Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Whys and Hows of Classical Music

My interest in classical music began as an eight year old piano student, grew in my teen years as I listened to Mom's classical music LPs (a set bought weekly at the grocery store!), and spurred by several school trips to the symphony. My husband and I both love attending symphony concerts. But there is a lot I don't know.

In 2006 Dr. Robert A. Cutietta, Dean of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, began his weekly radio segment Ask the Dean. Callers submitted questions about classical music, and Cutietta found the answers with the help of faculty and experts. Who Knew? Answers to Questions About Classical Music You Never Thought to Ask is a collection of some of the most interesting.

I learned much from this book. The book has a conversational writing style with a nice dose of humor.

140 Questions are arranged in topics:

  • The Orchestra and How it Works
  • The Maestro and Music Director
  • Opera and the Diva
  • The Composer
  • The Performers
  • The Instruments of the Orchestra
  • The Music
  • This and That
I read the book cover to cover, but one could also pick and choose topics to read. Some things I learned: it takes three hours to make an oboe reed; that Joshua Bell (the amazing violinist who we heard a few months ago with the DSO) once busked in the Washington D.C. Metro system earning $32 with only six people stopping to listen; why conductors use batons; and the science of harmonics. 

"All music is about something," Cutietta writes, taking listeners beyond words to universal human experiences. It is always changing as society changes. For those with some interest in classical music this book this book will add to your appreciation.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Who Knew?
by Robert Cutietta
Oxford University Press
Publication October 3, 2016
$16.95 paperback
ISBN: 9780190462543

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