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The Joy of Music

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This classic work is perhaps Bernstein's finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of "Imaginary Conversations" in the first section of his book, B This classic work is perhaps Bernstein's finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of "Imaginary Conversations" in the first section of his book, Bernstein illuminates the importance of the symphony in America, the greatness of Beethoven, and the art of composing. The book also includes a photo section and a third section with the transcripts from his televised Omnibus music series, including "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," "The World of Jazz," "Introduction to Modern Music," and "What Makes Opera Grand."


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This classic work is perhaps Bernstein's finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of "Imaginary Conversations" in the first section of his book, B This classic work is perhaps Bernstein's finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of "Imaginary Conversations" in the first section of his book, Bernstein illuminates the importance of the symphony in America, the greatness of Beethoven, and the art of composing. The book also includes a photo section and a third section with the transcripts from his televised Omnibus music series, including "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," "The World of Jazz," "Introduction to Modern Music," and "What Makes Opera Grand."

30 review for The Joy of Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Bernstein can be hippieish and outdated at times ("now, isn't that as hot a lick as you could wish for?"), and the audience for several of these "imaginary conversations" and TV talks either isn't precisely me, or doesn't exist anymore (for instance when Bernstein assumes that everyone listening will know some basic tune that everyone knew in the 50s, and no one has known for 20 years because we don't teach music in the public schools anymore). But he's indisputably an engaging, gifted, energeti Bernstein can be hippieish and outdated at times ("now, isn't that as hot a lick as you could wish for?"), and the audience for several of these "imaginary conversations" and TV talks either isn't precisely me, or doesn't exist anymore (for instance when Bernstein assumes that everyone listening will know some basic tune that everyone knew in the 50s, and no one has known for 20 years because we don't teach music in the public schools anymore). But he's indisputably an engaging, gifted, energetic, genre-crossing, telegenic presence. The meat of the book is transcripts of seven Omnibus television programs Bernstein recorded, hosted by Alistair Cooke. The transcripts include bits of musical scores, but the book doesn't come with a CD or DVD. Fortunately someone has very nicely posted all of these programs to Youtube and they make for interesting and informative watching either after you've finished the book, or in place of it. (There are some small differences between the book transcripts and the TV programs, such as substituted pieces of music here and there.) A 4-DVD set of the programs was also produced in 2010, ISBN 141723265X. Omnibus Bernstein: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (33:37) Bernstein, at the piano both talking and playing, and conducting The Symphony of the Air behind him, uses Beethoven's discarded sketches from the Fifth Symphony to show why the final versions Beethoven decided on were the best. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ6G2Z... Omnibus Bernstein: The World of Jazz (45:43) "Can you do the mambo? I cahn't." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSmwT_... Omnibus Bernstein: The Art of Conducting (48:49) You have to love the beginning of this, where Bernstein conducts The Symphony of the Air in Brahms's First, then after a few bars walks away. "See? They don't need me. They do perfectly well by themselves. So why is a conductor necessary?" I've often asked myself that, so this was extremely instructive. This segment is absolutely worth watching. Bernstein can be seen eyeing the lines of his script, which he has open on the piano next to his orchestral score, reading from both at the same time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD6akI... Omnibus Bernstein: American Musical Comedy Yucky! I loathe musical comedy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwUqST... Omnibus Bernstein: Introduction to Modern Music (49:19) "Why do so many of you hate [modern music]? Let's find out. Maybe after you know what it is that you hate, you may hate it less, or at least hate it more intelligently." I love this one. It ends with Bernstein conducting the Presto of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G major, from the piano. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVCFCn... Omnibus Bernstein: The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1:05:23) This is a treat. It opens with a rehearsal of the Magnificat, Bernstein conducting, so you get to hear the nuts and bolts of what he wants done. Undertones, overtones, violin bowing, "Bach forte," crescendos and dimuendos. "Let's modify the dynamics so we can hear these two poor little flutes play." After lots of examples of Bach from the piano, he concludes with snippets and explanations of the Saint Matthew Passion, with full chorus. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fukTsx... Omnibus Bernstein: What Makes Opera Grand? (1:17:20) "This Omnibus will please the addicts," Alistair Cooke intones. "But we should still like to make a special appeal to the people who think of opera as the mother-in-law of the arts." Bernstein spent most of his time on a scene from La bohème, trying to show us what makes opera great. (Hint: it's the music.) I haven't learned to enjoy Italian opera yet and not even Bernstein could convince me. The telecast concludes with the final scene from Tristan und Isolde, which was more congenial. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70xW0I...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Iris

