This expressively colourful
large format book is ideal for the curious
- even slightly curious - youngster
between the ages of say eight and fifteen.
It generously straddles the gap between
pre-teen and teen. Vivid, unstuffy,
practical, fun, accurate and reflective,
it also embraces multimedia. A CD-ROM
comes with it – inserted into the inside
hard cover of the book. This introduces
you to the sound of some fifty instruments
and families of instruments. It does
this by examining each instrument’s
range, and via a host of brief MP3 samples
from classical scores.
The reach of this book
and CD-ROM is long. There are, for example,
references to and descriptions of the
heckelphone and the ophicleide as well
as the maracas, the tam-tam and the
crotales. Neither are those eccentrics
of the twentieth century, the ondes
martenot (the audio illustration is
from Messiaen's Turangalila)
and the theremin neglected. Maurice
Martenot invented the Ondes (waves)
in 1928 while Lev Theremin produced
the theremin in 1920. Neither is Dr
Moog and his synthesiser ignored. The
voice is considered in great detail.
The harpsichord - chummily and aptly
referred to as plucky jacks in a
box - is treated also. There are
mentions for Poulenc and De Falla as
twentieth century composers who wrote
for concertante works for the instrument.
Evelyn Glennie is one
of the world's greatest ambassadors
for fine music of all types and an irresistible
role model. She provides the introduction
as well as explaining her own journey
to and through music. Her friendly cartoon
sprite waves the reader through the
176 pages of the book reassuring, explaining
and encouraging. The main text is by
Genevieve Helsby who writes accessibly
with disarming humour and authority.
The book is sumptuously
illustrated and while some pages are
a blizzard of insets and detail, the
effect overall is enthralling. The text
is lively and quotes and illustrations
jostle with gossipy asides and jokes.
Words are defined in lucid and accessible
terms. Words such as orchestra and
conductor are explained. It's
a pity that the Boult-Handley layout
- splitting violins I and II left and
right - is not given as an alternative
orchestral schematic. Even so the conventional
layout will instantly enable anyone
to locate what instrument is which at
a concert … or more likely on-screen.
There 's also a dictionary of musical
terms alongside mini-features on flutter-tonguing
and even Musique concrète.
The whole is topped off by a decent
The book is certainly
open-minded. It finds time to refer
to other types of orchestra including
gagaku, panpipe and gamelan - the latter
beloved of Colin McPhee and Benjamin
Britten. The Ondes page has a panel
that reminds us that the instrument
was used in the signature theme of the
original 1960s Star Trek TV series.
There are plenty of did-you-know?
inset boxes ranging from the use of
horse-hair for bows. Ms Helsby offers
thoughtful reassurance that horses are
not killed for their hair but that the
hair is taken after they have died.
The Hollywood actor Richard Gere is
mentioned as having distinguished himself
as a trumpeter at high school. Confounding
the limitations of the book title, non-orchestral
instruments such as the guitar (electric
and acoustic) are included as is the
mandolin. Bright little explanations
pop up here and there such as comparing
the flute method with blowing across
the top of an empty bottle.
The concept is a clever
one. The impatient browser can skip
through the pictures, or read all the
explanatory panels, or use just the
CDROM or read from cover to cover. Each
return to this book will yield new discoveries
and has the potential for encouraging
This is a reliable
and inspired, as well as critically
engaging, introduction to the world
of orchestral instruments. Every pages
buzzes with detail and discovery. Triumphant.