Strictly speaking, 781 should get you books on the general principles of music and musical forms, but realistically, you will also find titles devoted to individual performers, bands and concerts. Being a bit of a purist, and genuinely interested on the assigned topic, I scanned the virtual shelves (the catalogue) to see what I could find.
The first title to attract my attention questioned my understanding of musical forms – I had always thought an audial relationship with music was intrinsic, and Air Guitar, A user’s guide by Bruno MacDonald did not strike me as a musical form. Perhaps it had something to say about the general principles of music?
Perhaps not. By way of introduction, the book states: ‘Freddie Mercury did it. Hormone-addled adolescents do it. Grown men do it in the privacy of their own homes (and, sometimes, in dark public gatherings). There are even specialist computer games that encourage you to do it. It is air guitar.’ Clearly designed to attract attention, what follows is more of a comic-style picture book than a serious attempt at discussing a musical form. The book is divided into three sections: Getting started, which includes basic accessories, (there are accessories?) and the Dos and Donts (…the general principles!); Air Guitar Moves, which explains 12 moves including ‘The Hendrix’; and Going Pro, with ’50 fret fondling favourites’. The book is sparse on content, laid out like a storyboard complete with sketchy coloured line drawings…not exactly definitive but bound to attract the growing number of devotees.
Clearly, Air Guitar is part of the music scene. When looking at what else might be included as part of ‘the scene’, I came across a series of books aimed at teens and young adults called The Music Scene.
Matt Annis, author and journalist who has spent many years working within the music industry, has created this series of four titles that looks at the world of contemporary music. The Music Industry, The History of Modern Music, Music Fashion & Style and Performing Live, are easy to read and full of practical tips based on case studies featuring some of the world’s best known contemporary musical artists. Although slim, each title is packed with useful information. Published by Franklin Watts in 2012, the series is starting to date (as things quickly do in the pop industry) but many of the principles behind the how-to advice are relevant today.
Still on the hunt for titles on musical forms, Jazz : a beginner’s guide by Stuart Nicholson revived my hope that I am looking in the right place.
Like many, I have some preconceived (and potentially erroneous) ideas about what constitutes Jazz. A quick browse through this title, reassures me that Jazz is what I thought it to be, but also a lot more. Nicholson takes readers through Jazz early history in southern USA to modern jazz scenes around the world. He talks about the evolution of the word and concept that Jazz encompasses and the way that many listeners are predisposed to understanding it because of its close links to other mainstream forms such as blues, rock and roll and pop. The eleven chapters include The Blues, The American Popular Song, Rise of the Big Bands, Jazz Goes Modern and Jazz in the Global Village. Each chapter is accompanied by a play list based on the form and style being discussed. You can take a peak inside here: Jazz-Beginners-Guide-Guides
Classical music is another form that has suffered from ‘bad press’ being labelled elitist and boring… but… What if it only took half a minute to better understand and appreciate what it is after all, the most freely available form of music: as background music, on the internet, in the media and used in some of our most famous jingles?
30-second classical music : the 50 most significant genres, composers and innovations, each explained in half a minute edited by Joanne Cormac is one book that promises to deliver just that! In his forward, David Pickard says ‘The book proves that it is possible to be brief, succinct and insightful without being patronising or simplistic… every significant development [in the history of classical music] seems to be covered.’ In writing this book, Joanne Cormac’s aim is to dispel some of the myths surrounding classical music, to demystify some of the jargon and to open it up to a broader audience. The seven sections of the book take readers on a journey through the earliest instruments and monastic plainchant to the electronic music of modern composition. Each section has a glossary and the text is clearly laid out and nicely illustrated to encourage browsing and return visits. Not a book you have to consume in one sitting, but you could.
You can preview the book here: 30-Second-Classical-Music
There is always the danger when books try to simplify ideas and concepts that they will offend potential readers by ‘talking down’ to them. The books ...for Dummies series makes no attempt to disguise the fact that they assume readers have little or no knowledge of the topic at hand. Music theory for dummies by Michael Pilhofer and Holly Day is no exception.
Like many titles in the series, the book takes readers back to the basics: Note values and counting, Treble and Bass clefs, Time signatures, Tempo and Tone, Key signatures, Scales and chords are all included with Music theory’s history an added bonus that puts it all in perspective. The book is well structured and easy to follow. It provides examples of music to compliment the text, chord charts and audio examples on CD (piano and guitar). It also has a companion website that you can visit here: http://www.dummies.com/go/musictheory
Although not exactly a musical form, the music that consistently attracts audiences is music that includes a combination of voice and inspiring lyrics – collectively known as ‘songs’.
First published in 2005, 1001 songs you must hear before you die edited by Robert Dimery has become one of the most popular musical go-to reference books, listing some of the world’s most famous popular songs beginning early 20th century. Each featured song title includes its unique backstory with illustrations, and is placed in context of time and musical influences (with similar genre-titles included). A range of music journalists have also contributed to the book. Although heavily biased toward music from the USA, the list includes titles in French, Spanish, Italian and German. An easy to browse book, that has been consistently updated with the latest release in 2016. You can also sample song titles based on the book online at: http://playlists.net/1001-songs-you-must-hear-before-you-die-4
There is no doubt that music plays an important part in our lives. Neurologists, scientists, doctors and teachers agree that exposure to music at an early age has positive benefits for life: positive for early childhood development; for our schooling and education; for our health and well being and ultimately, for our longevity. Music therapy is increasingly being incorporated in medicine to assist with pain management, healing and recovery and mental and emotional resilience.
Music remembers me : connection and wellbeing in dementia by Kirsty Beilharz aims to address both the practitioner and those without experience or training, looking for ‘quick start’ guidelines. Beilharz makes strong links between the mind and music engagement for dementia sufferers, and provides practical advice on introducing music to their daily care. The book includes moving stories from Australian health and aged care providers HammondCare and is considered a ground-breaking book on the topic.
You can view the book-launch trailer here: Music Remembers Me
So, it seems that there is much to learn about musical principles and forms in the 781s (with a little Dewey perseverance and leeway given) and… the next time that song or piece of music gets stuck in my head and just won’t go away? I’ll just assume its all for the best!