Author Topic: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers  (Read 18522 times)

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Offline torut

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Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« on: March 08, 2014, 12:05:54 PM »
Are there any good books about 20th/21st Century composers like this, with more updated information?

The Companion To 20th-century Music
by Norman Lebrecht



This is a good book I keep using as reference, but the publication year was 1996 and some recent composers are missing.
I would like to know not only famous composers but also as many contemporary composers as possible, with descriptions of their styles, list of works, relationship with other composers (influence, pupils, mentors, etc.)

A summary of books mentioned in this thread, including not only recommended books but also that are not read by anyone or yet published.

Books about music history

Music in the Early Twentieth Century: The Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin (pub. 2009)
Music in the Late Twentieth Century: The Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin (pub. 2009)
A Concise History of Modern Music by Paul Griffiths : Debussy ~ Boulez (pub. 1978)
The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross : 1900 ~ 2000 (pub. 2007)
Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries by Joseph Auner : Mahler ~ Chen Yi(?) (pub. 2013)
The Companion To 20th-century Music by Norman Lebrecht : 1900 ~ 1996 (pub. 1996)
New Music at Darmstadt: Nono, Stockhausen, Cage, and Boulez (Music Since 1900) by Dr Martin Iddon (pub. 2013)
The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin: Voices of Stone and Steel by Walter Simmons (pub. 2010)
The New Music: The Avant-garde since 1945 by Reginald Smith Brindle : 1945 ~ 1986 (pub. 1987, 2nd edition)
Modern Music - The avant garde since 1945 by Paul Griffiths : 1945 ~ 1981 (pub. 1981)
Modern Music and After by Paul Griffiths : 1945 ~ 21th Century (Lachenman, Sciarrino, etc.) (2011, 3rd edition)
Experimental Music by Michael Nyman : 1950 ~ 1970, Cage, Cardew, Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen (pub. 1999, 2nd edition)
American Music in the Twentieth Century by Kyle Gann : Ives ~ 1990s (pub. 1997)
Give My Regards to Eight Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman by Morton Feldman : New York School in the 1950s (pub. 2004)
The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts by Steven Johnson : 1st half of 20th Century (Cage, Feldman, Brown, Tudor) (pub. 2001)
This Life of Sounds: Evenings for New Music in Buffalo by Renee Levine Packer : 1964 ~ 1980, new music in America (pub. 2010)
Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice by Kyle Gann : 1980 ~ 1990s, Music in NYC (pub. 2006)
Electronic & Computer Music by Peter Manning : 1945 ~ present (pub. 2013, 4th edition)
"a history of modern composition since 1989" by Tim Rutherford-Johnson (not published yet) : 1989 ~ present?
A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music by George E. Lewis : 1965 ~ (pub. 2009)
Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts After Cage by Branden W. Joseph : 1960s art (pub. 2011)
Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis by Michael Haas (2013)

Books about individual composers

Stockhausen: Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen by Robin Maconie (pub. 2005)
Ligeti: György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination by Richard Steinitz (pub. 2003)
Wolff: Christian Wolff by Michael Hicks and Chrisitan Asplund (pub. 2012)
Schoenberg: Schoenberg (Master Musicians Series) by Malcolm MacDonald (pub. 2008, 2nd edition)
Schoenberg: Arnold Schoenberg's Journey by Allen Shawn (pub. 2002)
Stravinsky: Experiencing Stravinsky: A Listener's Companion by Robin Maconie (pub. 2013)
Stravinsky: Stravinsky's Late Music by Joseph N. Straus (pub. 2004)
Stravinsky: Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934 by Stephen Walsh (pub. 2002)
Stravinsky: Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971 by Stephen Walsh (pub. 2008)
Stravinsky: Stravinsky: The Composer and His Works by Eric Walter White (pub. 1985, 2nd edition)
Bartók: My Father by Peter Bartók (pub. 2002)
Cardew: Cornelius Cardew - A Life Unfinished by John Tilbury (pub. 2008)
Boulez, André Schaeffner: Correspondance 1954 - 1970; présentée et annotée par Rosângela Pereira de Tugny
Cage: Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists by Kay Larson (2013)
Boulez, Cage: Pierre Boulez John Cage:Correspondance et Documents edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Robert Piencikowski
Boulez: Entretien avec Pierre Boulez by François Meïmoun (2010)
« Last Edit: June 22, 2014, 11:57:35 AM by torut »

Offline North Star

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2014, 01:36:25 PM »
I can't say I value Lebrecht much at all. Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise is a brilliant book though, even if it does glance over some composers (Wuorinen, under who Karl studied).

http://www.therestisnoise.com/

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Offline torut

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2014, 04:13:42 PM »
I can't say I value Lebrecht much at all. Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise is a brilliant book though, even if it does glance over some composers (Wuorinen, under who Karl studied).

http://www.therestisnoise.com/

I bought it some time ago but have not read it yet. Thank you.
I find a bad reputation of Lebrecht here and there. Is it because of his scandalous books about conductors, singers, classical music business, etc.? And/or his musical assessments are unreliable/biased? I liked the book above because it was an accessible book to find many 20th century composers I didn't know. But even this book has some bad reviews on Amazon. ("Too much cheap, flip opinion, not much insight" ...)

