The Life of Music

New Adventures in the Western Classical Tradition

Product Details
Paperback / softback
Yale University Press
  pages -  
234 x 155
196 x 127
64 color illus.
64 color illus.
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Product Description

The Life of Music

Nicholas Kenyon explores the enduring appeal of the classical canon at a moment when we can access all music—across time and cultures

“Nicholas Kenyon is an amiable and enthusiastic guide to a thousand years of classical music.”—Neil Fisher, The Times

“A wonderfully engaging survey. . . . It is what every music lover needs close by. . . . We are left in no doubt about music’s extraordinary power.”—Ian Thomson, Financial Times

Immersed in music for much of his life as writer, broadcaster, and concert presenter, former director of the BBC Proms Nicholas Kenyon has long championed an astonishingly wide range of composers and performers. Now, as we think about culture in fresh ways, Kenyon revisits the stories that make up the classical tradition and foregrounds those that are too often overlooked. This inclusive, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic guide highlights the achievements of the women and men, amateurs and professionals, who bring music to life.

Taking us from pianist Myra Hess’s performance in London during the Blitz, to John Adams’s composition of a piece for mourners after New York’s 9/11 attacks, to Italian opera singers singing from their balconies amidst the 2020 pandemic, Kenyon shows that no matter how great the crisis, music has the power to bring us together. His personal, celebratory account transforms our understanding of how classical music is made—and shows us why it is more relevant than ever.

About the Author
Nicholas Kenyon was managing director at the Barbican Centre 2007–2021 and was previously director of the BBC Proms and controller of BBC Radio 3. He is now opera critic of The Telegraph and a visiting scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

“A wonderfully engaging survey...It is what every music lover needs close by...We are left in no doubt about music’s extraordinary power.”—Ian Thomson, Financial Times

“Nicholas Kenyon is an amiable and enthusiastic guide to a thousand years of classical music.”—Neil Fisher, The Times

“This is always a book about music in performance, and about the art of listening. At almost every turn, I wanted to stop reading and listen to the music Kenyon describes – and consistently felt rewarded for doing so.”—Mathew Lyons, Literary Review

The Life of Music is at its lively best when Kenyon’s own passions are laid bare...his belief, above all, in the power of music to unite individual and community.”—Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

“Kenyon loops elegantly between decades and nations, making connections between works of different styles, always making sure that the reader is not stranded.”—Anna Picard, Times Literary Supplement

“A brilliant introduction to early music...Certainly, it's hard to think of any living individual better placed than Kenyon to take such an all-embracing overview.”—Richard Bratby, Gramophone

“[Kenyon] is not oblivious to forms of music that for some classical lovers is at best ignored and here we are venturing briefly into contemporary popular song, traditional folk, the areas that owe to new interactive technology and sounds from across the world. The end chapters are worth their weight in gold; stimulating, arresting thoughts on music and culture pour out from Nicholas Kenyon. Hey, this is a super book.”—Tony Jasper, Methodist Recorder

“Nicholas Kenyon is a fluent and gifted writer, and this is a personal history with reference to performers and recordings on the way.”—Ronald Corp, Church Times

“A typically wise and thoughtful book, which manages to combine a wealth of unexpected information with an immensely readable style  - it should grab anybody, whatever their level of musical knowledge.”—Sir Simon Rattle, music director, London Symphony Orchestra

"What better moment to ponder the question of where music has been, where it might be headed and the existential issue of what meaning it may hold? The Life of Music ponders these questions with wit and a depth of information."—Deborah Borda, president and CEO, New York Philharmonic Orchestra

"Nicholas Kenyon brings a lifetime of listening and wisdom to his encyclopaedic survey of the Western classical music canon. In a narrative of breadth and critical acumen, The Life of Music traverses a millennium of music-making with stopping points along the way to ponder its past, present and future."—John Adams, composer

'As critic, author, broadcaster, and administrator, Nicholas Kenyon has seen the art and life of music from every possible angle, and the breadth of his experience is evident on every page of this hugely absorbing volume. He also brings to bear keen insight, an aversion to dogma, and a wisdom steeped in humility. Classical music has a tendency toward grandiose rhetoric: Kenyon unfurls the entire monumental story in unwaveringly human terms.'—Alex Ross, music critic at The New Yorker and author of The Rest is Noise

“Nick Kenyon takes us to the very heart and soul of music, by surveying the past, he gives us hope for the future."—Gustavo Dudamel, artistic and music director, Los Angeles Philharmonic