussed about music that I didn't find ..Though I was interested to explore .. Honestly , for the first time ever , I read almost fourth of the book , skimmed the others , scanned the pictures , and ended the journey with this book .. I have tried to force my self complete this book , but found it meaningless for me after a while to do that if I am skimming even if it is a very short book.. I may recommend this book to someone interested in theoretical stuff about music and its history .. To someone who is studying about it .. To someone who has already a background about it .. Meanwhile , I preferred not to rate in respect to the material found in it that I didn't pay a lot of attention to.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Francisco

    This could be titled "Musicology: A Very Short Introduction" as it isn't about the history of music so much as about the social impact of how we look at music. It covers a lot of ground for its 120 pages, from the cult of Beethoven to gender issues in music, ideas of performance vs. composition etc. Its a really interesting introduction to a way of looking at music that most of us are not aware of in our daily lives, problematizing how people listen to and appreciate music and how the way in This could be titled "Musicology: A Very Short Introduction" as it isn't about the history of music so much as about the social impact of how we look at music. It covers a lot of ground for its 120 pages, from the cult of Beethoven to gender issues in music, ideas of performance vs. composition etc. Its a really interesting introduction to a way of looking at music that most of us are not aware of in our daily lives, problematizing how people listen to and appreciate music and how the way in which we do this is so intertwined with our social and historical context. It's very good at showing how music both in terms of performance, composition and appreciation is a socially constructed phenomena.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Be kind, this is my first review on goodreads! :-) Objective Book Rating: 4/5 Personal Rating: 4/5 Book Cover Rating: Considering this is part of a larger series of short introductions by Oxford, I won’t bother rating the cover. There’s nothing I like more than a book that does exactly what it promises, which, in this case, is provide a very short introduction to music. It was a quick, easy, informative read. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in music, regardless of experience or Be kind, this is my first review on goodreads! :-) Objective Book Rating: 4/5 Personal Rating: 4/5 Book Cover Rating: Considering this is part of a larger series of short introductions by Oxford, I won’t bother rating the cover. There’s nothing I like more than a book that does exactly what it promises, which, in this case, is provide a very short introduction to music. It was a quick, easy, informative read. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in music, regardless of experience or prior knowledge on the subject. However, it may be worth mentioning that someone who is well versed (lol, accidental pun!) in music probably won't find anything new here. Remember it's intended as an introduction, it's not meant to be a definitive guide to all things music!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    Like a great piece of music, it's difficult to describe exactly why this book is so good. It's not so much about music itself so much as the historical/cultural/social reception of music. But through a wealth of examples, Cook illuminates the importance of how and why we listen to music in intriguing and insightful ways. Chapter 1: Musical Values Chapter 2: Back to Beethoven Chapter 3: A State of Crisis? Chapter 4: An Imaginary Object Chapter 5: A Matter of Representation Chapter 6: Music and the Like a great piece of music, it's difficult to describe exactly why this book is so good. It's not so much about music itself so much as the historical/cultural/social reception of music. But through a wealth of examples, Cook illuminates the importance of how and why we listen to music in intriguing and insightful ways. Chapter 1: Musical Values Chapter 2: Back to Beethoven Chapter 3: A State of Crisis? Chapter 4: An Imaginary Object Chapter 5: A Matter of Representation Chapter 6: Music and the Academy Chapter 7: Music and Gender

  14. 5 out of 5

    M. Ashraf

    This is good. It is more about Classical Music though. Musicology, practice seeing music from different views and it asks the question is Music - classical - in crisis? and I liked the answer if there is a crisis in classical music, it is not in the music. A good short introduction to music. Side note: The first thing I remember hearing in my life, was a sound coming out of a baby comb my mother used to brush my hair with; and it was Beethoven's Für Elise, it will always has a special place in my life This is good. It is more about Classical Music though. Musicology, practice seeing music from different views and it asks the question is Music - classical - in crisis? and I liked the answer if there is a crisis in classical music, it is not in the music. A good short introduction to music. Side note: The first thing I remember hearing in my life, was a sound coming out of a baby comb my mother used to brush my hair with; and it was Beethoven's Für Elise, it will always has a special place in my life <3 :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Such a clever little book--Cook goes against tradition to imagine a better way of inviting audiences back to classical usic. This book is not for academics; it's for peope who love music. He may be one of the only writers trying to save the profession (and with a great, dry wit, too).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rogério Alvarenga