Offline amw

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2014, 07:26:03 PM »
There isn't really a good book for a newbie. Ross, Lebrecht and Taruskin (Oxford History of Western Music vols. 4 & 5) have very journalistic styles—accessible for sure, but partial, sensationalised and biased.  I don't know Paul Griffiths's Modern Music and After, which some people have praised as a good alternative to those three, while also criticising it as dry and scholarly.

Also, there's very little writing on contemporary music to be found. For that you may want to wait for Tim Rutherford-Johnson's book which I'm hopeful for at least. Otherwise, I suggest reading a lot of books—not just one or two—while carefully analysing the language used to refer to particular composers or works, and bearing in mind that the mainstream narratives tend to ignore any 20th century music from countries other than America, Russia, Germany, Austria, France and Britain.

Offline torut

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2014, 08:15:17 PM »
There isn't really a good book for a newbie. Ross, Lebrecht and Taruskin (Oxford History of Western Music vols. 4 & 5) have very journalistic styles—accessible for sure, but partial, sensationalised and biased.  I don't know Paul Griffiths's Modern Music and After, which some people have praised as a good alternative to those three, while also criticising it as dry and scholarly.

Also, there's very little writing on contemporary music to be found. For that you may want to wait for Tim Rutherford-Johnson's book which I'm hopeful for at least. Otherwise, I suggest reading a lot of books—not just one or two—while carefully analysing the language used to refer to particular composers or works, and bearing in mind that the mainstream narratives tend to ignore any 20th century music from countries other than America, Russia, Germany, Austria, France and Britain.
That book looks interesting. I wish it will be realized, but we need to wait 2-3 years. (And it may be delayed...) The book about "a history of modern composition since 1989" could be a complement of Paul Griffiths's old books. I read the following books a long time ago. I want to read them again. (I have not read Modern Music and After.)

Paul Griffiths: A Concise History of Modern Music (1978)
Paul Griffiths: Modern Music - The avant garde since 1945 (1981)

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2014, 07:24:04 AM »
Or perhaps, instead of buying books, you could listen to the music. :)
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline torut

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2014, 07:52:41 AM »
Thank you, both books look good for learning the composers in depth.

Or perhaps, instead of buying books, you could listen to the music. :)
A good advice. I understand the danger of indulging too much in peripheral information about music that may prevent appreciating the music itself without prejudice or bias. (There was a good example in Japan recently ...   ;D)
Actually, my original intention was to find a good reference book about contemporary music with concise description of each composer, so I can find new composers by skimming it or know basic information about interesting composers. For that purpose, I think the Lebrecht book is good, and I am wondering if there are any this kind of books with more updated information.

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2014, 08:23:26 AM »
Thank you, both books look good for learning the composers in depth.
A good advice. I understand the danger of indulging too much in peripheral information about music that may prevent appreciating the music itself without prejudice or bias. (There was a good example in Japan recently ...   ;D)
Actually, my original intention was to find a good reference book about contemporary music with concise description of each composer, so I can find new composers by skimming it or know basic information about interesting composers. For that purpose, I think the Lebrecht book is good, and I am wondering if there are any this kind of books with more updated information.
Lebrecht is a highly opinionated with a lot of hobby horses. That exactly describes a lot of us here! It's the kind of mix that leads to contention.

Offline Artem

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2014, 06:57:29 PM »
This topic is a great idea, because I always look for good books about music.

I'm a big fan of The Rest is Noise book. I didn't like Paul Griffith's Modern Music and After, because, even though it is more inclusive of modern composers, it actually reads like a dictionary.

There're several books that I'd highly recommend that are related to the New York School of composers, specifically, Give My Regards to Eight Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman edited by B.H. Friedman, The New York Schools of Music and Visual Arts edited by Steven Johnson, Renee Levine Packer's This Life of Sounds: Evenings for New Music in Buffalo and Christian Wolff by Michael Hicks and Chrisitan Asplund.




