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The Orchestra

A Very Short Introduction
Narrated by: Steve Baker
Length: 4 hrs and 19 mins

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Publisher's Summary

In this Very Short Introduction, D. Kern Holoman considers the structure, roots, and day-to-day functioning of the modern philharmonic society. He explores topics ranging from the life of a musician in a modern orchestra, the recent wave of new hall construction from Berlin to Birmingham, threats of bankruptcies and strikes, and the eyebrow-raising salaries of conductors and general managers. At the heart of the book lies a troubling pair of questions: Can such a seemingly anachronistic organization long survive? Does the symphony matter in contemporary culture? Holoman responds to both with a resounding yes. He shows that the orchestra remains a potent political and social force, a cultural diplomat par excellence. It has adapted well to the digital revolution, and it continues to be seen as an essential element of civic pride. In a time of upheaval in how classical music is created, heard, distributed, and evaluated, the orchestra has managed to retain its historic role as a meeting place of intellectual currents, an ongoing forum for public enlightenment.

©2012 Oxford University Press (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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  • Darwin8u
  • 12-03-2019

...without music, life would be a mistake.

"...without music, life would be a mistake."
- Fredrich Nietzsche, quoted in The Orchestra, A VSI

I didn't grow up listening to classical music, but orchestral music grew on my in college as I bought cheap Naxos sets (while still mainly fixated on alternative and punk rock). I continued to deepen my appreciation for the form, however, slowly year after year. Most recent years find me attending one or two concerts. This year (next week actually), I'm flying out to LA with my wife to see Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic perform Mahler's 9th. There is something about seeing an orchestra peform a piece by Mahler, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahams, etc., that is hard to capture in a CD or vinyl reproduction.

That said, this has also been a perfect time to collect CDs of classical music. You can buy cheap, wonderful pressings of the classical repertoire. I pick up, almost weekly, at Goodwill or other 2nd-hand-stores: Sony, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Victor, Archiv, Decca, London Classics, etc., for $1-$3 a cd (practically unlistened to).

This book reads almost like David Byrne's How Music Works but for the Orchestra. Holoman describes the history, politics, money, art, venues, conductors, and music of orchestral music. As a lover of the orchestra it was entertaining and enlightening. Nothing came as a shock, but it put a lot in historical and musical perspective and reminded me both how dynamic and new orchestral music (as currently structured) really is.

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  • George MP
  • 11-05-2018

True title

The orchestra is a short introduction. I wish it were longer.

I liked the stories and anecdotes; they brought the subject to life. Since this is such a dynamic topic, I would have liked greater currency.

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  • polestar
  • 08-01-2018

bias

It is not about the orchestra as world culture its about the orchestra as a an American art/ business phenomenon with what promises to be a bias to New York!