Where is the love for Nicholas Slonimsky's Lexicon of Musical Invective?

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A compilation of excerpts from really poisonous reviews of classical music from Beethoven up till about the 1950s. I came across an old hardback copy in the Sydney City Library years ago, didn't think I'd ever find my own, but it's back in print now.

Slonimski was a conductor and promoter of new music - one of his Varèse concerts is a featured target - so the book's polemical intent is obvious: "Your great-grandfather thought Wagner was unmusical cacophony, so be careful what you say about the stuff I'm pushing."

The real pleasure for me was discovering just how aggressive music critics could be in the 19th century. Wagner and Brahms in particular seem to have driven critics into a spittle-flecked frenzy. I'm also fond of the topical index at the back, with entries like "Cat (amorous)", "Chaos", "Sexuality (sticky, frog-like)" etc.

Probably my favourite classical music book. I wonder if anyone's ever done the same thing for criticism in other genres?

scriblerus (mike lynch), Thursday, 26 October 2006 01:31 (fourteen years ago) link

John Coltrane was a big fan of Slonimsky's Thesaurus Of Musical Scales...

m0stly clean (m0stly clean), Thursday, 26 October 2006 02:01 (fourteen years ago) link

Awesome book. :-)

Turangalila (Salvador), Thursday, 26 October 2006 07:06 (fourteen years ago) link

fourteen years pass...

This is great:

Yes, there actually was a time when musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky could be a guest on the Tonight Show—and it's finally on YouTube. https://t.co/SFnVQlv1v2 He talks with Johnny Carson about John Coltrane, polyrhythms, Frank Zappa, etc. (h/t Rob McAlear). pic.twitter.com/SdRAqKkuvo

— Ted Gioia (@tedgioia) January 10, 2021

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Monday, 11 January 2021 04:58 (two weeks ago) link


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