A preeminent composer, music scholar, and biographer presents an engaging and accessible introduction to classical music
For many of us, classical music is something serious--something we study in school, something played by cultivated musicians at fancy gatherings. In Language of the Spirit, renowned music scholar Jan Swafford argues that we have it all wrong: classical music has something for everyone and is accessible to all. Ranging from Gregorian chant to Handel's Messiah, from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons to the postmodern work of Philip Glass, Swafford is an affable and expert guide to the genre. He traces the history of Western music, introduces readers to the most important composers and compositions, and explains the underlying structure and logic of their music.
Language of the Spirit is essential reading for anyone who has ever wished to know more about this sublime art.
In this delightful primer to classical music, composer and music scholar Swafford (The Vintage Guide to Classical Music) conducts us breathlessly on a tour of the highlights of the history of classical music, from the beginnings of music up through the present. Along the way he enthusiastically introduces us to the composers whose work reflected the times in which they lived and plunges us into the deep pleasures of the music they produced. For example, Haydn's works included "108 symphonies, 68 string quartets... 20 operas... and a great deal of other chamber music; some of those genres he changed once and for all." Swafford points out that in the Romantic period, the often-elevated myth that folk music and art arose from the soil and that the national folk song influenced composers such as Schubert and Mahler. In simple and straightforward prose, Swafford provides a crystal-clear explanation of how modern composers such as Schoenberg and Webern create atonal music, often characterized by dissonance. Bach, according to Swafford, was not an ingenious inventor of genres but a composer who brought the entirety of baroque music into a "unique synthesis." Swafford provides excellent suggestions for listening at the end of each chapter, and his entertaining and instructive book encourages us to listen to the breadth and depth of classical music for delight and pleasure.