There is an abundance of books concerning 20th century concert music--anlytical, historical, polemical--you name it, someone has written about it.

I have some favorites and I imagine some/most of you do, too. I'd like to compile a list of some of the best of the bunch, mostly as resource, but also in the hopes of coming across something I haven't heard of or that I have meant to read.

I'd like suggestions for the list, in the following three categories:

1) books by composers;
2) books not by composers; and
3) fiction and poetry in which 20th century concert music plays an important role.

Please offer suggestions in the comments, or feel free to email me.

1 comment:

  1. Steve —

    A list of books that I find useful to composers is here:


    As to 20th century music history, William Austin and Marian Bauer remain very useful for the first half of the century, but for the second half, I think you have to gather the limbs of Osiris, as it were, from lots of different sources. Michael Nyman's book on Experimental Music was personally very important (I got it, in High School, the year it was first published), and Paul Griffith's Modern Music, as a general survey of the European avant-garde. In German, Dibelius's two volume history is very good and surprisingly well-balanced.

    The attempts at big, sweeping general histories are less successful, Taruskin's Oxford History, despite spending two volumes on the 20th century, is disappointing in amost every chapter as the necessary selectiveness leads to many odd lacunae, for example in his treatment of Cage. (That said, Taruskin's two-volumes on Stravinsky and the Russian tradition are brilliant and inspiring.)

    As to fiction and poetry, I'm sure you have the most familiar examples (Werfel's Verdi, Mann's Doctor Faustus, Gaddis's The Recognitions and JR) but perhaps less familiar to you are the epistolary novels of Nathaniel Mackey, beginning with The Bedouin Hornbook and the fiction of Carter Scholz, who is also a fine composer.