    What a utterly PIECE of zhit. The author have a fetish for Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, I mean what dafuk. Gender horseshit, Adorno crack... Not enough music and excessive social justice. Go to hell you academic ass!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Hare

    Loved the first five chapters, didn’t understand the sixth chapter “Music and the Academy”—it’s like watching religious sects argue about the number of angels able to dance on the head of pin—and cringed my way through the final chapter “Music and Gender.” I find it remarkable how many authors make a fetish of gender and sexuality and I’m sorry to see this swill has invaded the field of musicology. Setting those last two chapters aside this is an excellent and even enjoyable book. I know almost Loved the first five chapters, didn’t understand the sixth chapter “Music and the Academy”—it’s like watching religious sects argue about the number of angels able to dance on the head of pin—and cringed my way through the final chapter “Music and Gender.” I find it remarkable how many authors make a fetish of gender and sexuality and I’m sorry to see this swill has invaded the field of musicology. Setting those last two chapters aside this is an excellent and even enjoyable book. I know almost nothing about music save that I love to hear it. I’ve never played an instrument and sheet music is a foreign language to me. Despite this vast mountain of ignorance on my part I found the book delightful because Nicholas Cook is such a wonderful writer. He starts off with a real world example of the way music affects our emotions and proceeds to broaden the discussion into the field known as musicology; the scholarly analysis of music and it’s history. He makes no apology for focusing on Western music since that tradition is the most well known, studied, and available to the average listener. I know more about music than I did when I picked up the book, and considerably more about the state of musicology than perhaps I ever wanted to know. Cook is a talented writer, able to pack in a lot of engaging material in a relatively short book. It was a quick, enjoyable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Part of a wide ranging series of Very Short Introductions, this essay on music is surprising in its depth and complexity. In some ways it is a misleading title. Nicholas Cook's introduction to music requires quite an engaged and informed mind. While it doesn't really conform to the packaging, the essay itself is interesting and difficult. Nicholas Cook tries to look at the importance and essence of music, at what it means to human beings, to our culture, to the way our mind works. Beginning with Part of a wide ranging series of Very Short Introductions, this essay on music is surprising in its depth and complexity. In some ways it is a misleading title. Nicholas Cook's introduction to music requires quite an engaged and informed mind. While it doesn't really conform to the packaging, the essay itself is interesting and difficult. Nicholas Cook tries to look at the importance and essence of music, at what it means to human beings, to our culture, to the way our mind works. Beginning with a clever anecdote about music in advertising, about the expectations and images music creates, Cook then goes into great detail on the genesis of music, on the way that music is notated, recorded, interpretated and performed. Is it, perhaps, a little too specialised and a little too focused on the history of music rather than its present. After starting with such a modern example, Cook concentrates on the great figures of classical music and what they contributed to the development of the form. Beethoven and Mozart are the key figures, Schubert as well playing a focal role. He looks at the way their music was created and performed, at the origins of the concert and what it means to our cultural identity. The most interesting section concerns the documentation of music and how it differs around the world (although the focus is mostly on Western classical music). He is directly concerned with authenticity in music, with the relationship between author and performer, something integral to the art form. The best chapter is the final part on gender in music which looks at the sexuality of music, using very physical examples of the rhythms and thrusts of Beethoven compared to the supposedly homosexual overtones of Schubert's music. Like much of this example, although Cook does make reference to some example in modern music (the authencity of the Spice Girls, the differing sexualty of the Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, k.d.lang's gender identity) it feels like the last chapter would benefit greatly from a great exploration into the present and what his explorations means for music's modern identity and future direction. In some ways this is an introduction. A lengthy one, an intelligent and complex one, but an essay that feels incomplete and lacking in forward thrust. Certainly an interesting and engaging read with plenty of food for thought (sometimes too much; the discussion of musicology and music criticism left me confused and out in the cold) but not exactly what I expected. 4

