Top positive review
48 people found this helpful
on 25 January 2013
"We press 'play' and a million styles, sounds, aural colours, echoes and voices breeze in towards us as if at an opened window. We are like children with a thousand games at our fingertips. We have, at last, reached a point where there are no right or wrong decisions about what music we may or may not enjoy - just one gratifyingly simple instruction: 'play'".
So ends Howard Goodall's breathless account of 42,000 years of music in 324 pages.
I love music - I have hundreds of CDs by hundreds of artists from Dolly (Parton, ofcourse) to Dvorak to Dizzie Gillespie. It is one of the most important things in my life, but I can't read music, have no formal 'appreciation' skills, I can't (so I've been told) even sing in tune: I just know what I like. And that is music which moves me. And all good music does.
However, there comes a point when you want to know how the story of music hangs together. You want to know why certain sounds and rhythms affect you and how we got to a point where Emile Sande, Dizzee Rascal and Elgar's Nimrod among other musical forms can sit happily on the same bill as they did at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in the summer of 2012.
I think Howard has done this in spades and at just the right pitch (all puns intended). He has clearly picked me as his audience and is determined to give me the whole story, with just enough theory to stretch me and plenty of modern examples of form and melody to let me get his point even without the luxury of an accompanying CD or TV programme. For example, "Syncopation is LIKE talkING with THE emPHAsis on THE wrong words TO creATE a jerKY sound." He uses well known tracks by Adele and Beyonce to illustrate how this works and why it's important.
He begins his story in 41,000BC - 'The Age of Discovery' with the discovery of an ancient flute in Slovenia and a discourse on how music was not just for the soul but for our language development, even for our very survival. From there we romp through various ages, "Discovery", "Penitence", "Invention" among them which describe how music developed through these ages to the present day, sometimes in sync with the other great shifts in human development like industrialisation and religious reform, sometimes not. He covers the importance of musical notation and tuning, the invention of key instruments, the influence of the great composers and their quite often forgotten mentors, globalisation and so much more besides........I'm risking sounding as breathless as Howard does: anxious to get it all in, and in the most straightforward way possible.
The best I can do is to say that if you are like me: you love music, but "don't really know that much about it", read this book and use it as a springboard to more reading and listening. With 42,000 years of material, the emphasis is on what is wrongly called 'Classical' music (I know why this is wrong now), but I hope to see Howard's more of fantastic pedagogy on the "Popular Ages" soon. Oh, and I can't wait to see the TV series.