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I finished Aaron Copland’s book What To Listen For In Music today. It is an excellent volume, designed to introduce laypeople to the inner workings and complexities of classical music. Copland’s language is never overly technical, and people wishing to start digging beneath the appeals of mere surface beauty to find deeper pleasures in music will be hard-pressed to find a better starting point.

It would be interesting if an edition of this book could be released that includes a CD of some of the works Copland discusses, because as he himself notes many, many times: proper enjoyment of music must involve listening, and listening to music is always preferable to reading a dozen books on music. Books like Copland’s make for smarter listeners, which is all to the good. Reading this book I was constantly reminded of something Leonard Bernstein wrote in his wonderful The Infinite Variety of Music: We hear too much music, allowing it to become background filler material for our lives rather than attending to it as art in its own right, something in which to be engaged rather than something allowed to wash over us. A book like this, well-written, will create a keen feeling of curiosity in the reader, a desire to go out and learn more about the subject at hand. What To Listen For In Music absolutely succeeded on that level.

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