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Infinite Variety of Music

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With style, wit, and expertise, Leonard Bernstein shares his love and appreciation for music in all its varied forms in The Infinite Variety of Music, illuminating the deep pleasure and sometimes subtle beauty it offers. He begins with an "imaginary conversation" with George Washington entitled "The Muzak Muse," in which he argues the values of actively listening to music With style, wit, and expertise, Leonard Bernstein shares his love and appreciation for music in all its varied forms in The Infinite Variety of Music, illuminating the deep pleasure and sometimes subtle beauty it offers. He begins with an "imaginary conversation" with George Washington entitled "The Muzak Muse," in which he argues the values of actively listening to music by learning how to read notes, as opposed to simply hearing music in a concert hall. The book also features the reproduction of five television scripts from Bernstein on the influence of jazz, the timeless appeal of Mozart, musical romanticism, and the complexities of rhythmic innovation. Also included are Bernstein's analyses of symphonies by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Brahms, a rare reproduction of a 1957 lecture on the nature of composing, and a report on the musical scene written for New York Times after his sabbatical leave from directorship of the New York Philharmonic during the 1964-65 season.


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With style, wit, and expertise, Leonard Bernstein shares his love and appreciation for music in all its varied forms in The Infinite Variety of Music, illuminating the deep pleasure and sometimes subtle beauty it offers. He begins with an "imaginary conversation" with George Washington entitled "The Muzak Muse," in which he argues the values of actively listening to music With style, wit, and expertise, Leonard Bernstein shares his love and appreciation for music in all its varied forms in The Infinite Variety of Music, illuminating the deep pleasure and sometimes subtle beauty it offers. He begins with an "imaginary conversation" with George Washington entitled "The Muzak Muse," in which he argues the values of actively listening to music by learning how to read notes, as opposed to simply hearing music in a concert hall. The book also features the reproduction of five television scripts from Bernstein on the influence of jazz, the timeless appeal of Mozart, musical romanticism, and the complexities of rhythmic innovation. Also included are Bernstein's analyses of symphonies by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Brahms, a rare reproduction of a 1957 lecture on the nature of composing, and a report on the musical scene written for New York Times after his sabbatical leave from directorship of the New York Philharmonic during the 1964-65 season.

30 review for Infinite Variety of Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    When I was a kid, somehow I ended up with an extremely worn and old paperback copy of Bernstein's "The Joy of Music." I loved it. I read it over and over again...finally, someone talking to ME (a child) about music! Despite the fact that this very copy still resides on our bookshelves at home, I kind of forgot about it for years and years. I read a little blurb recently in Newsweek about recommended books by Alex Ross, the New Yorker magazine music critic and Pulitzer nominee. He listed "Infinite When I was a kid, somehow I ended up with an extremely worn and old paperback copy of Bernstein's "The Joy of Music." I loved it. I read it over and over again...finally, someone talking to ME (a child) about music! Despite the fact that this very copy still resides on our bookshelves at home, I kind of forgot about it for years and years. I read a little blurb recently in Newsweek about recommended books by Alex Ross, the New Yorker magazine music critic and Pulitzer nominee. He listed "Infinite Variety" and all the memories came flooding back. I had to read it. Bernstein is probably the perfect child ambassador for music (besides me, of course) since his passion for and love of all music is palpable, even on the page. He is funny and personable and direct and unafraid to allow his emotions to get the better of him (which, funnily enough, is probably the criticism most often pointed at him as a conductor). However, I don't know how a kid nowadays would react to the writing. It's a little dated, making references to people and events of which your (even above-) average kid wouldn't be aware. And all the photographs of Bernstein himself standing in front of an audience of children show him smoking a cigarette which, while almost quaintly funny to me in an anachronistic Simpsons-y kind of way, is kind of weird. That being said, if my daughter shows ANY interest in music (**fingers crossed**, please please please) at any time in her childhood, I will run out and by her her very own copy of both this book and "The Joy of Music." The only reason I can't give it 5 stars is because the musical scores which are cited as examples have no bar number markings. How am I supposed to know what I should be listening to? I realize that most of these "essays" are actually transcriptions of TV shows, but help a guy out!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Some really great insight into the direction of music in the mid-20th century. Enjoyable writing style, if a bit pompous at times!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yoshiyuki Mukudai

