Posted by Hoyt Smith on January 28, 2010
One of our regular listeners, Jack from San Anselmo, made me aware of a review in the Wall Street Journal of a new book by Ruth Katz that explains how Western music developed its common and innately understandable language and then lost both its grammar and coherence. The book, A Language of its Own, takes us on a journey from Plato who bemoaned the state of music in the 4th century B.C., writing “Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave.” to modern times and a modern British composer who stated “I can’t be responsible for the audience.” WSJ reviewer James Penrose concludes by saying “To be sure, “A Language of Its Own” is not a long moan about the rise and fall of Western music. Ms. Katz is an elegant analyst, not a polemicist. And she is hopeful that our musical tradition can regain its footing, perhaps by re-creating the “abstracting” process that allowed Western music, despite its inability to describe what it does, to beguile and fascinate us for so long.”
Looks to be a fascinating read. The full review is here.