Musical introduction


in Geek stuff, Music

111 Sussex

For many years now, I have wanted to know more about the history and details of music. Other than listening, my musical experience is all more than a decade old, and consists of (badly) playing the recorder and autoharp in elementary school. From time to time, various friends with musical knowledge have given me some informal background information, but I would appreciate something more comprehensive.

Can anyone suggest a book that does a good job of laying out what things like chords, octaves, syncopation, fugue, etc, etc actually mean? I tend to appreciate books that combine technical with historical elements best. Something that covers the evolution of music may be ideal.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

. September 30, 2007 at 11:53 pm

These Ask Metafilter threads may be helpful:

Help me appreciate classical music

I like classical music. I live in Canada, and usually when I am driving my radio is tuned to CBC 2, which plays copious amounts of classical. Yet I remain woefully ignorant. I have no idea what baroque means or any of that stuff.

Learning Music Theory

July 19, 2005 3:40 PM RSS feed for this thread Subscribe
How should I go about learning music theory?

Music: Just what exactly is ‘key’? [more inside]

I’ve read the definitions in some textbooks. I know the formulae for the scale constructions. A Major key is supposedly upbeat, a minor is more sad/dissonant/whatever. But what exactly is the ‘key’?

I want to be more ‘modern classical’ literate.

January 20, 2006 4:10 PM RSS feed for this thread Subscribe
Music Filter: I want to be more ‘modern classical’ literate.

Simon March 15, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I’m Emily’s music major friend in Toronto–you and I met at that party last fall–I’m sure I could help out with any music-related questions you have.

Sorry for resurrecting such an old post.

Milan March 15, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Do you know any books that do a good job of addressing the questions raised in the post?

Tristan March 16, 2009 at 3:42 am

I can recommend “This is your brain on music: the science of human obsession” by Daniel J Levitin.

I actually have a copy I can lend you as well.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the book, but I think this is entirely due to my anti-scientistic leanings which won’t bother most people. Seriously though, it’s better than most books on music – because it deals both with what music “is”, and with how we “hear” music, together.

Simon March 16, 2009 at 3:52 am

One source that comes to mind is the Grove Dictionary of Music. If you’re looking for a concise definition of something and some general background info on it then its the best place to start. There’s the physical form of the book, but there’s also an online version:

Yes the site is actually Oxford Music but notice that there is a check box for “Grove Music Online”. This is where I get sent when I search for “Grove Music Online”. I suppose that with this site you could also take advantage of the other sources they have listed there too.

Simon March 16, 2009 at 3:57 am

Seems this didn’t post the first time around. Sorry if this ends up being a double post:

This online music dictionary should give you some definitions and general info on the topics you’re interested in:

Simon March 16, 2009 at 6:24 am

Oops…it would seem that you have to be logged in to use the service. I normally access it through a computer at a university so I just take that for granted. Well, perhaps try logging in “via your home institution”.

And it seems I did double post. Dammit.

Emily March 16, 2009 at 8:02 am


Milan March 16, 2009 at 8:49 am

Seems this didn’t post the first time around. Sorry if this ends up being a double post

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