But they do occur inside the book and are given here for a better illustration of its scope. Keepers of the blue flags, make haste to mark it. This is not a review for the simple reason that this is a truly great book. Now, mediocre books may occasionally give rise to a great review. But great books nearly always demonstrate only the mediocrity of the reviewer. My own mediocrity is a well-known public secret.

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But they do occur inside the book and are given here for a better illustration of its scope. Keepers of the blue flags, make haste to mark it. This is not a review for the simple reason that this is a truly great book. Now, mediocre books may occasionally give rise to a great review. But great books nearly always demonstrate only the mediocrity of the reviewer. My own mediocrity is a well-known public secret. This is why I will leave Deryck Cooke to tell the whole story in his own words.

I do believe this is by far the finest possible "review" of this neglected masterpiece. I hope to convince every music lover, layman or professional, that The Language of Music is very well worth his time, no matter whether he agrees with Deryck or not. There are several points more I should like to make by way of preface. The first one is about what cannot be quoted here: the 98 musical examples.

He has supplied a great deal more examples than I have mentioned. Most of them occur in chapters 2 and 3, and they often consist of quite a few sections that use substantial part of the English alphabet.

Also, there often are, space permitted, several examples on a single line and under a single letter, all neatly marked with names of composers and years of composition. As a rule, Deryck has tried to illustrate how every one of the motives he discusses has been used for at least two centuries, from the early eighteenth to the mid-twentieth from Bach to Stravinsky in other words , though occasionally he goes back to the thirteenth century and obscure works by now nearly completely forgotten masters.

Deryck has taken lots of pains to make his book accessible to the layman. It goes without saying that a trained musician will find it an easier and more profitable read. In the text Deryck explains carefully every single example: where exactly it comes from, why it is used to illustrate this particular point. Many of the motives come from vocal works opera, oratorio, lieder and the sung texts are always provided, and though they are often self-explanatory they usually enjoy the same lavish treatment as the more elusive instrumental passages.

For the sake of clarity the quotes are given exactly as they are in the book. All italicized words and passages have been reproduced faithfully. My own additions appear in square brackets. Personal opinions have been rigorously and as far as possible suppressed. Nevertheless, I believe they do show, if not the full scope, at least the essence of the book.

Addendum [December ]. I have included as many photographs of the original music examples as I could. The quality is far from stellar, but it is hoped that they are at least legible and may complement the text. Blurred words and wavy staves are not defects of the book but of my equipment and skill as a photographer.

When we try to assess the achievement of a great literary artist, one of the chief ways in which we approach his work is to examine it as a report on human experience. The same is unfortunately not felt to be true of the artist who makes his contribution to human culture, not in the language of speech, but in that of music. Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?

Therein lies the difficulty. Thus the two inseparable aspects of an expressive art are separated, and one is utterly neglected - much to the detriment of our understanding of the other. But there is another, more serious consequence of our attitude: one whole side of our culture is impoverished, since we deny ourselves the possibility of enlarging our understanding of human experience by a specifically musical view of it.

But we musicians, instead of trying to understand this language, preach the virtues of refusing to consider it a language at all; when we should be attempting, as literary critics do, to expound and interpret the great masterpieces of our art for the benefit of humanity at large, we concern ourselves more and more with parochial affairs - technical analyses and musicological minutiae - and pride ourselves on our detached, de-humanized approach.

This used not to be so. Some years ago it was regarded as the normal procedure to evaluate composers - notably Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms - according to what they expressed. But unfortunately this approach was too vague and unscientific: the interpretation soon strayed far away from the actual stuff of the music to become a kind of private transcendental self-intoxication with words.

And it was no doubt the wild and baseless conclusions of some of the writers of those days that led the aestheticians of our own time to lay an embargo on the interpretation of musical works. Better ignore the whole vexatious question, they must have felt, than wallow in such a morass of subjectivity. What Goethe, Baudelaire, and Kafka said may be valuable data for the final understanding of humanity; what Beethoven, Berlioz, and Mahler said is certainly not - simply because there is no way of agreeing as to exactly what they did say.

