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Strikes a Bad Chord
on 10 July 2013
As with all the Very Short Introduction series this book is not intended as a 'dummies guide'. Instead they are meant to offer a "stimulating and accessible way in to a new subject". It is by this that one should judge the success of this book.
For most of us, music is not a new subject. In fact every person has been influenced and affected by the phenomenon be it consciously, subconsciously or simultaneously both. Whether we know it or not we all assign values and feelings to the variety of genres on offer and, fueled by globalisation and technological advance, today's postmodern and pluralistic society offers an abundance of music.
Apparently (according to the product description) this book "invites us to really think about music and the values and qualities we ascribe to it" - and for sure, this is how the book commences in the first chapter. It's an exciting and promising introduction.
Unfortunately as the book progresses in the second chapter, "Back to Beethoven", the book begins to become intensely heavy. Whilst the subject matter is understandable to the layman the explanation is at times extremely burdensome and did not offer a "stimulating" introduction to me. Whether or not you find the subject of ethnomusicology / musicology and/or the nuances of notation interesting, the area of the field did not warrant such an in depth breakdown. Indeed, the excitement of the wealth of opportune areas of attack for the author fades gradually throughout the book as the subject matter remains stubbornly attached to 18th Century classical music and notation/performance. Valid in its own right, it wasn't "drawing on a wealth of accessible examples".
Nevertheless, amongst the detail there are some fascinating concepts that are touched upon. Particularly: the crumbling barriers of the conservative music approach, musical pluralism and the effect of the capitalist/consumerist model on the music industry. Specifically the comparison of the three staged process of proudction/dsitribution/consumption (capitalism) to the composition/performance/appraisal in music is profoundly enlightening.
Ultimately I was relieved to reach the conclusion, which was the most lucidly put section.
[A note on the kindle edition is that the pictures often don't correspond correctly with the text and often pop up a few pages after the discussion - this is a problem with a lot of kindle publications, and often makes me wonder why i don't just pay a pound or so extra to have the neat little book on the bookshelf]