Since September is National Classical Music Month I decided to recommend some of my favorite music history books. Music history has definitely become a passion of mine lately. Not all of these books focus completely on classical music but they all cover it in various ways. The following are my top 3 music history picks as of right now.
1. Music of The Civil War Era byand Music of the World War II Era by William H. Young Jr. and Nancy K. Young.
This is a fantastic series of books that cover the music of the time period stated. It delves into how the culture and national and world events are reflected by the music created during the time period. Both books discuss both the popular music and classical music of the time period. This book series and each author discuss the theme that during tough times people can find expression and relief in music. These books are not the easiest to read and are rather fact heavy, however, the information they hold is fascinating. If you enjoy the history of these two time periods then this is definitely a different perspective and supplement of the time period.
2. Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines
I have reviewed this book before on my blog so I’ll link to my previous review here. But long story short is that I loved this book. This book also connects the music of the time period with the history of the period. The author alternates chapters between Frederick the Great and Bach the Great *ahem* I mean Johann Sebastian Bach. Spoiler alert: I liked the chapters on Bach more than I liked the ones on Frederick the Great. However, this book did a great job of putting Bach’s music in context. I think it’s worth mentioning the author’s passion for his subject (Bach in particular) comes through the text and makes it incredibly hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm.
3. The Sound of Freedom by Raymond Arsenault
This book is unique because it isn’t quite a biography, although, there are certainly portions of it that are biographical in nature and cover Marian Anderson’s life and career. This book is rather a detailed explanation and exploration of an event, Marian Anderson’s Easter Sunday concert on April 9, 1939. This book discusses in detail how Marian Anderson was not allowed to perform on Constitutional Hall’s stage because of her skin color, the events leading up to this decision and what happened afterward. What is so interesting about this book is the huge impact that it had on the nation (The United States). This originally local issue was propelled to a national stage to where even the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt thought it necessary to comment on it. I also reviewed this book and I will link the post here. if you would like to read more of my thoughts on this book.
The Lord of the Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien
This book really has no relevance to classical music except for the fact that Tolkien filled the book with songs and poems that the characters sing on their journey. In that way, I felt that music was incredibly important in this world and so I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.