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anıl Tuncel

    One chapter is about the the history of musical notation. There, the author introduces alternative notations used in the past and explains how the notation used today comes to play. I found it quite interesting. Another chapter I liked is the analysis of Beethoven and 9th Symphony. Also the chapter about the role of performer, composer and how they are perceived during the history was exciting. The rest of the book is about the personal opinion of the author about certain topics in musicology. I One chapter is about the the history of musical notation. There, the author introduces alternative notations used in the past and explains how the notation used today comes to play. I found it quite interesting. Another chapter I liked is the analysis of Beethoven and 9th Symphony. Also the chapter about the role of performer, composer and how they are perceived during the history was exciting. The rest of the book is about the personal opinion of the author about certain topics in musicology. I found it hard to follow and irrelevant for a book titled "a very short introduction". The last chapter ("Music and Gender") is the worst. I think that chapter was intended to catch the attention of some other audiences.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Miller

    This book, like many of the early “Short Introduction” books, is a literal introduction pulled from a larger academic work on the subject. Unlike the first in this series (this being the second published) the topic is clear and the focus sharper. The author does a much better job discussing broadly the topic of music. This is not a historical introduction, but an analytical interpretation introduction. Though it is dry in the way many academic texts are, it still holds enough of the attention of This book, like many of the early “Short Introduction” books, is a literal introduction pulled from a larger academic work on the subject. Unlike the first in this series (this being the second published) the topic is clear and the focus sharper. The author does a much better job discussing broadly the topic of music. This is not a historical introduction, but an analytical interpretation introduction. Though it is dry in the way many academic texts are, it still holds enough of the attention of you have even just a passing interest in music, which most people do.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    a brief but at times overwhelming introduction to musicology for an outsider to the field. lots of interesting bits though, and it led to great discussions in my class.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    This book made me think about what music is and what it isn't and that is remarkable because I have spent most of my life thinking about music!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric Orchard

    Excellent, slim volume that explores how we understand music.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    3.5 stars-This book gave a brief yet interesting insight into music as we know it today.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brandt

    There are precursory questions to consider before you decide to read this book. As an example, for what purpose are you reading it? If you are reading this as a comprehensive guide to music, then you will be disappointed. If you are reviewing this expecting to find an underlying realization of grand musical knowledge, then you will be disenchanted. Additionally, if you are perusing this as anything other than a concise, short, frame of reference for thinking about music, you will be unsatisfied. There are precursory questions to consider before you decide to read this book. As an example, for what purpose are you reading it? If you are reading this as a comprehensive guide to music, then you will be disappointed. If you are reviewing this expecting to find an underlying realization of grand musical knowledge, then you will be disenchanted. Additionally, if you are perusing this as anything other than a concise, short, frame of reference for thinking about music, you will be unsatisfied. I used this book as a secondary reference source for an upper division baccalaureate course in Philosophy of Music. It served that purpose exceptionally well. The information found in this short book does provide some of the basic structure necessary to consider philosophical problems within music. The structure of the book enables the reader to connect ideas sequentially and formulate important questions when considering musical ideas broadly. The project that Nicholas Cook undertakes in this book is to put all music on the map. Very often, and especially in Philosophy of Music, it is the genre of Classical music that gets the most talk and discussion time. Cook remedies this with ample discussion of genres as diverse as Blues, Pop, World, and many others. Cook understands that there is a common level at which all people can talk about music. This is the planate he ventures to explain in the book. By generalizing about music, Cook elucidates multifarious ideas such as, what music means, and if – and if it does, how – music operates as an agent of meaning? Cook speculates that the reader already understands the potential of music to act, on an emotional level, and suffuse itself with the human values of good, bad, right, or wrong. This acquiescence to the power of music is a perception that the “music” does not just “happen”. It is us viz., humans that make music what it is. We think through music, and music helps us express ourselves, and decide who we are. Consequently, this book is not only about music, it is regarding thinking about music. It is apropos the way thinking about music is conditioned in society and institutions. Therefore, even though this book is short, it covers a broad variety of ideas about music. Whether it is musical values, and the strange combinations of words and music, or how emotion is supposedly expressed in music, this book will take a cursory look at it. Ultimately, the book will spark an interest into thinking about music from a philosophical perspective. This is, at least, my goal, and one I think that Cook would agree with. Happy reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Realini

