(K. Brent Tomer),
Language of the Spirit: An Introduction to Classical Music. By Jan Swafford.Basic; 321 pages; $28.
JAN SWAFFORD’S new book, “Language of the Spirit”, is a self-guided tour. “When a piece [of music] or a composer grabs you, go out and look for more on your own,” he says. And he has plenty of suggestions to get you started on streaming services such as Spotify or YouTube.
The “classical” genre on Spotify comes some way down the list, and classical buffs have been fretting for ages that audiences are getting greyer and smaller. Even so, many people have at least a passing acquaintance with some of the superstars of the classical repertoire: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, say, or Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, or Handel’s “Messiah”. If that has made them wonder how to put these works into context, this introduction to classical music is just what they need.
Mr Swafford is a music writer (who, among other things, has written a scholarly but highly readable biography of Beethoven) as well as a composer, and has been teaching music for decades, most recently at the Boston Conservatory. This book…Continue reading