    this book was written for the non-musician, but musicians of all ages and experiences would benefit from a read, too. LB taps into diff classical areas -- jazz, modern music, bach, opera (just to name a few) -- in a way only a conductor can, maybe in a way only LB can. i got my mind blown during his overtones discussion. does every other musician know this? --> that overtones gave us the notes to build the common chord and the pentatonic scale? whaaaaat. music is amazing. this book was written for the non-musician, but musicians of all ages and experiences would benefit from a read, too. LB taps into diff classical areas -- jazz, modern music, bach, opera (just to name a few) -- in a way only a conductor can, maybe in a way only LB can. i got my mind blown during his overtones discussion. does every other musician know this? --> that overtones gave us the notes to build the common chord and the pentatonic scale? whaaaaat. music is amazing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Park-Callaghan

    i remember the first time i read this, especially the first imaginary conversation he has with himself (over Beethoven). i felt like someone punched me in the gut. in a very, very good way. i just knew *exactly* what he was talking about. one of my favorite books of all time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jojo

    Absolutely loved this book! Even if you have no background in music (ESPECIALLY if you don't) the way Leonard Bernstein discusses music in various forms will give you a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the medium. I admittedly can't read music very well (even with singing lessons and three years of trombone), but I still "read" the music that appears throughout and was able to at least understand the movement and flow of the pieces he discusses. I also plan to watch the clips of Absolutely loved this book! Even if you have no background in music (ESPECIALLY if you don't) the way Leonard Bernstein discusses music in various forms will give you a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the medium. I admittedly can't read music very well (even with singing lessons and three years of trombone), but I still "read" the music that appears throughout and was able to at least understand the movement and flow of the pieces he discusses. I also plan to watch the clips of the "Omnibus" scripts so I can understand what he says even better. His lessons are broken down into entertaining essays, a short and sweet personal story about the experience of scoring the famous film "On the Waterfront," photos, and seven scripts from the late 1950s series, "Omnibus." Each section builds on the ones before and enlightens you through examples you may have previously brushed aside as banal and old-fashioned. I now have playlists created for and peppered with all the musical examples Bernstein cites and a reinvigorated love of what makes music so special: that mere mortals can sculpt sound and touch our souls at their core, and it all begins with some dots and bars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim Drummond

    A very accessible look into the world of classical music. Leonard Bernstein, one of America's greatest conductors, composers, and music educators, helps us to see why he loves Bach, opera, and Beethoven, and why we should care. The majority of the book is a series of transcripts from his 1950's era TV show "Omnibus," complete with score excerpts for those who can read music (it doesn't really take away all that much if you can't though). There are a lot of books about why certain music is so gre A very accessible look into the world of classical music. Leonard Bernstein, one of America's greatest conductors, composers, and music educators, helps us to see why he loves Bach, opera, and Beethoven, and why we should care. The majority of the book is a series of transcripts from his 1950's era TV show "Omnibus," complete with score excerpts for those who can read music (it doesn't really take away all that much if you can't though). There are a lot of books about why certain music is so great, but many of them are either full of warm and fuzzy crap, useless facts, or only accesible to musicians. This is not one of those. Read it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    May Ling

    A wonderful piece on Bernstein's thoughts on music. I thoroughly enjoyed the written pieces. For those that don't play an instrument, just use youtube to help you along with the music piece. I found it amazing that so many of the thoughts that he had about the composers are identical to what my impressions are. It was re-assuring to know that I'm on the right track. Of course, Bernstein articulates better than I ever could. I adore his comments on Bach. I don't love Beethoven like he does, but I A wonderful piece on Bernstein's thoughts on music. I thoroughly enjoyed the written pieces. For those that don't play an instrument, just use youtube to help you along with the music piece. I found it amazing that so many of the thoughts that he had about the composers are identical to what my impressions are. It was re-assuring to know that I'm on the right track. Of course, Bernstein articulates better than I ever could. I adore his comments on Bach. I don't love Beethoven like he does, but I definitely have a new appreciation that I would not have had before. Fabulous fabulous!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I found this gem at Thrift Town, and ended up reading it in one sitting (including time at the piano)! I learned so much from it. I wish I could have seen these TV programs when they came out. Bernstein would have had a fabulous blog, if he'd had time to blog.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nandha Kishore

