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Many casual listeners think of Igor Stravinsky as serious, heavy, and hard-to-understand, but readers may be surprised at how much information is provided in this well-researched book on the composer (1882–1971) about such populist subjects as Hollywood and Walt Disney. Here musicologist and composer Maconie (Avant Garde: An American Odyssey from Gertrude Stein to Pierre Boulez) offers an in-depth, well-documented look at all of Stravinsky’s works. (The composer did work closely with Disney on Fantasia and spent years in Hollywood.) Maconie hopes readers will not just listen to but experience the “manufactured” music Stravinsky loved to produce. In fact, the composer relished working with Disney Studios, a film conglomerate that believed animation needed to be choreographed to fit the music, not the reverse. Maconie works hard to place the composer in relation to the world around him. The book includes many quotes from Stravinsky himself, as well as some imagined conversations that keep the text lively. Verdict This accessible book for interested readers features copious footnotes and cited references that make it also a considerable resource for academic study. (Library Journal)
Experiencing Stravinsky comes intelligently written by a veteran writer and musical polymath. It offers highly informed reflections on the music and aesthetics of a monumentally significant composer. . . .[I]t addresses anyone wanting to listen to Stravinsky’s music, and to heighten their understanding or experience of this extraordinary music. Part of this book’s distinction certainly lies in assuming ordinary, untrained listeners can make sense of the music by thinking of it in relation to broad intellectual backgrounds. (Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association)
Most first-time listeners to The Rite of Spring or The Rake’s Progress feel the need for guidance before they can appreciate just how listener-friendly the music is. Maconie provides this guidance in abundance. (New Zealand Listener)
Refreshing to have a Stravinsky study that doesn't go on at length about octatonic scales.... Persuasively vivid descriptions of memorable and characteristic musical events.... There's no denying the force of Maconie's views on what makes the music special.... A real sense of something genuinely, radically Stravinskian ... many if not all listeners can appreciate without having to penetrate any earnestly intellectual cloud-cover. (Musical Times)
The author uses allusion, analogy, imaginary conversations and quotations from the writings and interviews of the composer to try to understand the major works in the Stravinsky canon. He considers the music from a ‘holistic’ point of view. . . . It will make a useful addition to the shelves of Stravinsky enthusiasts. (MusicWeb International)
To bring the experience of music close to readers without the benefit of direct quotation is a difficult art. To say of Robin Maconie’s book on Igor Stravinsky that its words stimulate the reader to go back to the music again and again is to praise it highly. And this is just one of its great strengths….[In this,] the first in a publisher’s series of Listener’s Companions, . . . he focuses his abilities on a composer who is essential to the history of music in the first half of the 20th century…. Every work in the composer’s large oeuvre is discussed, from the acknowledged masterpieces to seeming “minor” yet revealing pieces. Each chapter is introduced with a thoughtful yet often entertaining essay on broader aspects of the book’s subject. (Nelson Wattie, New Zealand Listener)
Wonderful! While other authors have noted Stravinsky's fascination with things mechanical, Experiencing Stravinsky takes this interest as one of its thesis points and is the best coverage of the topic I've read. (Mark John McFarland, Georgia State University)
[A] very good read. . . that I enjoyed it a lot, even where I found myself demurring. (Roger Savage, emeritus Fellow at the University of Edinburgh)
A magnificent tour de force. (David Pickett, Fugato.com)
A subtle, nuanced account of Stravinsky's "mechanical" aesthetic. . . cutting through all the conventional positions in musical politics. (Roger Horrocks, emeritus Head of Film, Television, and Media Studies, University of Auckland, and author of Len Lye: A Biography)
Robin Maconie is a composer and musicologist. He is the author of several books on music and philosophy, including Avant Garde: An American Odyssey from Gertrude Stein to Pierre Boulez (Scarecrow, 2012), Musicologia: Musical Knowledge from Plato to John Cage (Scarecrow 2010), and Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen (Scarecrow, 2005).