Experiencing Music: A Composer’s Notes

Translated, Edited, and Introduced by Paul Rapoport
With a Foreword by Robert Simpson
Extent: 142 pages
Composition: Demy octavo ~ Illustrated ~ Bibliography ~ Index
Illustrations: 14 b/w

Vagn Holmboe, 1909-96, was one of the most important composers of his era, and the most important Danish composer after Carl Nielsen. In a book intended for the general reader, he discusses the nature of music from the point of view of the composer, the performer and the listener. Where do musical ideas come from? What are composers’ working methods, and how much are they really aware of them? What is the role of performers, and what sort of freedom do they have in interpreting music? What do listeners do in listening to music? Do you require a musical education in order to understand modern music? What, essentially, is the musical experience?

This is the first appearance in English of these important essays, originally published in Danish, under the title Music – the Inexplicable. To the translation of this book several other essays have been added: Holmboe also writes on Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, ‘Haydn and Tradition’, on Nielsen, and his own early career, and on human responsibility and artistic freedom.

Professor Paul Rapoport contributes a lengthy introduction to Vagn Holmboe and his music, although, as he points out, ‘this is not a book about Vagn Holmboe nor a book addressed solely to musicians’; ‘there is no requirement […] to be a musician in order to understand […] this book: Holmboe’s prose, like his music, is addressed to his fellow human beings, whoever and wherever they may be’.

6 reviews for Experiencing Music: A Composer’s Notes

  1. :

    ‘Unaffected wisdom’

    Music & Letters

  2. :

    ‘lucidity, insight and humanity’


  3. :

    ‘one of the most rewarding books on music I have ever read’

    —T. J. H. Harris, Poetry Nation Review

  4. :

    ‘full of deep insights into all aspects of the musical process, and Holmboe articulates some extremely complex ideas with illuminating clarity. […] This is a deeply thoughtful and fascinating book’

    —Nigel Simeone, CD Review

  5. :

    ‘the content is extremely interesting. Holmboe addresses his book, not to the specialist, but to the general intelligent reader, although even a specialist could learn something from it. You don’t need to be able to read music to understand it. […]

    Holmboe wants to persuade you by what he says, rather than by who he is, even though the essay contains of necessity the first-hand experience of a superb musician. In short, the essay comes across as wisdom dressed as modesty. […]

    Thanks again to Toccata Press for a stimulating publisher’s list. At a time when books “about music” tend to run to gossip, to shop talk, or to basic introductions, this publisher offers stimulating works addressed to the general adult public.’

    —Steve Schwartz, Classical Net

  6. :

    ‘I have written enough to encourage you, I hope, to buy this book but beware, it may raise some questions you do not want to answer. It may change your thinking and cause you to look at music differently but with greater rewards at the end.’

    —David Wright, MusicWeb International

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