Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"Marsalis on Music" by Wynton Marsalis

I bought this book on Ebay on a whim while looking for something completely unrelated for my kids for school.  I've been a fan of Wynton Marsalis ever since we watched Ken Burns' documentary Jazz (2001) years and years ago.  I'm a sucker for a good trumpet player, and Marsalis is all that and more.  So I thought hey, this might be a cool book to use for my kids.  The seller said it came with the companion CD with listening cues, which sounded cool.

What the seller didn't say?  This book is autographed by Wynton Marsalis himself.  You should have heard me shriek when I got it in the mail and discovered that little fact!!!

I started to flip through this over the weekend, to see how I could use it for school, and which of my kids it would work for.  And guess what?  I ended up reading the whole thing, cover to cover.  It is fantastic!  What's more, it taught me a whole lot of things.  I've been playing the piano since I was six years old, I've played flute in a college band, I've sung in college choirs and college musicals, and I've loved music for longer than I can actually remember.  I've taken courses on it, I've taught my kids to play piano, and I consider myself a more-than-averagely musical person.  But brother, did I ever learn stuff from this book!  Like, I never knew that a sonata and a symphony are the same musical form, it's just that if an orchestra plays it, it's a symphony, but if only one or two instruments play it, it's a sonata.  Say what?  I did not know that.  Wow.

Anyway.  In this book, Marsalis explains in kid-friendly ways the concepts of rhythm and form, the history of band music in America, and tips and tricks to make practicing really work for you.  He also has biographies of notable composers whose music he describes and discusses.  This is a companion to a PBS series of the same name, and man, would I like to see that!  Unfortunately, it's kind of expensive now, so I'll have to keep my eye out for a reasonable used copy, I suppose.  Meanwhile, I will be using this book and its CD with all of my kids later this month, as a fun break from some of our more textbook-based subjects as Christmas approaches.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Meant for and suitable for kids, but good reading for adults too.

This is my 46th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.


  1. I didn't know the difference between a sonata and a symphony either, but Dad right away said the difference is the number of instruments that play it!!! Who knew that he was such a music afficionado!!! I'm hoping to get involved a little later this month with your lessons! Fun!!

    1. Mom, that's so cool! I bet Dad learned that from one of those Great Courses he's always taking :-)


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