Offline amw

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2014, 08:48:13 PM »
Lebrecht is a highly opinionated with a lot of hobby horses. That exactly describes a lot of us here! It's the kind of mix that leads to contention.

He also makes a lot of factual mistakes, which I guess also describes a lot of us here.

Offline torut

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2014, 11:03:31 PM »
This topic is a great idea, because I always look for good books about music.

I'm a big fan of The Rest is Noise book. I didn't like Paul Griffith's Modern Music and After, because, even though it is more inclusive of modern composers, it actually reads like a dictionary.

There're several books that I'd highly recommend that are related to the New York School of composers, specifically, Give My Regards to Eight Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman edited by B.H. Friedman, The New York Schools of Music and Visual Arts edited by Steven Johnson, Renee Levine Packer's This Life of Sounds: Evenings for New Music in Buffalo and Christian Wolff by Michael Hicks and Chrisitan Asplund.
Thank you for recommendation. These look interesting because I like John Cage and am checking some music of Feldman and Tudor. I read only some of John Cage's books.

Offline torut

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2014, 11:13:18 PM »
He also makes a lot of factual mistakes, which I guess also describes a lot of us here.
Oh ... so, even the companion book is unreliable as a reference? I also have the book of musical anecdotes. Does it also have many factual mistakes?
If it is about personal preference or bias toward certain composers, I am fine.

Offline amw

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2014, 12:46:31 AM »
Here's Modern Music and After if anyone wants to read it. On a superficial glance it does look a bit dictionary-like to me as well.

Oh ... so, even the companion book is unreliable as a reference? I also have the book of musical anecdotes. Does it also have many factual mistakes?

I don't know if the companion book is reliable or not—haven't read it—but I do know that inaccuracies in Lebrecht's newspaper column have been pointed out with some frequency, and one of his previous books had to be withdrawn and an apology issue because the Naxos CEO threatened to sue him for libel. (Although that could mean anything.)

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2014, 03:15:14 AM »
I found Modern Music and After an easy read and one I come back to again and again, it is well researched and written, but Alex Ross's book struck me as uneven, too conservative in its selection and too preoccupied with non-musical issues, but I agree on the other books in this post, especially the first two. 

There're several books that I'd highly recommend that are related to the New York School of composers, specifically, Give My Regards to Eight Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman edited by B.H. Friedman, The New York Schools of Music and Visual Arts edited by Steven Johnson, Renee Levine Packer's This Life of Sounds: Evenings for New Music in Buffalo and Christian Wolff by Michael Hicks and Chrisitan Asplund.

Offline Cato

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2014, 06:06:00 AM »
Allow me to recommend a book about 3 of the top "H's" in classical music after 1920:

Hartmann, Hindemith, and Henze by Guy Rickards.

See:

http://www.amazon.com/Hartmann-Hindemith-Henze-Century-Composers/dp/0714831743
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2014, 06:38:43 AM »
Allow me to recommend a book about 3 of the top "H's" in classical music after 1920:

Hartmann, Hindemith, and Henze by Guy Rickards.

See:

http://www.amazon.com/Hartmann-Hindemith-Henze-Century-Composers/dp/0714831743

Aye, that one abides in my Wish List   0:)

I've been reading this, and have been happily immersed in Schoenberg all over again:

Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2014, 06:44:54 AM »
Quote
Hear the name “Igor Stravinsky” and the first thing that comes to mind is a composer of ponderous, “serious” music.

Erm, really?  That's a cartoon I don't recognize at all.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Cato

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2014, 06:56:25 AM »
Arnold Schoenberg's Journey (Allen Shawn)
Proposing that Arnold Schoenberg has been more discussed than heard, more tolerated than loved, Allen Shawn puts aside ultimate judgments about Schoenberg's place in music history to explore the composer's fascinating world in a series of linked essays--"soundings"--that are both searching and wonderfully suggestive. Approaching Schoenberg primarily from the listener's point of view, Shawn plunges into the details of some of Schoenberg's works while at the same time providing a broad overview of his involvements in music, painting, and the history through which he lived.




This book I can also recommend: rather unusual in its goals.
"Now who taught ye t' be playin' patty fingers in the holy water?"

- Barry Fitzgerald to John Wayne in  The Quiet Man.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2014, 06:56:56 AM »
This book I can also recommend: rather unusual in its goals.

Aye, that one's been on my Wish List for a spell, too.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2014, 07:32:29 AM »
Regarding Stravinsky, this is currently on my side table:



Joseph N. Straus is an excellent writer on contemporary music, his books are well researched and sourced, and not dull reading (at least not for me).  His book on American Serialists is excellent.  I will probably get his book on Post Tonal Theory at some point.

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