    Instead of calling it a collection of essays or imaginary conversations, I would like to term this a compilation of thoughts from Bernstein. Bernstein at the very beginning quashes my notion of understanding classical music or the way in which I've usually sought to understand classical music. He argues that only purely musical meanings are worth pursuing and that's what he intends to do in the book. The way he systematically talks about Beethoven's music and confirms his numero uno status as a Instead of calling it a collection of essays or imaginary conversations, I would like to term this a compilation of thoughts from Bernstein. Bernstein at the very beginning quashes my notion of understanding classical music or the way in which I've usually sought to understand classical music. He argues that only purely musical meanings are worth pursuing and that's what he intends to do in the book. The way he systematically talks about Beethoven's music and confirms his numero uno status as a composer stands a testament to that. He very cleverly differentiates between the symphonic form of composing and composing for an opera. In fact, he keeps drawing distinctions like that all along the book - a composer who became a songwriter and a songwriter who became a composer when talking about him and Gershwin, the Apollonian and the Dionysian ways of conducting between Mendelssohn and Wagner, the difference between a music comedy and an opera, it just keeps going. His analysis of the American music scene, the way American music is evolving in what he calls the American singspiel period and America's wait for their Mozart and those parts were slightly unrelatable for me as I was way much more used to listening to concertos more than operas. But, it proved to be a nice introduction. I quite liked the way he spoke about the musical comedy and it satisfying people's expectations by being a mixture of all things. I could draw parallels with Tamil writer Jeyamohan talking about Tamil commercial cinema which he calls a mixture of arts. He establishes jazz as an equally important form of classical music and talks about the race relations that outline jazz music and how improvisation forms a major part of it. He also slightly expands into the relationship between natural language and music, which I feel he delves more into in his Unanswered Question lecture series. The modern music part where he talks of John cage's atonality was rather new to me. I am used to his 4'33" and Stauckhausen's Helicopter Symphony, but I got to learn of Imaginary Landscape No. 4 and the idea behind it. The Bach part, most of it was slightly familiar to me, so there weren't many surprises there. I also loved the way he used some phrases -"democratic anarchy, the inexplicable ability to know what the next note has to be". Bernstein, the writer, came through there for me. Overall, the book might be slightly difficult for a novice WCM listener to pick up as he talks at length about musical ideas that need a bit of introduction. It is not a good introductory book, but a great one for slightly intermediate listeners who would love to explore more of classical music.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anson Cassel Mills

    More than fifty years after reading this book for the first time (and almost sixty years after watching Bernstein’s Omnibus lectures on commercial TV), I reread my old paperback copy of this work with its Smyth-sewn binding. Much of the first section, “Imaginary Conversations,” now seemed dated, perhaps because Bernstein was trying too hard to write in what passed for 1950s casual style. Nevertheless, there’s still much of value here for the thoughtful reader. The seven Omnibus television scripts More than fifty years after reading this book for the first time (and almost sixty years after watching Bernstein’s Omnibus lectures on commercial TV), I reread my old paperback copy of this work with its Smyth-sewn binding. Much of the first section, “Imaginary Conversations,” now seemed dated, perhaps because Bernstein was trying too hard to write in what passed for 1950s casual style. Nevertheless, there’s still much of value here for the thoughtful reader. The seven Omnibus television scripts, which compose about half the book, have an even greater staying power. (Oddly, though the programs were directed at musical novices, a considerable number of pages are given over to musical scores, which presumably novices can’t read—though these days they might be able to follow along while watching the old program recordings on DVD). Rereading these scripts, I found myself recalling sentences I had read (or perhaps even heard on TV) fifty years before, even humming music I hadn’t physically listened to for some time. The experience proved to be a pleasurable walk down memory lane with an immensely gifted preceptor.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    This book offers stellar insights into Bernstein's attitudes about music, conducting, and composition (especially how he prefers a slight musical idea fully developed to a transcendent standalone tune, the difference between enjoying Mozart and Gershwin while kowtowing to Beethoven and Kern). Over half of this book consists of the scripts to seven of his televised Omnibus music programs, programs of music pedagogy about jazz, Bach, opera, rhythm, and other aspects of music worth appreciating. Al This book offers stellar insights into Bernstein's attitudes about music, conducting, and composition (especially how he prefers a slight musical idea fully developed to a transcendent standalone tune, the difference between enjoying Mozart and Gershwin while kowtowing to Beethoven and Kern). Over half of this book consists of the scripts to seven of his televised Omnibus music programs, programs of music pedagogy about jazz, Bach, opera, rhythm, and other aspects of music worth appreciating. All these are fine on the page, but because they are so rich with musical examples, they are perhaps better enjoyed wherever you might see them in their original form. I have provided links to those I could find.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Padraig

