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The Music of Joni Mitchell Paperback – Dec 21 2010
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"Whitesell's splendid study illuminates an impressive span of Joni Mitchell's music, offering fans and scholars alike new ways of hearing these songs. A magnificent achievement."--Ellie M. Hisama, Columbia University
"This thoughtful book is a revelation: a long-overdue scholarly examination of one of the most important bodies of work in twentieth century music. Joni Mitchell's fearless explorations defy simplistic categories of popular, jazz and art music, and Whitesell's sophisticated, rigorous analysis does her work justice. This study will be invaluable to anyone with a serious interest in contemporary music and culture."--Jacqueline Warwick, Dalhousie University
"The Music of Joni Mitchell brings together the richest traditions in the study of popular music. The book is detailed in its study of form and style, and a model of expert musical analysis. Just as importantly, for non-specialists, it offers a compelling account of Joni Mitchell's life and career, showing the extra-musical influences on her work and Mitchell's interaction with the broader cultural forces around her. Whitesell's admiration for Joni Mitchell is clear, but the book is rigorous and balanced, a piece of first-rate scholarship."--Will Straw, Professor of Communications, McGill University and Co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock
About the Author
Lloyd Whitesell teaches music history at McGill University. He is the author of articles on Benjamin Britten, Maurice Ravel, Bernard Herrmann, and minimalism, and co-editor of the book Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. His research interests include queer studies, popular music, film music, modernism, music and literature, and theories of the audience.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Mr. Whitesell's thorough overview is fascinating, but rather dry in places, despite an obvious passion for his subject. Caution is advised to the reader who knows little about music, but wants to know more about Joni Mitchell, the person. However, much is revealed about her as an artist in the pages of this remarkable book, which includes a number of direct quotes from Joni Mitchell herself.
of Joni Mitchell's vast contributions to the world of music. One might
have expected to learn more of her 'jaded' personal life, but this commentary of the professional, technical aspects of her music is enlightening.
It has become more apparent -- despite her nearly ten-year hiatus from the creative scene, that she must be recognized, as the author so appropriately puts it, as the 'genius' that she is. Kudos to Whitesell for his thoughtful, introspective analysis of her work.
What you will find here is medium-high level musicological and poetic analysis... And you'd better pack your vocabulary with you, both for the ordinary high-falutin' word-usements, and for the topic-specific nomenclature contained herein. (Who knew that ballad-form songs without contrasting choruses were "strophic?" Not me! But I do now!)
So that's the kind of book this is. And with the exception of a couple of minor research failures (Whitesell doesn't seem to realize that the song, "Ladies Of The Canyon," is a series of character sketches, for example), it seems to be a very good work of its kind. Plenty of charts, graphs and examples, for those who enjoy them.
Now as to what I *thought* of it (this is MY review, after all)... As an untrained (or maybe half-trained) musician myself, I found this to be an exemplar of a strange kind of book that I've seen before, in which work that was created largely through intuition and emotion is then examined under a thoroughly-codified, rule-bound academic microscope. It's not quite as much of a subject/critical method mismatch as scholarly discussion of Beatles music can be (Mitchell is a much more cerebral, intentional artist), but I was still often reminded of that old quip about how, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
Whitesell seems to be translating Mitchell's songs into a foreign language, in some sense; that of academia. And if that might help folks of an academic persuasion better appreciate her work, then I suppose that's worthwhile. However, I can't say the book much deepened my appreciation of JM's oeuvre, and I mostly just found it a slog.
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