Gustav Kobbé, How to Appreciate Music
1906 / Audiobook / 281 pages / USA
"It is better for art to err on the side of originality - provided it is not bizarre or freakish - than on the side of subserviency to tradition."
It's a bit of an oldie, but fair play - he did write the book I was literally searching for. Besides, the vintage means I got to enjoy some haughty condescension, mild racism and spending time in a world where Wagner and the "Neo Russians" are cutting edge, rather than being lumped with centuries of forefathers as Classic FM. I may be a little closer to knowing how to appreciate music, but there's no rush. That's what old age is for. And now I know how to tastefully decorate my pianoforte without looking uncouth.
Edward Macan, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture
With an exuberant title like that, I didn't expect it to be so dry. Way to reinforce the (correct) perception of prog being a refuge for stuffy, joyless souls with no sense of humour. It's an interesting analysis if you do happen to be that way inclined, but more something you'd source in the bibliography of your weird essay than something you'd read for pleasure.
Michael Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond – Second Edition
1974 (updated 1999) / E-book / 218 pages / UK
It's not the easiest task to analyse willfully undefinable "compositions," the most extreme of which can only be described as "music" sarcastically (does an orchestra playing 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence or a performance artist crawling up the vagina of a live whale really count as music? Of course not, what's wrong with you?) Either the task was too monumental or I need a new brain, as I couldn't understand much of what he was going on about and I was listening along. You know, when there was actually sound.
Nicholas Pegg, The Complete David Bowie: Expanded and Updated Sixth Edition
2000 (updated 2011) / E-book / 704 pages / UK
I'm sure there are plenty of books out there if I wanted to read about David Bowie the man/androgyn/alien, but I'd rather read about the music in far too much detail thanks. There won't be a more exhaustive breakdown than this, which tackles the songography alphabetically for simplicity's sake. It's as good an arbitrary rule as any for skipping around the decades, and you can finally make use of that bewildering option on your music player to sort tracks by A-Z as you listen along... pausing and heading back to YouTube every other song to track down things too obscure even by your standards. It was close to a perfect score already, then I noticed it is the same Nicholas Pegg whose day job is rolling around as a Dalek. I'm not sure who's more the legend here.
David Rothenberg and Marta Ulvaeus eds, The Book of Music and Nature: An Anthology of Sounds, Words, Thoughts
2001 / E-book / 272 pages / USA
"Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny."
I was hoping for an insightful, permissably slightly zany exploration of whale song and bird poo-tee-weets, but this is mainly spiritual faff about universal harmony and archaic public domain articles about that new-fangled musique concrète they have now.
On the plus side, there is a free virtual CD online that saves you the trouble of scouring YouTube and Freesound.org or going to your nearest jungle to listen live.