    This book is a collection of essays, adapted mostly from TV performances Bernstein did in the 1950s and 60s. The problem with it in book-form is that, when it comes to the musical examples, you need to be a pretty good reader of music to interpret them (on the TV show, he just played them). I have some basic music-reading skills, but the score sections in the book were above my level, and I ended up skipping them. It's a pity, because he does have some interesting things to say, and you can pick This book is a collection of essays, adapted mostly from TV performances Bernstein did in the 1950s and 60s. The problem with it in book-form is that, when it comes to the musical examples, you need to be a pretty good reader of music to interpret them (on the TV show, he just played them). I have some basic music-reading skills, but the score sections in the book were above my level, and I ended up skipping them. It's a pity, because he does have some interesting things to say, and you can pick up a certain amount of this from the text. But there's a theme he comes back to many times in the book, that words are a poor substitute for music, and unfortunately this is the downfall of the book, for the common-reader at least.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marshall

    I research more about Leonard Bernstein while reading this review, and watched the making of west side story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjxWK...). Bernstein is an interesting and talented man, and his book deepens my understanding of music. Classical music Bernstein discussed Beethoven and Chopin in depth in his book. Following these two great composers, Bernstein talks about music forms. Ultimately one must simply ply accept the loving fact that people enjoy listening to organized sound (cer I research more about Leonard Bernstein while reading this review, and watched the making of west side story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjxWK...). Bernstein is an interesting and talented man, and his book deepens my understanding of music. Classical music Bernstein discussed Beethoven and Chopin in depth in his book. Following these two great composers, Bernstein talks about music forms. Ultimately one must simply ply accept the loving fact that people enjoy listening to organized sound (certain organized sounds, anyway); that this enjoyment can take the form of all kinds of responses from animal excitement to spiritual exaltation; and that people who can organize sounds so as to evoke the most exalted responses are commonly called geniuses. Science can "explain" thunderstorms, but can it "explain" the fear with which people react to them? And even if it can, in psychology's admittedly unsatisfactory terminology, how does science explain the sense of glory we feel in a thunderstorm, break down this sense of glory into its parts? But this is all mere dust- nothing compared to the magic ingredient sought by them all: the inexplicable ability to know what the next note has to be. Form is only an empty word, a shell, without this gift of inevitability; a composer can write a string of perfectly molded sonata-allegro movements, with every rule obeyed, and still suffer from bad form. Beethoven broke all the rules, and turned out pieces of breath-taking rightness. Rightness- that's the word! When you get the feeling that whatever ever note succeeds the last is the only possible note that can rightly happen at that instant, in that context, then chances are you're listening to Beethoven. Melodies, fugues, rhythms- leave them to the Chaikovskys and Hindemiths and Ravels. Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: Something is right in the world. There is something thing that checks throughout, that follows its own law consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down. If it could be told in words, then why would Chopin have found it necessary to tell it through notes in the first place? Of course, I could try to articulate the musical meaning of a prelude in words, but what a bore it would be! Perhaps our differences arise from the fact that the musician hears so much more in the music that he finds it totally unnecessary to bring associations into the picture at all. You and I, in our artistic disguises, do, as you say, come from opposite posite sides of the tracks, and can approach each other, meeting, so to speak, at the tracks themselves. Jazz Music Whatever ever jazz is, it's our own folk music, naive, sophisticated, and exciting. ing. And out of it has been born something we call the musical comedy. Real core of all jazz: improvisation. Remember, I