    Music: A Very Short Introduction by Nicholas Cook This could be useful. I thought I am in for a very informative, eye opening book. It turns out, I did not like it all that much. First of all, I am in the process of reading a marvelous book on the history of music, which has inserts with the music mentioned: If it is Mozart the narrator is talking about, we have Eine Kleine Nacht Music, The Magic Flute – as exemplification. With a Very Short Introduction, there is nothing of that and the scope of Music: A Very Short Introduction by Nicholas Cook This could be useful. I thought I am in for a very informative, eye opening book. It turns out, I did not like it all that much. First of all, I am in the process of reading a marvelous book on the history of music, which has inserts with the music mentioned: If it is Mozart the narrator is talking about, we have Eine Kleine Nacht Music, The Magic Flute – as exemplification. With a Very Short Introduction, there is nothing of that and the scope of the book seems to be too large and anyway, not what I am looking for. You could find it informative and great, but when I compared it with the mentioned History of Music I found it very poor, because of no real music to speak of An effort is made to look into various kinds of music and their origin. From the very beginning, we learn about an Awards Ceremony where classical music and some rappers and other modern day musicians are invited together. The modern day musicians win, but the point is that they converge and influence each other There are some inside stories that could make for an instructive, funny at times read: I read that Milly Vannili have been stripped of an award, when knowledge came out of the fact that they had no contribution, no “presence” in the music recordings which have won in competition. The fact is that, with time passing and technology getting better and better- it is a point of contention: how much today’s musicians contribute to the melody and what percentage is mixing, electric instrument input, software and Photoshop?? The book refers to the now famous: << wr5iting about music is like dancing about architecture>> only here they attribute it to someone else. In a book by Tal Ben-Shahar, I have read that it is Frank Zappa who said it, in Music: A Very Short Introduction this has changed … Regardless of whoever said it first, it seems wrong to write about or read about music without having some reference to…a song, a melody. The best format would be an audio book which gives an example: if it claims rock was born from blues, the best proof would be to let the listener hear it. Plus, Cook speaks about genres, like progressive rock which I couldn’t place, but would have gladly listened to a few notes. Maybe you will like it…I didn’t.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lanterfant

    There's some great insights about the social embeddedness of music in this little book. For instance, one learns how rock 'n' roll started as cover versions of black rhythm 'n' blues music by white artists, while the subsequent black rights movement discredited this practice and thus established an ideal of authenticity for the new 'white' rock music -- signifying expression of individuality, freedom, and emotional expression. This ideal of authenticity remains central to our age in the There's some great insights about the social embeddedness of music in this little book. For instance, one learns how rock 'n' roll started as cover versions of black rhythm 'n' blues music by white artists, while the subsequent black rights movement discredited this practice and thus established an ideal of authenticity for the new 'white' rock music -- signifying expression of individuality, freedom, and emotional expression. This ideal of authenticity remains central to our age in the opposition of arranged 'artificial' pop and the true 'performance' of rock, notions which remain central in thinking about music to our day. In another chapter, he links the latter ideals to earlier developments in the role of music in the construction of 'bourgeois subjectivity', specifically Beethoven, who served as a model for composers who would no longer (unlike say Bach) work for a salary and rather compose 'for all eternity' (or so the romantic myth goes). It's interesting to see how these social factors are reflected in music. The author also made me aware of the significant role for notation and recording techniques in shaping (rather than merely 'storing') musical ideas and prejudices. The only disappointment for me was the last chapter on music and gender, an intriguing subject to be sure, but finding patriarchal values and 'gender stereotyping' in the sonata form, because it represents a domination of a forceful and energetic 'masculine' main theme over a 'feminine' supple and elegant theme, was not entirely convincing to me. Still, it's an interesting speculative thought, as any chapter of this little book is packed with stimulating perspectives that will make you think about music in new and unexpected ways.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Linda Steiger

