Learn the basics of music terminology
(All terms explained by Miles Hoffman, excerpted from The NPR® Classical Music Companion: Terms and Concepts from A to Z)
Great books to learn from
- WHO'S AFRAID OF CLASSICAL MUSIC? : A highly arbitrary and thoroughly opinionated guide to listening to and enjoying symphony, opera and chamber music: The classical music critic for Time magazine humorously makes classical music accessible in an easy-to-read style.
- What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland: An essential classic written by an author who was himself a great composer. Does not cover music of the last half-century.
- The Vintage Guide to Classical Music: A lively -- and opinionated -- musical history and an insider's key to the personalities, epochs, and genres of the Western classical tradition.
- The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection : The 350 Essential Works This, the second edition, has one-third new selections and reviews, and a 50% change in discography to keep all suggested CDs up to date.
All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music
The definitive source: covers over 500 composers, 800+ performer biographies, thousands of compositions, with album recommendations for artists. Includes 23 essays devoted to classical music's major eras, forms, and genres.
Classical Music: Third Ear: The Essential Listening Companion
This excellent guide to classical music discography ranges over the entire history of recorded sound, with 50-plus contributors covering some 500 composers.
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The Classical Music FAQ
Here is the table of contents from the rec.music.classical FAQ, last updated in 1995:
Q1. What are the major periods of "classical" music? Q2. I'm new to classical music and don't have any classical recordings. What should I listen to so that I can learn more? Q3. I heard this melody on the radio. How do I figure out what it is? Q4. When I went to the record store to buy a CD of [insert piece], I found dozens of versions. How do I know which one to buy? Q5. Why are there so many recordings of the same piece? Q6. How do I find out if [insert-piece] has ever been recorded? Q7. What is that music from [insert TV-show/Movie] called? Q8. What are the essential reference books on classical music? Q9. What distinguishes classical music from popular music? Q10. What is the difference between an opera and a musical? Q11. What is the history behind Orff's Carmina Burana? Q12. What are the words to the first movement of Carmina Burana? Q13. How do you pronounce all those conductors' and composers' names? Q14. How are composers' works usually indexed? Why so many ways? Q15. What's the point of having a conductor? Q16. Will a "DDD" recording always sound better than "ADD" or "AAD"? What do those codes mean anyway? Q17. What is "authentic performance practice?"
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