But perhaps we have given up the problem a little too easily. Perhaps, since music is the expression of emotion, and we so strongly distrust emotion nowadays, we have not been eager to come to grips with the problem at all.

There is no reason why it should not prove capable of solution, as other problems are. It may be that we have just not yet found a way of understanding this language, and that much of our interpretation of it is simply misinterpretation.

When this happens to the musically uninitiated, we smile, but it can just as easily happen to the musically sophisticated, for we none of us really understand the language. It attempts to show that the conception of music as a language capable of expressing certain very definite things is not a romantic aberration, but has been the common unconscious assumption of composers for the past five-and-a-half centuries at least.

It attempts to isolate the various means of expression available to the composer - the various procedures in the dimensions of pitch, time, and volume - and discover what emotional effects these procedures can produce; but more specifically, it tries to pinpoint the inherent emotional characters of the various notes on the major, minor, and chromatic scales, and of certain basic melodic patterns which have been used persistently throughout our musical history. The investigation of musical language is confined to Europe , since if music is an international language within a given continent, it is certainly not an inter-continental language.

It has also been confined almost entirely to art-music including modern popular music : although the roots of musical language must certainly lie in folk-music, this approach has been completely rejected, for the simple reason that it is impossible to verify the original emotional impulse of folk-tune.

Even in those many cases where a text has come down in conjunction with the tune, it is impossible to be sure that it is the original text; people are at any time only too capable of taking, say, a gay old tune and writing some melancholy new words for it. The investigation is further confined to tonal music, i. It does not in any way attempt to deal with the entirely new musical language which has arisen out of the abrogation of tonality by some composers during the last half-century; since this new language clearly bears little or no relation to the long-established one based on the tonal system.

Nevertheless, if the findings of this book are accepted, a certain widely-held view on the new non-tonal language would now seem, on the face of it, to amount to a logically inescapable conclusion, which can be briefly stated as follows.

Since the new language is unrelievedly chromatic by nature, it must be restricted to what chromaticism always was restricted to expressing - what indeed we feel even the very earliest chromaticism of the sixteenth-century Italians still to this day expresses - emotions of the most painful type though a wide variety of expression can naturally be achieved by presenting these emotions in diverse ways - gently, fiercely, satirically, grotesquely, even jestingly.

It may be objected that since this new music makes no use of tonal centres, its persistent chromaticism has not the same expressive connotations as that of tonal music; but expressive connotations it must have, and how else can they be interpreted except in relation to the much expanded tonal system, which ultimately derives its expressive qualities from acoustical facts?

Thus, from the purely negative point of view, the fact that the new music shuns the basic acoustical consonances of the octave, fifth, fourth, and triad, suggests that it does not express the simple fundamental sense of being at one with nature and life.

This may by no means be the case, of course; it may be that we are just misapprehending the new language, as we have often tended to misapprehend the old. But the burden of proof that it is not the case should now be fairly and squarely on the shoulders of non-tonal composers and theorists. If this state of affairs calls forth a clear and convincing outline of the expressive aims of the new language, with an account of some of the terms of its vocabulary and some of its forms of expression, to offset ever so slightly the present welter of aridly technical, not to say purely mathematical exegesis, no one will be more pleased than the present writer, who whole-heartedly admires such of this music as he has found expressive of emotion.

Although all the arts are essentially autonomous, owing to the different materials and techniques which they employ, there is clearly a kind of bond between them. Admittedly, much of the phraseology which traffics between arts is purely metaphorical, being concerned only with the effect of a work of art. Such a metaphor, while useful for descriptive purposes, cannot help us to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of art.

In using such analogies, of course, we must keep in mind the difference inherent in the use of different materials. Analogies of this kind are continually being made between music and the other arts.

And there is no doubt that music can be analogically related to each of these three arts: to architecture, in its quasi-mathematical construction; to painting, in its representation of physical objects; and to literature, in its use of a language to express emotion.

We may turn first to the analogy with painting, since this would seem to be the least essential, existing only in the case of a limited number of works, and passage of works. It exists where the composer imitates physical objects in terms of sound, addressed to the ear, as the painter does in terms of light, addressed to the eye.