    Not as illuminating as I'd hoped. Accessible, but fairly academic in approach. Cook summarizes what's been happening over the past thirty years or so in scholarly thinking about what this "thing" called music is all about. He explores ways various theorists and historians of music are coming to grips with the sudden globalization and diversification of musical cultures. Basic idea: musical meaning is "constructed" in the imaginations of the performer and the listener (as well as the composer) as Not as illuminating as I'd hoped. Accessible, but fairly academic in approach. Cook summarizes what's been happening over the past thirty years or so in scholarly thinking about what this "thing" called music is all about. He explores ways various theorists and historians of music are coming to grips with the sudden globalization and diversification of musical cultures. Basic idea: musical meaning is "constructed" in the imaginations of the performer and the listener (as well as the composer) as shaped by culture, ideology, and experiences. Of course these may be different between between composer and performer and listener--in terms of both time period and cultural perspective--which makes for interesting complexities. Understanding something about the cultural and social context of the original musical manifestation thickens in some ways one's musical appreciation, but ought not be the sole criteria. Etc Etc Etc. It's very much what happened to literary criticism during the same time period, a movement that for me that seemed to produce more belly-button inspection than help with understanding meaning in literature. Alas, though Cook talks a lot about "engaging" with music, I thought he failed to explain just what that means. I really don't think it helps me much to consider Romantic myth of Beethoven, the authentic heroic genius, as I listen to his piano concertos. Seems more like cocktail party chat, if one goes to that kind of cocktail party, which I rarely do any more.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Avi

    Music has never been one of my things. I mean I was in my middle school band but more because it was a thing to do then because I liked music same with a choir actually and when I went to high-school I dropped both of them. Reading hasn't made me regret that decision but it has given me a new perspective and understanding of music and those who love it. The book itself is not really about the technical detail of music like rhythm or beats but instead, it talks about the perception and how that Music has never been one of my things. I mean I was in my middle school band but more because it was a thing to do then because I liked music same with a choir actually and when I went to high-school I dropped both of them. Reading hasn't made me regret that decision but it has given me a new perspective and understanding of music and those who love it. The book itself is not really about the technical detail of music like rhythm or beats but instead, it talks about the perception and how that perception has changed over time. I feel this book isn't for everyone but it might help someone decidedly unmusical understand what all those weirdos in the band room are doing. For someone who loves music, I think you could still find something in this book especially in regards to history but maybe you know more music history and this isn't really anything. Side note how does everybody seem to memorize so many songs? Then they tell me knowing every country in the worlds name/location is weird despite the fact there are definitely more bands out there.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Thebruce1314

    Far from being a general overview of music history, this book challenges the reader to think about music from different perspectives. Can we really understand "music" at all, or are we simply privy to a small portion of what is available, seen through the lens of our own experiences? How do we determine what pieces of music (and, by the way, why are they only "pieces"?) enter the canon of "masterworks," largely occupied by male composers throughout history? And is music an agent of change, or Far from being a general overview of music history, this book challenges the reader to think about music from different perspectives. Can we really understand "music" at all, or are we simply privy to a small portion of what is available, seen through the lens of our own experiences? How do we determine what pieces of music (and, by the way, why are they only "pieces"?) enter the canon of "masterworks," largely occupied by male composers throughout history? And is music an agent of change, or does it follow pre-set ideals? This small volume is filled with big ideas, and questions many of the accepted practices in music education. I am still digesting this one; I'm sure that I will be returning to it in the future.

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