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Classical Music by Idiots
on 17 August 2013
If you want to educate yourself on classical music and are serious about it then stay well away from this book.
To begin with the book has , as far as I know, the worse history of music ever written. Pogue's and Speck's views on history of music are arrogant, mean spirited, prejudiced, misleading and extremely dumbed down.
I always liked classical music but, in the last years, I decided to educate myself on classical music and started to read about it, to compare and select performances etc. I ordered this book after a quick "look inside". It was a mistake. I traded the book for £1.10 on Amazon UK, more than this book is worth
The first thing I check when I read about history of music is what the author has to say about Wagner. It always give me a good idea of how good the book is.
The authors say that Wagner was an "arrogant, dishonest, jealous, hypocritical, racist, sexist scumbag". ( page 56 ). I was shocked by the mediocrity, cowardice and hypocrisy of Pogue and Speck.
They even write a justification for having Wagner in the book as they obviously considered not even including Wagner in the 80 pages of the book dedicated to history of music.
This is what they wrote: " We included Wagner in this particular opus, however, for three reasons".
I would like to see Pogue and Specks calling sexist or racist some extremely popular Reggae and Hip Hop singers . Say, after listening to songs preaching the killing of homosexuals or calling women "bitches". To call a woman a "bitch" is worse
than anything that Wagner ever said about women but Pogue and Speck would never dare to criticise in public hip hop singers as they criticised Wagner. It is a sign of their cowardice, their mediocrity.
I think the best way to show the real face of Pogue and Speck is to compare what
they wrote about Wagner with what other authors wrote. Let's see:
The A-Z of Classic FM music, by Henley and Lihoreau on page 163 : "...he possessed deeply unpleasant views and was racist, egotistical and often completely amoral. But, unpalatable though such views were and are, there is no gainsaying the undeniable beauty , power and sheer grandeur of his best work".
This book will mislead uninitiated people who are trying to know more about classical music. They don't mention, for example, how the Lutheran Church was absolutely central in Bach's life and work. Maybe because any Christian religion is politically incorrect?
When they describe Beethoven (BAY-toe-ven. The dumbing down of this book goes to the length of teaching how to pronounce Beethoven's name )
they mentioned how his "fiery personality got him in fights with his landlords and girlfriends". What girlfriends?
And, about fighting with landlords because of his "fiery personality": Was Bach a "fiery" man too? He was in constant rows with Leipzig City Council on wages and other matters and he even got involved in a street fight because he criticised a singer.
They say that Beethoven's letter about going deaf was "pathetic and courageous". Pathetic? Really? The letter is described by John Suchet, who wrote several books about Beethoven, as "poignant". A word far more appropriate than "pathetic".
Pathetic? The guy was going deaf in a time when medicine was pretty much impotent to deal with most serious health matters. It wasn't only going death, I am sure. It was also the idea that he didn't know what was going on, why he was going deaf and if there was any way to stop or slow the process down.
They criticised New York's ruthlessness but they don't seem to be any better when they decided that Beethoven's letter was pathetic. No wonder that their advice on concert manners is so idiotic. Go there and applaud between movements. The two stooges write about "the insane no clap policy".
Unless you are in a film festival, the audience will not clap during a film. That never stopped people of enjoying cinema. But the authors think that the lack of claps is one of the reasons why classical music is not so popular as it was in the past.
Authoritarianism and a deep anti democratic spirit is typical from politically correct minds, such as the authors of this book. They pretend to be civilised, modern, progressive and so on but they are really small time dictators who would like to erase from history of the the most influential names of classical music and consider "insane" anyone who doesn't agree with their dumbed down view of how to behave in a concert. They say that classical music was, in the past, like rock concerts today. This is one of the most misleading statements of this book and shows frames of mind that favour sameness instead of diversity.
The book has, besides its pedestrian history of music and its awful guide of how to behave in a concert, whole sections about musical theory, instruments and so on. My problem there is that, after seeing what they did with music history, I don't trust them and have no interest in reading any further.
If you are trying to educate yourself on classical music and want serious, open minded books then I would suggest the following:
The Oxford History of Western Music - College Edition - by Richard Taruskin and Christopher Gibbs . 1200 pages.
Listening to Music, by Craig Wright 7th edition. Here, it is very important that you get the seventh edition because it is easy to find and order the cds that accompany the book.
The A-Z of Classic FM, by Darren Henley and Tim Lihoreau