There are three ways in which music can represent physical objects. Here the parallel with painting is almost exact: the painter can represent the visual but not the aural aspect of the object, the composer the aural but not the visual.

In the case of a cuckoo, the composer may even be said to have the advantage, since to anyone but a naturalist it is a purely aural phenomenon!

The second way is by approximate imitation of something which emits a sound of indefinite pitch, such as a thunderstorm, a rippling brook, or rustling branches. The third way in which music can represent physical objects is by the suggestion or symbolization of a purely visual thing, such as lightning, clouds or mountains, using sounds which have an effect on the ear similar to that which the appearance of the object has on the eye.

Here music at once approaches closest to painting, and recedes farthest from it. But if Debussy had not given the Nocturne its title, we should have been uncertain what the composer intended to represent, if anything at all. The fact that, in such cases, a title is necessary to set the imagination working, is often taken as proof of the illegitimacy of this kind of musical tone-painting. But it is not always realized that even some poems are not fully intelligible without their titles.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls. Once the actual title is known, of course, there is nothing ambiguous about the poem at all.

The imitation is only a framework on which each type of artist, using the materials of his own art, superimposes his vision of the imitated object, or his subjective experience of it. Here the analogy with painting ends, since there is obviously no connection between the technical organization of notes and that of paint. At first, our analogy looks to be simple and conclusive one: music is the audible, as architecture is the visible, embodiment of pure form.

How far can we apply it? To all music, or only to certain kinds of music? It is easy to justify the common application of it to some of the greatest music ever written - the contrapuntal masterpiece of the old polyphonic composers, down to and including Bach. In these, the themes are sometimes scarcely more emotionally expressive than bricks or blocks of stone e. What attracts us is not so much the thematic material as the satisfying way in which it is woven together; not so much, say, the fugue-subject, as the masterly working-out of it in stretto, to produce a sonorous climax.

In all these cases, the raw material is nothing, the intellectual construction everything, and the impact on the listener almost entirely a formal and aesthetic one. But once we step outside of the limited world of polyphony, in which the intellect predominates, the analogy becomes vague and unprofitable, for two reasons. Firstly, the difference in the materials comes to the fore: the musical material of non-polyphonic music is not inexpressive like that of architecture, but is charged with human feeling.

Secondly, in the manipulation of such material, purely intellectual techniques are replaced by methods in which the intellect is to some extent at the service of feelings. Indeed, musical material as it is hoped to show in this book is by its very nature expressive; though of course its expressiveness can sometimes be extremely slight.

Nevertheless, broadly speaking, the architectural analogy holds good for all polyphony, whether expressive or inexpressive, in that the construction is primarily intellectual and the impact primarily formal; and it breaks down outside polyphony because the construction is guided by feeling and the impact is to a considerable extent emotional.

He then sums up the situation so far:] Clearly then, we cannot press the architectural analogy too far as many are intent on doing at the present juncture of musical history. It has really just as limited an application as the analogy with painting: only a certain type of music, to a certain degree, can legitimately be regarded as pure, quasi-mathematical form.

So we may say that, except within very closely defined limits, music is neither a representative art, like painting, nor a purely formal art, like architecture. What kind of an art is it, then? In some way or other, it conveys to us the subjective experience of composers.

But in what way?


Deryck Cooke

Shelves: non-fiction This is a truly wonderful book. I happened upon a copy in a used book store and it immediately grabbed my attention. I had wondered about the possibility of music being a language, and speaking to a deep and emotional part of human nature, but had never seen the idea developed or argued at length. Cooke argues that Western mostly classical music is truly a language, but one that speaks to the emotions and not to the This is a truly wonderful book.


The Language of Music

Vindications Deryck Cooke. Kevin J. Deryck Cookes book, The Language of Music,. The Philosophy and Psychology of Music Perception:. Dowlands Lachrimae is perhaps the greatest but most..



Life[ edit ] Cooke was born in Leicester to a poor, working-class family; his father died when he was a child, but his mother was able to afford piano lessons. Cooke acquired a brilliant technique and began to compose. His undergraduate studies were interrupted by the Second World War, during which he served in the Royal Artillery and took part in the invasion of Italy. Towards the end of the war he became pianist in an army dance band.



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