Nicholas Cook 2000. Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 152 pp & ebook.

Folk who read this pamphlet seeking a concise and readable insight into what music is and what it attempts to do are in for major disappointment. Instead, it barely mentions music (the stuff that we hear) but instead is a diatribe about sociological and political issues that in the eyes of the author amounts to an introduction to music itself. Among other targets he aims for ‘the cult of Beethoven’ and celebrity conductors. Celebrity rock stars, for example, get off free. No mention whatsoever of what drives humans to creat and listen to music, be they Beethoven, conductors, Gamelan orchestras, 4,000 BCE Egyptian harpists, or prehistoric human bone flute players.

This would have made a lovely little article in a university student newspaper, but the editors of the otherwise excellent OUP “A very short introduction…” series have had an epic fail of oversight here. Go for Alex Ross instead.