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All You Have to Do is Listen: Music from the Inside Out

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Rob Kapilow has been helping audiences hear more in great music for almost twenty years with his What Makes It Great? series on NPR, at Lincoln Center, and in concert halls throughout the US and Canada. In this book, he gives you a set of tools you can use when listening to any piece of music in order to hear its “plot”—its story told in notes. The musical examples are ava Rob Kapilow has been helping audiences hear more in great music for almost twenty years with his What Makes It Great? series on NPR, at Lincoln Center, and in concert halls throughout the US and Canada. In this book, he gives you a set of tools you can use when listening to any piece of music in order to hear its “plot”—its story told in notes. The musical examples are available free for download to help you hear the ideas presented. Whether you are an experienced concertgoer or a newcomer to classical music, the listening principles Kapilow shares will help you "get" music in an exciting, fresh new way."Kapilow gets audiences in tune with classical music at a deeper and more immediate level than many of them thought possible." —Los Angeles Times "Rob Kapilow is awfully good at what he does. We need him." —The Boston Globe "A wonderful guy who brings music alive!" —Katie Couric "Rob Kapilow leaps into the void dividing music analysis from appreciation and fills it with exhilarating details and sensations." —The New York Times "You could practically see the light bulbs going on above people's heads. . . . The audience could decipher the music in a new, deeper way. It was the total opposite of passive listening." —The Philadelphia Inquirer


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Rob Kapilow has been helping audiences hear more in great music for almost twenty years with his What Makes It Great? series on NPR, at Lincoln Center, and in concert halls throughout the US and Canada. In this book, he gives you a set of tools you can use when listening to any piece of music in order to hear its “plot”—its story told in notes. The musical examples are ava Rob Kapilow has been helping audiences hear more in great music for almost twenty years with his What Makes It Great? series on NPR, at Lincoln Center, and in concert halls throughout the US and Canada. In this book, he gives you a set of tools you can use when listening to any piece of music in order to hear its “plot”—its story told in notes. The musical examples are available free for download to help you hear the ideas presented. Whether you are an experienced concertgoer or a newcomer to classical music, the listening principles Kapilow shares will help you "get" music in an exciting, fresh new way."Kapilow gets audiences in tune with classical music at a deeper and more immediate level than many of them thought possible." —Los Angeles Times "Rob Kapilow is awfully good at what he does. We need him." —The Boston Globe "A wonderful guy who brings music alive!" —Katie Couric "Rob Kapilow leaps into the void dividing music analysis from appreciation and fills it with exhilarating details and sensations." —The New York Times "You could practically see the light bulbs going on above people's heads. . . . The audience could decipher the music in a new, deeper way. It was the total opposite of passive listening." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

30 review for All You Have to Do is Listen: Music from the Inside Out

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Stephens

    I can still remember taking music theory classes years ago and analyzing music for the first time. While all of the students in class loved music, many were afraid that analyzing the structure and details of a piece would diminish its enjoyment. Somehow this actually seemed like a legitimate concern at the time, too. Looking back, this idea appears ludicrous and couldn’t be further from the truth. Following the details of music makes it infinitely more enjoyable, as composer and NPR commentator I can still remember taking music theory classes years ago and analyzing music for the first time. While all of the students in class loved music, many were afraid that analyzing the structure and details of a piece would diminish its enjoyment. Somehow this actually seemed like a legitimate concern at the time, too. Looking back, this idea appears ludicrous and couldn’t be further from the truth. Following the details of music makes it infinitely more enjoyable, as composer and NPR commentator Rob Kapilow makes clear in his book All You Have to Do Is Listen. Kapilow has directed the book at two groups: those who believe classical music is boring and uneventful and those who want a better appreciation of it. Since many readers may not have much technical knowledge of harmonies or forms, he uses various metaphors to clarify his discussions (e.g., comparing cadences to commas and periods and musical passages to words and sentences) and provides readers with clearly explained sheet music and online recordings. He believes, “It is not more musical knowledge that is needed, but rather the ability to listen completely.” Just as movies have plots, Kapilow posits, so does music. Each moment cannot be taken separately but must be considered in regard to what has already occurred and what may occur in the future. Listeners need to become more engaged with the music and listen actively instead of passively receiving music. From the works of Bach and Purcell to Beethoven and Haydn, Kapilow sticks with many famous pieces of music to make his points. This works well because even if readers are familiar with these pieces, they are likely to gain a new appreciation of them, and if they aren’t familiar with the pieces, they are being introduced to masterly excerpts. The book uses examples for two principal means of structuring music: growing tension that is eventually resolved and variations on one theme. One of the most prominent forms of tension and resolution is sonata form, for which an early Beethoven Piano Sonata is used. There is an entire chapter dedicated to detailing how the piece establishes a theme, drifts into stranger and stranger territory, and finally resolves itself back into the familiar home key. As for variations on a single theme, Debussy’s “Footsteps in the Snow” is perhaps the most striking example. Debussy finds a multitude of ways to change and manipulate a simple four note pattern that repeats throughout most of the piece. Each change colors the repeated four note pattern, ensuring it never sounds the same twice. Kapilow is incredibly clear in many of his musical explanations and most readers will benefit from his discussions on the pieces he covers. However, considering one of Kapilow’s primary objectives is to allow readers to use his listening techniques with any kind of music, it is not quite clear to me just how effective these techniques will be in other instances. Most of his examples are textbook cases of form, harmony, or melody, but taking, for example, one of Beethoven’s Theme and Variations—one of the more challenging works in the book—it quickly becomes apparent that plenty of music is incredibly complex. Listening to pieces like this may go beyond the scope of the book’s readers and lead to frustration. On the other hand, though, maybe listeners will at least be able to get some satisfaction out of a work that had previously been incomprehensible. Either way, Kapilow deserves praise for attempting to involve listeners more intimately with music.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Terry

