Sunday, February 12, 2006

Books on composition

(This was a personal response to a question on the Make Microtonal Music list.)

These are a few of the books more-or-less directly about composition to which I have returned frequently over the years:

Cowell, Henry, New Musical Resources
De la Motte, Diether, Kontrapunkt (This, unfortunately, has not yet been translated into English).
Erickson, Robert, The Structure of Music, A Listener's Guide
(Erickson's later book, Sound Structure in Music, mostly about timbre, is also interesting, but for whatever reasons, I have never returned to it)
Harrison, Lou, Lou Harrison's Music Primer
Kühn, Clemens, Formenlehre der Musik (needs to be translated)
Morley, Thomas, A Plaine and Easy Introduction to Practical Music
Mozart, W.A., Attwood-Studien (The harmony and counterpoint notebooks of Mozart's student Thomas Attwood)
Seeger, Charles, Harmony (Sadly, very difficult to find!)
Seeger, Charles, Dissonant Counterpoint (article)

These come from the visual arts, and say nothing explicit about musical composition, let alone tuning, but they are so rich in ideas that I can't imagine not having them near my desk:

Klee, Paul, Pedagogical Sketchbook
Wechsler, Lawrence, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One
Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin

I'm not alone among composers in having found this valuable:

Thompson, D'arcy, On Growth and Form

These are more recent additions to my library, so have not yet faced
the test of time, but are certainly worth a look:

Andriessen/Schönberger, The Apollonian Clockwork: On Stravinsky
Ashley, Robert (ed.), Music with Roots in the Aether
Lucier, Alvin, Reflections/Reflektionen
Tenzer, Michael, Gamelan Gong Kebyar: The Art of Twentieth Century Balinese Music
Wolff, Christian, Cues/Hinweise

I continue to be impressed by John Cage's contribution to the Hoover/Cage Virgil Thomson; Cage was a gifted writer about practical musical technique.

One of my students recommends this so strongly that I include it here despite my own reservations:

Mathieu, W.A., The Harmonic Experience

We still need a contemporary volume to replace Helmholz's The Sensations of Tone. William Sethares' Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale is an important book. Richard Parncutt's Harmony: A Psychoacoustical Approach is one of the more interesting pieces of scholarship in the field. It's out of print, but the publisher has admirably allowed for free downloads, via:


Hucbald said...

Hi Daniel,

I'm a regular reader of your exemplary blog. I'd be interested in obtaining the Mozart-Attwood materials - I studied his lessons with Padre Martini years back - but a Google search produced nothing currently in print. It's listed as K506a isn't it? If you know of anything available, you can e-me at hucbald -at-



Daniel Wolf said...

It's in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe, volume X/30 Band 1. The Bärenreiter-Verlag's website indicates that it's out-of-print.

X/30: Studien, Skizzen, Entwürfe, Fragmente, Varia
Band 1 (Attwood-Studien) Erich Hertzman und Cecil B. Oldman, fertiggestellt von Daniel Heartz und Alfred Mann 1965; KB (Heartz, Mann) 1969.

fredösphere said...

The Apollonian Clockwork has been on my Amazon wish list for a long time. It was out of print; now I see a paperback version can be pre-ordered; no word on the length of the wait.

I can't even remember where I originally got the recommendation for this book, only that it was a strong one. Seeing it on your list only confirms that I should get it.

Fredosphere said...

The Apollonian Clockwork has been on my amazon wish list for a long time. I don't remember where I originally got the recommendation, only that it was a strong one. Seeing it on your list today confirms I should read it.

It has been out of print for a while, but now a paperback version can be pre-ordered.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why the Mozart-Attwood lessons are so hard to get hold of, and I can't find the Padre Martini lessons anywhere either. There are countless books on composition by non-composers, yet here is a genuine master giving practical lessons -and the book is out of print. I can't be bothered with theoretical treatises on music. Surely the proof's in the pudding when it comes to composition!

R. C. Sotorrio