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100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
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A MUSICIAN'S DICTIONARY by David W. Barber with cartoons by Dave Donald Preface by Yehudi Menuhin Published by Sound & Vision $11:95 (North America) £5:95 (UK) ISBN 0-920151-21-3

 

Ever wanted to know the meaning of: "secondary sub-mediant appoggiatura six-four" or "first inversion Neapolitan five-seven of five, sharp four plus eleven, going to a half-diminished seven of six"? Well look no further folks for this little book reveals all - or some of it! Now you needn't feel diminished; and to misquote a current TV commercial, armed with this knowledge, pleasure can follow pain.

To give you a sample of the erudition of this pocket volume I quote a few early definitions:-

Atonality: A pathological disease that effects many composers of modern music. It's most noticeable symptom is the inability to make decisions - such as what key we should be in. It's the advanced and sometimes fatal stage of polytonality.

Bagpipes: A Scottish instrument (of torture, war, mass destruction) whose sound resembles that of a cat being run over by a car...

Counter-Tenor: The highest adult male voice currently available through legal and moral means. Sings roughly (and roughly sings) the same range as the contralto, although he can sing lower if pressed and higher if pinched...

Comodo: A tempo indication (from the Italian meaning "leisurely" or "without strain"). Not to be confused with commode, a small chair containing a chamberpot - the use of which may also be leisurely (and, one hopes, without strain).

Glissando: The musical equivalent of stepping on a banana peel.

Lord Menuhin contributes an amusing preface in which he complains that there is one omission - the piano - and then goes on to describe it in all its glory and to say something of its remarkable non-musical uses.

So, music-lovers, remember, as in all walks of life, bullshit baffles brains; and this wee tome will make you feel that much more bullish.

Ian Lace


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