    The author's goal is to help audiences listen to music from the composer's point of view. He wants you to hear a music's "plot" and listen for themes and musical punctuation. The companion website is very cool: http://videoblast.wileypub.com/kapilo.... The idea is to listen to the music and read about it at the same time. Maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if I had begun using the website from the beginning, but I don't tend to hang out near a computer while I read. I did use the website a The author's goal is to help audiences listen to music from the composer's point of view. He wants you to hear a music's "plot" and listen for themes and musical punctuation. The companion website is very cool: http://videoblast.wileypub.com/kapilo.... The idea is to listen to the music and read about it at the same time. Maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if I had begun using the website from the beginning, but I don't tend to hang out near a computer while I read. I did use the website as I read toward the end of the book, and my experience was much better. All in all, though, it was a bit dry.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caslon

    I am still in the process of "reading" this book. The book basically explains techniques that composers use in creating their works and different musical forms. What is really neat about the book is the use of the internet to provide access to the music examples examined in the book and the custom viewer designed to view the scores as the example plays. After downloading the examples to your computer, when you play each one, a custom viewer opens that scrolls the score by a hairline in the viewer I am still in the process of "reading" this book. The book basically explains techniques that composers use in creating their works and different musical forms. What is really neat about the book is the use of the internet to provide access to the music examples examined in the book and the custom viewer designed to view the scores as the example plays. After downloading the examples to your computer, when you play each one, a custom viewer opens that scrolls the score by a hairline in the viewer window so that you know exactly where in the score you are.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Collins

    Kapilow's thesis is that attentive listeners to music really can understand what a composer is seeking to accomplish simply by listening. He writes to non-musicians, providing them with basic music theory that will help them better appreciate classical music. A companion website provides scores and recordings of the examples in the book. Kapilow's thesis is that attentive listeners to music really can understand what a composer is seeking to accomplish simply by listening. He writes to non-musicians, providing them with basic music theory that will help them better appreciate classical music. A companion website provides scores and recordings of the examples in the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    Kapilow's enthusiasm for music is obvious and this is a very helpful book to read in order to grow in the understanding of music. The accompanying website and listening exercises apply the lessons of the text. Kapilow's enthusiasm for music is obvious and this is a very helpful book to read in order to grow in the understanding of music. The accompanying website and listening exercises apply the lessons of the text.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonah

    I am sure that this is a very fine book, but for my musically inept brain, I could not grasp all the concepts that Kapilow was expounding. This deserves a reread with some extra time devoted to it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas P

    Great book!! Learned a lot!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aj Freeman

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leann

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steven Herod

  11. 4 out of 5

    Frank Weinberger

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    Guy from NPR with an interesting way of looking at classical music. Not amazing, but enjoyable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wilson

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Thompson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Martha

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Dayton Cavallaro

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anson Wun

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mel Brooker

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fadil Alturki

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ami

  21. 4 out of 5

    GL

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steven Sodders

  23. 5 out of 5

    Efrain

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  25. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

  26. 5 out of 5

    H

  27. 4 out of 5

    B Fox

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jake

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joel Boyle

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