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The Music of Joni Mitchell Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Whitesell here rises above the grovelling fandom into which Mark Bego sank in Both Sides Now, and adds a veneer of scholarship to Sean Nelson's excellent study of Court And Spark. He provides musical and lyrical analysis, examines the different song forms and subject types, considers what he terms the "harmonic palette", and the different points of view from which the songs are composed.
Some of the more technical musical analysis I admit left me in its dust. Whitesell, quite rightly, makes no concessions to the great unwashed such as me in discussing modality and its different forms. I accepted as I read that if I wanted to understand better I needed to go elsewhere. What I did understand, however, was how incredible it was that Mitchell herself was untutored in the more technical aspects, and yet managed to compose music based on an apparently sophisticated "palette". Or perhaps, of course, that's how she managed to break the mould in the first place. Had she known the rules she may never have broken them.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Mr. Whitesell's thorough overview is fascinating, but rather dry in places, despite an obvious passion for his subject. Caution is advised to the reader who knows little about music, but wants to know more about Joni Mitchell, the person. However, much is revealed about her as an artist in the pages of this remarkable book, which includes a number of direct quotes from Joni Mitchell herself.
of Joni Mitchell's vast contributions to the world of music. One might
have expected to learn more of her 'jaded' personal life, but this commentary of the professional, technical aspects of her music is enlightening.
It has become more apparent -- despite her nearly ten-year hiatus from the creative scene, that she must be recognized, as the author so appropriately puts it, as the 'genius' that she is. Kudos to Whitesell for his thoughtful, introspective analysis of her work.
What you will find here is medium-high level musicological and poetic analysis... And you'd better pack your vocabulary with you, both for the ordinary high-falutin' word-usements, and for the topic-specific nomenclature contained herein. (Who knew that ballad-form songs without contrasting choruses were "strophic?" Not me! But I do now!)
So that's the kind of book this is. And with the exception of a couple of minor research failures (Whitesell doesn't seem to realize that the song, "Ladies Of The Canyon," is a series of character sketches, for example), it seems to be a very good work of its kind. Plenty of charts, graphs and examples, for those who enjoy them.
Now as to what I *thought* of it (this is MY review, after all)... As an untrained (or maybe half-trained) musician myself, I found this to be an exemplar of a strange kind of book that I've seen before, in which work that was created largely through intuition and emotion is then examined under a thoroughly-codified, rule-bound academic microscope. It's not quite as much of a subject/critical method mismatch as scholarly discussion of Beatles music can be (Mitchell is a much more cerebral, intentional artist), but I was still often reminded of that old quip about how, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
Whitesell seems to be translating Mitchell's songs into a foreign language, in some sense; that of academia. And if that might help folks of an academic persuasion better appreciate her work, then I suppose that's worthwhile. However, I can't say the book much deepened my appreciation of JM's oeuvre, and I mostly just found it a slog.
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