said that jazz was a player's art rather than a composer's. Well, this is the key to the whole problem. It is the player who, by improvising, makes jazz. Now we come to the most exciting part of jazz, for me at any rate: simultaneous improvising. This happens when two or more musicians improvise on the same tune at the same time. Neither one knows exactly what the other is going to do; but they listen to each other, and pick up phrases from each other, and sort of talk together. What ties them together is the chords, the harmony, of "Sweet Sue." Musical composition Composing is a very different thing from writing tunes, after all. I find that the themes, or tunes, or whatever you want to call them, in the Rhapsody sody are terrific- inspired, God-given. At least four of them, which is a lot for a twelve-minute piece. They are perfectly harmonized, ideally proportioned, songful, clear, rich, moving. The rhythms are always right. The "quality" is always there, just as it is in his best show tunes. But you can't just put four tunes together, God-given given though they may be, and call them a composition. Composition position means a putting together, yes, but a putting together of elements so that they add up to an organic whole. Compono, componere- The whole picture is what counts; and the composer must see it not as a composer poser but as a man of the theater. Then the gratifications are many: he sees how the score has helped to blend atmospheres, to provide continuity, or to add a dimension by telling an inner story not overtly articulated in the dialogue or, the action. Actually there are two struggles that every composer has. One is to find the right notes for themes; the other is to find the right notes to follow themes, to justify these themes as symphonic themes. The real function of form is to take us on a varied and complicated half-hour journey of continuous symphonic progress. To do this, the composer must have his inner road map. Musical improvisation What does improvising mean? It means that you take a tune, keep it in mind with its harmony and all, and then, as they used to say, just "go to town," or make it up as you go along. First, of course, is the difference in intention. A variety show aims to please, and nothing more; an opera, on the other hand, has an artistic intention, which is to enrich and ennoble the audience by inducing lofty emotions in them. Then there is a difference of kind: a variety show is a packaged collection of songs and dances, skits and sketches, acrobatic turns, dog acts, and what not, put together with no unifying thread other than variety itself; whereas an opera has a story to tell- a plot- and aims to further this plot through the use of music.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I must admit that this book has helped me a lot. Especially considering the fact that I have fulfilled some of my knowledge gaps caused by getting bored of studying music in music college. To be honest, I f*cked up most of lections being a freshman/sophomore because I wasn't sure about my desires, my goals etc. and simply I was a fool misled by my own wrong statements and rejections but now I'm sort of rehabilitating and revising my own state of mind.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary Rice

    “That is really the crowning delight of opera: that in the very same moment we can experience conflicting passions, contrasting moods, and separate events. And because only the gods have ever been able to perceive more than one thing at a time, we are, for this short period, raised to the level of the gods.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    I so wish we had a contemporary who was communicating about music the way Bernstein did. This book includes scripts from his telecasts, which I need to find if they're online somewhere. Really enjoyed it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Benitez Bryn2

    the book is really fantastic

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    I only wish I had access to recordings of the music while reading!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrícia Pereira

    This time, I only read some of its pages. Maybe I'll borrow it again from the local library, but I'll save it for another time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nico

    Read it once, but really read it once a year. This has been my companion for years.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Brick

    A beginner's guide from the master of twentieth century classical music. The right tone and the right message conveys the joy of music.

