As should be clear, I like lists. Lists of essential pieces, lists of music for holidays, whatever. Here’s another one: my thirty favorite books on concert music (as of today). The criteria could neither be simpler nor as unassailable: they have to be on concert music and I have to like them. No more meaning should be ascribed to the order of the list than to the list itself.

The Classical Style; Charles Rosen
Silence; John Cage
Instrumentation; Andrew Stiller
Essays Before a Sonata; Charles Ives
The Time of Music; Jonathan Kramer
Arnold Schoenberg; Charles Rosen
Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds; Alan Edwards and Elliott Carter
The Music of John Cage; James Pritchett
The Music of Elliott Carter (Second Edition); David Schiff
Simple Composition; Charles Wuorinen
Give My Regards to Eighth Street; Morton Feldman
A Generative Theory of Tonal Music; Fred Lehrdahl and Ray Jackendoff
Music in Theory and Practice; Bruce Benward and Marilyn Saker
Computer Music; Charles Dodge
Emotion and Meaning in Music; Leonard B. Meyer
Compendium of Modern Instrumental Techniques; Gardner Read
The Musical Experience of Performer, Composer, Listener; Roger Sessions
The Beethoven Quartets; Joseph Kerman
Writings About Music; Steve Reich
Harmony; Walter Piston
The Technique of Orchestration; Kent Kennan
Counterpoint; Kent Kennan
Harmony Book; Elliott Carter
A Practical Approach to Sixteenth-Century Counterpoint; Robert Gauldin
Music Notation; Gardner Read
The Acoustical Foundations of Music; John Backus
Poetics of Music; Igor Stravinsky
Form in Tonal Music; Douglass Green
For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet; Rebecca Rischin
Gustav Mahler; Bruno Walter


  1. Anonymous4:13 PM

    While Read and Kennan are worth reading on orchestration, for me the master book (and accompanying CD) is Samuel Adler's "The Study of Orchestration." I also love Cecil Forsyth's "Orchestration," not only for its advice, but especially for its humor--it's the funniest music textbook I know.

    Chris Hertzog

  2. Those are both good catches. I'm sure there are many more I just plain old forgot to list.

  3. I would add:
    Bruckner and Mahler by Jack Diether,
    Men Women and Pianos by Arthur Loesser,
    Music of Three Seasons by Andrew Porter,
    Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music ed. Donald Randel,
    and the satiical novel by Herbert Russcol, Philharmonic.