    F sharp is F sharp; it doesn't mean anything. It's not like a word. It's not like the word bread, which means something to everyone, no matter how it's used in a poem. F sharp is, as you know of it, the shapest among all tonality in music, and this is the same regardless either in Soviet Union or in the USA. Vladimir Horowitz closed his life in rather F sharp manner in Wagner's Liebestod in Tristan und Isolde, which is written in B major. But, the last arpeggio chord Horowitz plays is F sharp no F sharp is F sharp; it doesn't mean anything. It's not like a word. It's not like the word bread, which means something to everyone, no matter how it's used in a poem. F sharp is, as you know of it, the shapest among all tonality in music, and this is the same regardless either in Soviet Union or in the USA. Vladimir Horowitz closed his life in rather F sharp manner in Wagner's Liebestod in Tristan und Isolde, which is written in B major. But, the last arpeggio chord Horowitz plays is F sharp not the written B major tonic. Franz Liszt paraphrased Gounod's Faust once as well in F sharp. F sharp means something, actually unlike Leonard Bernstein's suggestion in this book. F sharp means, if we separate ourselves from tonal orders here once, the highest achieving point in sound arts, the sharpest of all. And the creative act, if it's really creative, is something that seizes you, and it is creative. It is passive only in the sense that you are somehow a slave of it. By identification with something much further away or closer, depending on how you look at it, something much more inner, so that things will begin to happen. But still there's no guarantee that that's going to turn out F sharps. I can remember Koussevitzky conducting a Tchaikovsky symphony sometime when he was in his greatest rage. He was very fond of that word. That's why I said it in French, I now realize, because Koussevitzky used to use this word. "En rage," he said. "It vas vunderful tonight, Lenuschka, vas it not? I vas in a rage!" And I knew what he meant. And if you give an earthquake where it is not needed, then you should go back to selling neckties. Yes? Do you mind if I smoke? Yes, Vladimir Horowitz who was knowing what Leonard Bernstein meant in this book minded when an observer of his recording of Mozart KV 488 concerto told him she liked his necktie, because Mr. Horowitz was trying to play it in F sharp. Well, I thought I answered that before. That would be the ideal situation, if you could do it. As a matter of fact, the opening of Fancy Free, which is one I like to think of, came to me - just like that - in the Russian Tea Room, when I was having lunch and when I wasn't thinking about anything or lying down anywhere. This is a rather practical way of trying to remember the fantasy, you see. If you're looking, nothing will happen. You see, you try to catch yourself when you think you're not looking. There's something schizoid about the whole thing, and, this is why so many composers are loony! And, get back to the stage the composer was in when he wrote it, through the music you're hearing? Is that what you're trying to say? I guess it's conceivable. That's a very mystical idea. I think that's more mytstical than anything I've said. And, this was why this was all that Leonard Bernstein had something to say. You need commitment and devotion in highest order to achieve something unattainable in music in prolonged history of our human kind beings. You need to become F sharp. Leonard Bernstein ends his own forward to this book by writing it on summer solstice of 1966 in Fairfield, Connecticut, "I cannot resist drawing a parallel between the much-proclaimed Death of Tonality and the equally trumpeted Death of God. Curious, isn't it, that Nietzsche issued that particular proclamation in 1883, the same year that Wagner died, supposedly taking tonality to the grave with him? Dear Reader, I humbly submit to you the proposition that neither death is true; all that has died is our own outworn conceptions. The crisis in faith through which we are living is not unlike the musical crisis; we will, if we are lucky, come out of them both with new and freer concepts, more personal perhaps - or even less personal: who is to say? - but in any case with a new idea of God, a new idea of tonality. And music will survive." He says as well in this book, "Whereas if I did that (Ludwig van Beethoven's 5th symphony) down on Seventh Avenue, I'd be picked up." This is another F sharp is F sharp attitude. Leonard Bernstein imagined of Americas Avenue in his mind as Sixth instead of miserable 7th Avenue for the Carnegie Hall, and that was thinking about 5th symphony in F sharp manner. And, such was part of our history in the last century. In order to achieve our common goal to be always being ourselves as F sharp as human beings, we need to be diligent in ourselves and this attitude leads us to be humble as beings, "Today's my day to be getting rid of hostilities, and between ten and eleven I shall throw my fit, and by eleven-thirty I'll be all right. You either do or you don't." And, you need to decide this.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I do not have a very good aural memory which impeded my thoroughly enjoying this book. The book was written from a series of music programmes that Bernstein narrated. He played bits of the music as he analyzed bits of it. Without the music the book is lacking, unless one has a good aural memory. I learned some more about music in general by reading this. My music education is seriously lacking! I am going to try to find the pieces he analyzes and read the book while listening at a later time. Be I do not have a very good aural memory which impeded my thoroughly enjoying this book. The book was written from a series of music programmes that Bernstein narrated. He played bits of the music as he analyzed bits of it. Without the music the book is lacking, unless one has a good aural memory. I learned some more about music in general by reading this. My music education is seriously lacking! I am going to try to find the pieces he analyzes and read the book while listening at a later time. Bernstein's enthusiasm for his subject is contagious though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    Bernstein was such a lovable geek. Wish there was an audio or video to go with this readily available on the internet.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  7. 4 out of 5

    Monte Thompson

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily Kelly

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Frost

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mike Wisteria

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy Scurria

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Rodwin

  13. 4 out of 5

    SGGB

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eugene

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  16. 4 out of 5

    Neve

  17. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eli Weinstein

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Hoff

  20. 5 out of 5

    Arman Dashti

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina Young

  22. 4 out of 5

    Simon Gilchrist

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Janina Asciuto

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angela Torosyan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Louer

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lance Lyle

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paolo Guiducci

  30. 5 out of 5

    -c.kulesa

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