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This is the latest (number 11) in the delightful “ginger” series from Awa Press. It has been proven that to take an apparently simple task or event, and find an expert in the field to write a short work about it provides the reader with an interesting, insightful and not-too-long volume. It helps that the book is beautifully presented – excellent paper, clear typeface and decent margins. This may sound superficial, but lately it seems to be increasingly difficult to find books which are beautifully produced.
So, to the work itself. I find it fascinating that Caddy has entitled it “how to hear” rather than “how to listen to”. She has a clear understanding of the noise which constantly surrounds us, and is aware of how many of us select what we want to hear via iPods and so on, rather than be assaulted by the cacophany of daily life.
Her writing style is easy, chatty almost, and certainly engaging. She addresses the many ways in which classical music has been presented, from the concert hall recital (“Blow ’em up!”) to the Landfill Harmonic Youtube clip. I found myself heading to the computer to check out many of the artists and works mentioned, and have a list of music which I ought to own but don’t yet!
To the purist, Davinia Caddy may be challenging. To a rank amateur, she is a tonic – rules of how to listen to music are forsworn in favour of real-life experiments and experiences ranging from the apparently-randomly-placed pianos which pop up all over European cities, just for people to play on, to Jane Chapman’s revival of music for the harpsichord, and from how phone-music ruins our favourite pieces to how modern opera is transforming itself.
I found it a fascinating and enlightening journey through the development of classical music, which certainly makes the reader want to explore further and hear music differently.
Highly recommended, 9/10!
Reviewed by Susan Esterman
How to hear classical music
by Davinia Caddy
Published by Awa Press