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The Joy of Music

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  960 ratings  ·  28 reviews
This classic work is perhaps Bernstein's finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of "Imaginary Conversations" in the first section of his book, B ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 1st 2004 by Amadeus Press (first published 1959)
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Dec 04, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grandees
Shelves: music
Bernstein can be hippieish and outdated at times ("now, isn't that as hot a lick as you could wish for?"), and the audience for several of these "imaginary conversations" and TV talks either isn't precisely me, or doesn't exist anymore (for instance when Bernstein assumes that everyone listening will know some basic tune that everyone knew in the 50s, and no one has known for 20 years because we don't teach music in the public schools anymore). But he's indisputably an engaging, gifted, energeti ...more
What should I say about this book? It is a collection of scripts from various radio/television interviews Leonard Bernstein gave over the course of his life. So, half of the scripts are okay [1-2 stars], and the other half is a.m.a.z.i.n.g. [4-5+ stars] I particularly enjoyed Bernstein’s analyses of the music of J.S. Bach, contemporary classical composers, Beethoven’s 5th, and Jazz. His insights are practical and instructive. Lots of music theory and analysis of compositional forms. I also enjoy ...more
this book was written for the non-musician, but musicians of all ages and experiences would benefit from a read, too. LB taps into diff classical areas -- jazz, modern music, bach, opera (just to name a few) -- in a way only a conductor can, maybe in a way only LB can. i got my mind blown during his overtones discussion. does every other musician know this? --> that overtones gave us the notes to build the common chord and the pentatonic scale? whaaaaat. music is amazing.
Sandra Park
i remember the first time i read this, especially the first imaginary conversation he has with himself (over Beethoven). i felt like someone punched me in the gut. in a very, very good way. i just knew *exactly* what he was talking about. one of my favorite books of all time.
I found this gem at Thrift Town, and ended up reading it in one sitting (including time at the piano)! I learned so much from it. I wish I could have seen these TV programs when they came out. Bernstein would have had a fabulous blog, if he'd had time to blog.
I research more about Leonard Bernstein while reading this review, and watched the making of west side story ( Bernstein is an interesting and talented man, and his book deepens my understanding of music.

Classical music
Bernstein discussed Beethoven and Chopin in depth in his book. Following these two great composers, Bernstein talks about music forms.

Ultimately one must simply ply accept the loving fact that people enjoy listening to organized sound (cer
"My idol has been desecrated before my eyes! There he lies, a bedraggled, deaf, syphilitic; besmirched by the vain tongue of pseudocriticism; no attention paid to his obvious genius, his miraculous outpourings, his pure revelation, his vision of glory, brotherhood, divinity! There he lies a mediocre melodist, a homely harmonist, an iterant riveter of a rhythmist, an ordinary orchestrator, a commonplace contrapuntist!
Form is only an empty word, a shell, without this gift of inevitability; a co
Bernstein has such a way of making the complex seem common and simple. This is why he was able to have Young People's Concerts and Omnibus. It's for these reasons that I give this book a five. I wish I had his gift. To be honest, I didn't learn much from the book, as I've taken far too many music classes. I don't necessarily disagree with another reviewer that this book is slightly dated. It's not like Bernstein is alive to update it. The book is exactly what it says it is, transcripts to televi ...more
Tim Drummond
A very accessible look into the world of classical music. Leonard Bernstein, one of America's greatest conductors, composers, and music educators, helps us to see why he loves Bach, opera, and Beethoven, and why we should care. The majority of the book is a series of transcripts from his 1950's era TV show "Omnibus," complete with score excerpts for those who can read music (it doesn't really take away all that much if you can't though). There are a lot of books about why certain music is so gre ...more
A wonderful piece on Bernstein's thoughts on music. I thoroughly enjoyed the written pieces. For those that don't play an instrument, just use youtube to help you along with the music piece.

I found it amazing that so many of the thoughts that he had about the composers are identical to what my impressions are. It was re-assuring to know that I'm on the right track. Of course, Bernstein articulates better than I ever could.