  21. 5 out of 5

    TheKing161

    excellently well

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marios

    "My idol has been desecrated before my eyes! There he lies, a bedraggled, deaf, syphilitic; besmirched by the vain tongue of pseudocriticism; no attention paid to his obvious genius, his miraculous outpourings, his pure revelation, his vision of glory, brotherhood, divinity! There he lies a mediocre melodist, a homely harmonist, an iterant riveter of a rhythmist, an ordinary orchestrator, a commonplace contrapuntist! ... Form is only an empty word, a shell, without this gift of inevitability; a co "My idol has been desecrated before my eyes! There he lies, a bedraggled, deaf, syphilitic; besmirched by the vain tongue of pseudocriticism; no attention paid to his obvious genius, his miraculous outpourings, his pure revelation, his vision of glory, brotherhood, divinity! There he lies a mediocre melodist, a homely harmonist, an iterant riveter of a rhythmist, an ordinary orchestrator, a commonplace contrapuntist! ... Form is only an empty word, a shell, without this gift of inevitability; a composer can write a string of perfectly molded sonata-allegro movements, with every rule obeyed, and still suffer from bad form. Beethoven broke all the rules, and turned out pieces of breathtaking rightness. Rightness- that's the word! When you get the feeling that whatever note succeds the last is the only possible note that can rightly happen at that instant, in that context, then chances are that you are listening to Beethoven. Melodies, fugues, rhythms, leave them to the Chaikovskys and the Hindemiths and the Ravels. Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: Something is right in the world. There is something that checks throughout, that follows it's own law consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    Bernstein has such a way of making the complex seem common and simple. This is why he was able to have Young People's Concerts and Omnibus. It's for these reasons that I give this book a five. I wish I had his gift. To be honest, I didn't learn much from the book, as I've taken far too many music classes. I don't necessarily disagree with another reviewer that this book is slightly dated. It's not like Bernstein is alive to update it. The book is exactly what it says it is, transcripts to televi Bernstein has such a way of making the complex seem common and simple. This is why he was able to have Young People's Concerts and Omnibus. It's for these reasons that I give this book a five. I wish I had his gift. To be honest, I didn't learn much from the book, as I've taken far too many music classes. I don't necessarily disagree with another reviewer that this book is slightly dated. It's not like Bernstein is alive to update it. The book is exactly what it says it is, transcripts to televised broadcasts. It's refreshing to see how such a brilliant man can make music so relatable. If you want a complicated Bernstein text, read The Unanswered Question. The Joy of Music, through, exemplifies why Bernstein was loved by America.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jake Berlin

    a wonderful read for any lover of music. bernstein obviously has an in-depth understanding of all of the wide range of subjects, but like the great communicator he was is able to deliver ideas and examples that anyone can understand. that being said, there's a fair amount of written music in the book, so not being able to read music might take away from the experience slightly (but not enough, in my mind, to dissuade you from reading it). the last few chapters are transcripts (with pieces added) a wonderful read for any lover of music. bernstein obviously has an in-depth understanding of all of the wide range of subjects, but like the great communicator he was is able to deliver ideas and examples that anyone can understand. that being said, there's a fair amount of written music in the book, so not being able to read music might take away from the experience slightly (but not enough, in my mind, to dissuade you from reading it). the last few chapters are transcripts (with pieces added) of bernstein's tv show from the 50s, which i'm now dying to find and see.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Sabala

    This is a perfect book for music lovers. Bernstein was a talented and entertaining showman. I could only imagine what it would have been like to take a course from him. He doesn't hold back from some of the esoteric topics in music theory, but instead delves into them, unconvinced that the layman is too limited to understand them. He does this all without seeming to talk down to people. If you're a music lover, musician or student, this book seems essential. Thank you, L.B.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    This collection of essays is valuable mostly because of Bernstein's infectious excitement about classical music; hence, the title, I suppose. It's not very academic, but he has some unique insights and perspectives on music history and aesthetics. The transcripts of his TV shows, at the end of this collection, are a little pointless, as they refer constantly to the episode's musical excerpts. Overall, I recommend it to classical-music lovers, Bernstein fans in particular.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nathanial

    Focuses more on the music, talks less about the joy: "The only way one can really say anything about music is to write music." And then he goes on to write about music for 250 pages. Includes "Imaginary Conversations" in the form of dialogues, television scripts, magazine articles, lots of sheet music, and even little illustrations of composer figurines in action.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mikael Lind

    I remember that this book made me understand a whole lot more about music when I read this as a youngster. I should probably read it again. Before reading this, I thought most 12 tone music was completely unintelligible, but Bernstein explains the musical development through the history in an eye-opening fashion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This is an amazing book for a music lover of any kind. Bernstein makes you look at music in new ways that give you a better understanding of the music and better ways to articulate that understanding.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    It's a little hard to rate a book that's a collection of different articles. The one on Bach would certainly get a four, but some of the others only a two. :) There's some very good material here--the chapter on the music of Bach is amazing.

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