"The Saddest Music Ever Written, The Story of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings" is part biography and part tribute/analysis of the quintessential American dirge. Familiar to multiple generations, Barber's Adagio for Strings has been performed following the deaths of President Roosevelt, Kennedy, and former movie star Grace Kelly. It was also part of the theme music for the movie "Platoon," grieving the reality of the war in Vietnam. More recently, it was performed in Great Britain to acknowledge the tragedy of the twin towers' destruction of 9-11-2001. The Adagio for Strings, written in 1936, when the composer was in his twenties, is described as "The Pieta of music. It captures the sorrow and pity tragic death: listening to it, we are Mother Mary come alive - holding the lifeless Christ on our laps, one arm bracing the slumped head, the other offering him to the ages. The Adagio is a sound shrine to music's power to evoke emotion. Its elegiac descent is among the most moving expressions of grief in any art....No sadder music have ever been written (p.7)." In "The Saddest Music Ever Written...," Larson asks, "What is its sorrow about (p. 14)?" He concludes there are perhaps three possible answers: "It is about Barber's melancholia and depression; it is about the aloneness we feel when a loved one is lost or dies,...and it is about our alienation from ourselves as Americans: (p. 14)' or about the death of part or parts of the American dream. Much in Larson's analysis delves deeply into the composer's personal life history and also into his own family and life history. It is as though the experience of the "Adagio" is a common thread of deep, universal, yet intensely personal significance. Surely this book is testament to the importance of music in expression of emotions, specifically grief. As the author states, quoting Chekhov, "'The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them (p. 131).'" He continues on, "What is it about ourselves that we aren't grieving that makes this music so fresh? What is the Americanness of its sorrow? How is it that Barber's dirge became a dual-sided coin, the suicide of Vietnam and the patriotism of 9/11 - the ambivalence digging the well of our national depression deeper and deeper (p. 131)?" The author's partial conclusion comes after many digressions and comparisons to similar works by other composers: "Despite its commercial uses and despite Menotti's and Barber's fears, the Adagio's true legacy is that even in consort with an emotionally and technologically evolving culture, it somehow is outlasting its appropriators......the piece will survive because its memorial value will survive: on a hot, overpopulated planet, fighting over scarce resources, we will need time for and places in which to grieve our catastrophes...(p. 227)." "The Saddest Music Ever Written, the Story of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings" is a full and moving testament to this seminal work.