I adore his comments on Bach. I don't love Beethoven like he does, but I
Jake Berlin
a wonderful read for any lover of music. bernstein obviously has an in-depth understanding of all of the wide range of subjects, but like the great communicator he was is able to deliver ideas and examples that anyone can understand. that being said, there's a fair amount of written music in the book, so not being able to read music might take away from the experience slightly (but not enough, in my mind, to dissuade you from reading it). the last few chapters are transcripts (with pieces added) ...more
Interesting perspectives on well known classics.
David Sabala
This is a perfect book for music lovers. Bernstein was a talented and entertaining showman. I could only imagine what it would have been like to take a course from him. He doesn't hold back from some of the esoteric topics in music theory, but instead delves into them, unconvinced that the layman is too limited to understand them. He does this all without seeming to talk down to people. If you're a music lover, musician or student, this book seems essential. Thank you, L.B.
This collection of essays is valuable mostly because of Bernstein's infectious excitement about classical music; hence, the title, I suppose. It's not very academic, but he has some unique insights and perspectives on music history and aesthetics. The transcripts of his TV shows, at the end of this collection, are a little pointless, as they refer constantly to the episode's musical excerpts. Overall, I recommend it to classical-music lovers, Bernstein fans in particular.
Focuses more on the music, talks less about the joy:

"The only way one can really say anything about music is to write music."

And then he goes on to write about music for 250 pages. Includes "Imaginary Conversations" in the form of dialogues, television scripts, magazine articles, lots of sheet music, and even little illustrations of composer figurines in action.
Mikael Lind
I remember that this book made me understand a whole lot more about music when I read this as a youngster. I should probably read it again. Before reading this, I thought most 12 tone music was completely unintelligible, but Bernstein explains the musical development through the history in an eye-opening fashion.
Amazing insights and a treat to read reasonable music analysis, not emotional "wine" reviews. I learned a lot and now want to go find the videos. Bernstein was an amazing force. Didn't quite make me want to listen to opera but Bach deserves some more of my time.
It's a little hard to rate a book that's a collection of different articles. The one on Bach would certainly get a four, but some of the others only a two. :) There's some very good material here--the chapter on the music of Bach is amazing.
Witty and insightful guide into some of the deeper meanings of music. The music scores added to the experience, especially when I decided to play the relevant pieces on Youtube, or something similar. Good stuff.
Mar 21, 2011 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dan by: found it on my shelf
Great Book including really funny and understandable definitions of various types of music.

Must get the Omnibus TV shows somewhere to put the music to the words, but the words alone are great reading.
This is an amazing book for a music lover of any kind. Bernstein makes you look at music in new ways that give you a better understanding of the music and better ways to articulate that understanding.
A collection of ideas/conversations/tv transcripts from Leonard Bernstein about different areas of music. Some were very insightful and some weren't as inspiring.
Mar 11, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
I don't care much for his conducting (I know, I suck) but I have to say, the man knew his stuff.
A strange but wonderful collection of short writing about music and its enjoyment.
Alex Diaz
My favorite musician, and a mind that explored the possibilities. I own two copies.
cynthia Clark
Very difficult to get anything out of if you don't already read music.
William Beauvais
the guy is over rated....
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  • The Lives of the Great Composers
  • The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
  • The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart
  • Beethoven
  • The Cello Suites
  • The Study of Counterpoint
  • Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons
  • Listen to This
  • The Inner Game of Music
  • A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances
  • A History of Western Music
  • What to Listen for in Music (Revised Edition)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician
  • Music, Language, and the Brain
  • Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination
  • Testimony: The Memoirs
  • Silence: Lectures and Writings
  • Emotion and Meaning in Music
Leonard Bernstein was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was the first conductor born and educated in the United States of America to receive world-wide acclaim. He is perhaps best known for his long conducting relationship with the New York Philharmonic, which included the acclaimed Young People's Concerts series, and his compositions including West Side Story ...more
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“Music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning ... except its own.” 42 likes
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