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Understanding Music: Philosophy and Interpretation

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Roger Scruton first addressed this topic in his celebrated book The Aesthetics of Music (OUP) and in this new book he applies the theory to the practice and examines a number of composers and musical forms. His continued fascination with Wagner provides much interesting content but he also deals near-death blows to his favorite targets like Pierre Boulez and Hoagy Carmicha Roger Scruton first addressed this topic in his celebrated book The Aesthetics of Music (OUP) and in this new book he applies the theory to the practice and examines a number of composers and musical forms. His continued fascination with Wagner provides much interesting content but he also deals near-death blows to his favorite targets like Pierre Boulez and Hoagy Carmichael. His legal encounter with The Pet Shop Boys is well documented (they sued him for libel in 1999) and the book closes with a devastating chapter on pop music, containing more controversial views that readers will relish. Many will be delighted; others enraged. However, underlying this book there is a consistent argument and passion for tonality and rhythm.


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Roger Scruton first addressed this topic in his celebrated book The Aesthetics of Music (OUP) and in this new book he applies the theory to the practice and examines a number of composers and musical forms. His continued fascination with Wagner provides much interesting content but he also deals near-death blows to his favorite targets like Pierre Boulez and Hoagy Carmicha Roger Scruton first addressed this topic in his celebrated book The Aesthetics of Music (OUP) and in this new book he applies the theory to the practice and examines a number of composers and musical forms. His continued fascination with Wagner provides much interesting content but he also deals near-death blows to his favorite targets like Pierre Boulez and Hoagy Carmichael. His legal encounter with The Pet Shop Boys is well documented (they sued him for libel in 1999) and the book closes with a devastating chapter on pop music, containing more controversial views that readers will relish. Many will be delighted; others enraged. However, underlying this book there is a consistent argument and passion for tonality and rhythm.

30 review for Understanding Music: Philosophy and Interpretation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard Pohl

    Intriguing reading, perhaps the most persuasive from all three Scruton books I examined... here he tends to be clearer and much more concise in his reathorics and especially the first chapters where he summarize his theses from the "Aesthetics of Music" and the last chapter critisizing Adorno and one-sided approach to music of the 20th century were very useful read. Also comparison between Janáček and Schoenberg's approach to harmony (certainly giving Janáček the much-deserved edge) is a recomme Intriguing reading, perhaps the most persuasive from all three Scruton books I examined... here he tends to be clearer and much more concise in his reathorics and especially the first chapters where he summarize his theses from the "Aesthetics of Music" and the last chapter critisizing Adorno and one-sided approach to music of the 20th century were very useful read. Also comparison between Janáček and Schoenberg's approach to harmony (certainly giving Janáček the much-deserved edge) is a recommended reading. A nice one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karla Fox

    For mere dabblers in music, skip to the criticism section.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mark Congdon

    I give this 3/5 stars for the 3/5 of the book I actually understood. Scruton dwells in an entirely different realm of academia than I, but the stuff I can follow I enjoy and resonate with. His thoughts are varied and scattered in this book, but I don't mind the lack of connection. Just be prepared to spend 10-15 minutes on a page...and have a pencil ready. I give this 3/5 stars for the 3/5 of the book I actually understood. Scruton dwells in an entirely different realm of academia than I, but the stuff I can follow I enjoy and resonate with. His thoughts are varied and scattered in this book, but I don't mind the lack of connection. Just be prepared to spend 10-15 minutes on a page...and have a pencil ready.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    Before I get going, let me just say that I very much enjoy when philosophers and intellectuals from other disciplines discuss my discipline, music, as it frequently allows me to see my profession in many new lights. However, I genuinely have no idea who this book could have been written for. While Roger Scruton is one of the more vocal and influential conservative philosophers of his day, he is not a musicologist or theorist and in so many ways he fails to achieve the very goal of the title of t Before I get going, let me just say that I very much enjoy when philosophers and intellectuals from other disciplines discuss my discipline, music, as it frequently allows me to see my profession in many new lights. However, I genuinely have no idea who this book could have been written for. While Roger Scruton is one of the more vocal and influential conservative philosophers of his day, he is not a musicologist or theorist and in so many ways he fails to achieve the very goal of the title of this collection. Those with little understanding of music will find his writing impenetrable and verbose and those of us who have theory and musicology training will find his analyses cheap and superficial, supporting few of his terse and curmudgeonly conclusions. His abrupt dismissals of the music of various composers from Arnold Schoenberg to John Adams betray a fundamental ignorance to proper systems of analysis for their music while his tear-soaked praise for the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven sounds like the ramblings of an over-enthusiastic program note writer. He is at his best when discussing the controversy of the music and person of Wagner as well as the writings of Adorno but this collection is so uneven and so lacking in analytical depth while at the same time being so full of unsupported opinion and supposition that I can't honestly recommend it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alex Torres

    Couldn't finish this - it was far too academic for me, and too politicised to boot. The "Review" section was better than the totally philosophical section, but couldn't save the book. Couldn't finish this - it was far too academic for me, and too politicised to boot. The "Review" section was better than the totally philosophical section, but couldn't save the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mat

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hugo

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily Savary

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alfred

  11. 5 out of 5

    R.E.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Howard Mandel

  13. 4 out of 5

    Manolo

  14. 4 out of 5

    Edward

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark Gorman

  16. 4 out of 5

    J

  17. 5 out of 5

    Esther Nisbet

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aleksandar Maksimovic

  19. 4 out of 5

    Guy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine Sunderland

  22. 4 out of 5

    Will

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jose

  24. 4 out of 5

    Olga

  25. 4 out of 5

    P FitzGeorge-Balfour

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alain

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vedad FamourZadeh

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trent Cunningham

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hilda

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