Music: A Very Short Introduction
By Nicholas Cook
Review by Izzy (Music)
This snappy little read manages to bring together a whole host of ideas of what it actually means to read, study and understand Music. Let’s face it, professors of the study must sadly admit that Music is rarely considered as being an academic subject in its own right. And yet it’s automatically presumed that musicians are able to be successful without any prior knowledge of how music came into existence in the genres of the 21st century that we know today.
Well, prepare for this book to open a whole host of doors to explain some of the ideas that support Music as both an academic and creative subject. In just a few short chapters, Nicholas Cook lays out some of the basic questions of music study (What makes Beethoven so special? What does it mean to perform music authentically? What actually is music?) and tries to provide some explanations that actually make sense to a non-expert. The questions he unpacks to show music as a creative force in today’s society really make you think twice when you hear Justin Bieber’s Sorry for the umpteenth time on Radio 1.
Cook argues that Music as a subject requires a lot more thinking than simply practising scales or learning Classical “high art” music such as Bach or Beethoven. He calls into question the reasons for why national curriculums are so focused on studying this Western “art” music with little recognition of popular music or music from the other side of the world with its own notation system and cultural context. However, despite what sounds like a rather bleak outlook on the study of music, Cook manages to return to some optimism by explaining that ‘both music and musicology are ways of creating meaning rather than just representing it’ through its links to broader existence as part of our modern culture.
I’d have a dictionary to hand to help you decipher some of the weird academic words. But despite a few “brain fuzz” moments in a couple of chapters, this book gives a brilliant insight into what it means to study a subject that is as far reaching, creative and insightful as Music!
Music: A Very Short Introduction by Nicholas Cook