Classical Music 101-Book Review

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Classical Music 101 by Fred Plotkin has been in my stack of books to review for next year for quite some time. It finally made it to the top of the stack last week and here are my thoughts.

I can’t claim to have read every page in this big, thick, 674 page book but I can give you a really good idea of what it is all about. I was led to reading this book on the recommendation of The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. They suggest using it as part of a high school music appreciation program. (see page 583)

Classical Music 101 is written in a different style than most music appreciation books. It is not done in chronological order and it does not focus on each composer and go through his works. Rather it covers classical music topically, such as how to listen to music and an overview of the different instruments of the orchestra. He narrows his music and composer selections slightly by sticking to Western Classical music. He highly suggests listening to the pieces he has selected and then read about the music and composer.

I have tried to come up with a practical, economic way of using this book for my own family’s high school music appreciation but nothing has really worked. There are so many CDs that he suggests that you listen to, that it would be impossible to afford all that he even says are vital to listen to. Taking this into account, I tried to come up with a way to space the purchases out over the four years of high school and even then there were dozens per year. Hmmmmm. If the aim of the book is to get you to listen to the best classical music, maybe he should have narrowed the choices down a bit for those that have a limited budget for purchasing musical CDs for their own home library.

I know I said that I wouldn’t compare Classical Music 101 to Classical Music Experience but I feel inclined to do so at this point. Classical Music Experience has one or two suggested works per composer to listen to. It also comes with two CDs of the composer’s music to listen to. For my family’s music appreciation plan, we are going to cover 9 composers per year from the book and most of the suggested pieces are ones that can be listened to very easily on Classical If we feel inclined to own any of the pieces, we then can choose the ones we really want with minimal financial investment. This book will be used for all four years of high school.

I would not recommend Classical Music 101 as a main text for high school appreciation, but I would think it could be a decent reference book to have on hand. The book itself is very affordable, but all the CDs he suggests that you listen to that add up to a small fortune.

Happy listening,
Harmony Art Mom

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