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New Music


Eddie Cochran-White dispels those post-summertime blues with some cherished memories of recent good reads.

Out of the plethora of books available from bookshops, libraries and friends there are some that seem to stand out, in that they contain information and help to illuminate areas of music.

I find bookshops easier to browse in than libraries; partly because of the joy of coming across the unexpected in a dark corner, and partly because I am a genius at forgetting names and find it difficult, in the library hush, to find the strength of whisper to explain that it is 'Green, medium sized, floppy, freshly imported, by a man with a short name, and about music'.

For everyone's bookshelf is Silence by John Cage (Calder, 1973, £2.50 paperback, ISBN 714510432). Deeply serious and very humorous (it is one of the few books that have made me laugh out loud), this book consists of ideas, stories, jottings and lectures. A vast range is here to dip into, ponder and enjoy - your reactions are likely to go from being captivated to being exasperated and even infuriated. John Cage, much of whose music I do not actually enjoy, is one of those figures who has helped us to open out, getting us to question just about everything, while at the same time communicating a good-humoured enjoyment of life.

The Evolution of Electronic Music by David Ernst (Schirmer: Collier Macmillan, 1977, £6.75, ISBN 028708806), is a must for anyone interested in this scene. It is the immense amount of information, presented in a down-to-earth form, that makes this book particularly valuable. A glance at the index will reveal the range covered: Beach Boys, Beatles, Beethoven, Boyle; Cage, Cardew, Carlos; Emerson, Eno, Envelope, Equaliser; Pink Floyd, Polyphonic Synthi, Pound, Pythagoras; plus a mind-blowing chronological list of relevant pre-1948 events that starts with Homer! Each chapter has a discography and many major scores are analysed. Sounds too good to be true, or, as if it must be unreadable? Well — I find it very approachable and particularly like the way that techniques, equipment and ideas are seen and discussed as being related.

Electronic Music: Listeners' Guide by Elliott Schwartz (Secker and Warburg, 1973, £5, ISBN 436444100) cannot be as up-to-the-minute as the above but is excellent on the background as far back (and further) as the 1953 RCA synthi that cut direct on to disc, and it has much information on the history and development of electronic music. The book offers a highly readable and open minded approach, 'classical' to 'rock'; there are some photos and a section of observations from a wide selection of musicians.

It is difficult to recommend a reasonably-priced dictionary of music, but I find the Collins Encyclopedia of Music (Collins, revised 1976, £7.95, ISBN 0043433IX) very useful. A little bit limited - the Beatles (but not the Stones); Morton Feldman and Stockhausen (but where are Terry Riley and Steve Reich?) — but much better on pre-1950. This is a book I would not be without although it does contain some strange happenings. For example, under Syncopation the examples are drawn from Beethoven, Schumann, Mozart and an uncredited one from Scott Joplin — all very clear and fair, but there is only a very brief passing mention of Jazz! However, I use and recommend this dictionary (as the ads say); bear in mind that no one book can encompass all of music and that this one's main limitation is that it can only glance over its shoulder at non-western music — Raft of the Medusa, The by Henze, merits 21 lines; Raga, 'basically an Indian art form', six lines.

If you are interested in Indian music and wish to pursue this further, try and find An Introduction to Indian Music, by B Chaitanya Deva (Pub. Division, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, £3.50, 1975, ISBN 856551694). My copy came from Galgotia and Sons, Delhi, but it can be found in libraries. I have found this book, together with conversations with the composer Frank Denyer, a great help in showing me things to listen for in music that can so easily remain just a succession of beautiful sounds. Over the years there has been an increasing awareness in the west of other fields to be explored; Indian music can sound mainly improvisatory, but further investigation will reveal that these rhythms, melodies and sounds are highly organised, but in a manner to which we, in the west, are unaccustomed. Books such as this, together with the more informative record sleeve notes, can help further our enjoyment.

The works above, while being authoritative and full of information, are all very approachable; not so Boulez On Music Today by Pierre Boulez (Faber, 1971, £2.75, ISBN 571094201 - also in paperback). Authoritative and single minded as it is, it requires considerable concentration; not many people have read every word. But it's worth the attempt as even a glance may give some insight into a part, of a part, of the musical process.

Equally tough but more varied are the eight issues of Die Reihe, edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen and obtainable from Universal Edition (London, Mainz, Wien, and Zurich) and from Theodore Presser Co, Pennsylvania. It's 'a periodical devoted to developments in contemporary music', concerned with ideas that were bubbling up around the late Fifties and early Sixties. These little volumes are available individually, each having a particular emphasis that is shown by the titles: Vol I Electronic Music, Vol IV Young Composers> Vol VII Form and Space. If you are within reach of one of their addresses, Universal Edition are always well worth a visit for periodicals, books, and New Music scores.

Very recently I obtained New Music Composition by David Cope (Schirmer: Collier Macmillan, 1978, £6.75, ISBN 028706307). The blurb claims that it 'offers an organised approach to the evolution, definitions, techniques and instrumentation of contemporary musical forms', and it does just that. It can be used to work through as a course of study, or as a work of reference, or just to enjoy learning about particular aspects. Extremely informative and well laid out with many examples and diagrams.

Of a different character, and highly recommended, is Sound Recording Practice, edited by John Borwick (OUP, 1976, £16, ISBN 193119153). Acknowledged experts contribute chapters on subjects that include microphone circuits, mixing consoles, tape machines, monitoring systems, equipment alignment and the like. The list of contributors guarantees the quality: Richard Swettenham, Michael Beville, Angus McKenzie, Robert Auger, Peter Tattershall and many more; somewhat pricey but invaluable if you are looking for this kind of information.

There are many more books on rock/popular music, on synthesisers; also many periodicals and magazines, none of which are included in this short list of suggestions as they merit space to themselves.

When moving flats recently I mislaid some correspondence from readers of Sound International, if you have written to me and not received a reply, please write again (c/o the editorial address), and accept my apologies.

NB: The books listed above were all in print in the UK at presstime — the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) quoted for each book should facilitate ordering from bookshop or library.

May I also recommend Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer by Jonathan Cott (Robson, 1974, £4.25, ISBN 903895129). The only book which gives any insight into the man's character and philosophy — Ed.

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Sound International - Oct 1978

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

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