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The Joy of Music

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,870 ratings  ·  46 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 (first published 1959)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  1,870 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Nov 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  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Bernstein can be hippieish and outdated at times ("now, isn't that as hot a lick as you could wish for?"), and the audience for several of these "imaginary conversations" and TV talks either isn't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
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Sandra Park-Callaghan
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely loved this book! Even if you have no background in music (ESPECIALLY if you don't) the way Leonard Bernstein discusses music in various forms will give you a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the medium. I admittedly can't read music very well (even with singing lessons and three years of trombone), but I still "read" the music that appears throughout and was able to at least understand the movement and flow of the pieces he discusses. I also plan to watch the clips of ...more
Tim Drummond
Nov 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
May Ling
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Nandha Kishore
Instead of calling it a collection of essays or imaginary conversations, I would like to term this a compilation of thoughts from Bernstein.

Bernstein at the very beginning quashes my notion of understanding classical music or the way in which I've usually sought to understand classical music. He argues that only purely musical meanings are worth pursuing and that's what he intends to do in the book. The way he systematically talks about Beethoven's music and confirms his numero uno status as a
Anson Cassel Mills
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
More than fifty years after reading this book for the first time (and almost sixty years after watching Bernstein’s Omnibus lectures on commercial TV), I reread my old paperback copy of this work with its Smyth-sewn binding. Much of the first section, “Imaginary Conversations,” now seemed dated, perhaps because Bernstein was trying too hard to write in what passed for 1950s casual style. Nevertheless, there’s still much of value here for the thoughtful reader.

The seven Omnibus television scripts
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arts
This book offers stellar insights into Bernstein's attitudes about music, conducting, and composition (especially how he prefers a slight musical idea fully developed to a transcendent standalone tune, the difference between enjoying Mozart and Gershwin while kowtowing to Beethoven and Kern). Over half of this book consists of the scripts to seven of his televised Omnibus music programs, programs of music pedagogy about jazz, Bach, opera, rhythm, and other aspects of music worth appreciating. Al ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is a collection of essays, adapted mostly from TV performances Bernstein did in the 1950s and 60s. The problem with it in book-form is that, when it comes to the musical examples, you need to be a pretty good reader of music to interpret them (on the TV show, he just played them). I have some basic music-reading skills, but the score sections in the book were above my level, and I ended up skipping them.

It's a pity, because he does have some interesting things to say, and you can pick
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I must admit that this book has helped me a lot. Especially considering the fact that I have fulfilled some of my knowledge gaps caused by getting bored of studying music in music college. To be honest, I f*cked up most of lections being a freshman/sophomore because I wasn't sure about my desires, my goals etc. and simply I was a fool misled by my own wrong statements and rejections but now I'm sort of rehabilitating and revising my own state of mind.
Mary Rice
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
“That is really the crowning delight of opera: that in the very same moment we can experience conflicting passions, contrasting moods, and separate events. And because only the gods have ever been able to perceive more than one thing at a time, we are, for this short period, raised to the level of the gods.”
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I so wish we had a contemporary who was communicating about music the way Bernstein did. This book includes scripts from his telecasts, which I need to find if they're online somewhere. Really enjoyed it.
Benitez Bryn2
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
the book is really fantastic
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I only wish I had access to recordings of the music while reading!
Patrícia Pereira
This time, I only read some of its pages. Maybe I'll borrow it again from the local library, but I'll save it for another time.
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
Read it once, but really read it once a year. This has been my companion for years.
Jonny Brick
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beginner's guide from the master of twentieth century classical music. The right tone and the right message conveys the joy of music.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
excellently well
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
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
Jake Berlin
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
David Sabala
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
May 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
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
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
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.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, non-fiction, music
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.
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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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