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Book reviews for "Rothstein,_Edward" sorted by average review score:

Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History
Published in Paperback by Dover Pubns (1991)
Authors: Arthur Loesser, Edward Rothstein, and Jacques Barzun
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A History of the Piano for the True Aficionado
This book can be tough going at times -- over 600 pages of text alone, densely written, finely detailed, full of endless descriptions of how early pianos were built in the great days of Cristoferi and Silbermann. Then why read this book? Because it is, simply, fascinating. There are chapters on the role of the piano in the works of Jane Austen, the piano as an aid to courtship, on Beethoven's paean to his Broadwood, on the quest for "brilliant but not difficult" music, long descriptions of 19th century mechanical devices of pianistic torture -- there is a great deal of interesting esoterica here, and much to learn. The book is a classic, and I'm glad it's on my bookshelf.

A bravura performance!
If you love music, especially that of the piano, then you should definitely make room on your musical bookshelf for this wonderful and comprehensive book. The author, Arthur Loesser, was a well-known concert pianist who was also a gifted writer, critic and annotator--shades of that earlier duallist, Berlioz! This dandy, thick book, detailing the history of keyboards, also includes many of the personalities involved in music-making through the centuries. The hard-cover edition--originally published in 1954--is long out of print, making this trade-paper version even more welcome. Once it's yours, you'll be in possession of nearly everything you ever wanted to know about these keyboard instruments--and then some! And, once you begin reading, you'll find it difficult to put it aside, even for a moment.

Each major country had its own beginnings with music and the keyboards that brought that music to life. This book is, therefore, a geographical as well as a musical tour. Beginning in about the mid-1500s and continuing to more recent times, Loesser informs us of the musical progression in Germany, Austria, England, France, and finally the US. Whether you begin with the English in the 1500s or the Germans in the 1600s or the French in the 1700s, you'll be intrigued by the variety of instruments unveiled in these pages for your delectation, as well as his humorous side trips into more human endeavors. (There's an entire chapter [Section Three, Chapter Eighteen] on the use of music in the novels of Jane Austen, for example.)

Loesser skillfully utilizes his dry and frequently wry wit in detailing the history and usage of keyboard instruments, as well as those who merely were the players of them. It's quite obvious that, to Mr. Loesser, the instruments themselves were the more worthy, and he skillfully educates the reader in the evolution of today's piano, including the advantage gained by the availability of steel framing.

There are many types of keyboard instruments, some more well-known than others, but none are slighted in this comprehensive retrospective. In addition, social history is also brought into prominence, as well as those artisans who have moved us with their performances.

Another bravura performance from this noted musician.

It's all here
When it comes to the history of the piano, if it's not in this book, you don't need to know it. Loesser writes this "biography" of the piano with accuracy, detail, plenty of anecdotes, good judgment, and an abundance of humor. You'll be hooked after a few lively chapters--even if you thought you had only a passing interest the pianoforte.

Emblems of Mind: The Inner Life of Music and Mathematics
Published in Paperback by Avon Books (Pap Trd) (1996)
Author: Edward Rothstein
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Tough reading
The subject matter of this book should be a well known fact - that music and mathematics have much in common. The author's expertise in both subjects is presumably well developed and his experience as music critic of the New York Times should have endowed him with eloquence and clarity. Sadly, none of this comes through to me. The book is very heavy reading with many tortuous sentences and themes which wander all over the place. The approach taken to identifying the similarities between music and mathematics actually cause me to ask myself: "yes, but many of these characteristics could equally be applied to engineering, art, language, poetry - even crowd dynamics!" It is hard to see from his development of the subject why these factors apply exclusively to music and mathematics. Thus the esoteric similarity between musical notation and mathematical symbols is not exclusive to those disciplines. I think the author missed a wonderful opportunity to expand on a fascinating subject with insight and clarity.

I found I was unable to finish reading the book. The writing style and theme development was too daunting.

Disparate but Interesting Ideas are Developed
These reviews cast a poor light on this book. Although I read it some time ago (1999), the book seemed to be interesting because it tracked the development of mathematical thought and musical thought over several centuries. It might be poorly written, but what can one expect from a mathematician? Even if the links between math and music are not clearly developed, I found both topics interesting. This interest may be related to my ignorance of pure math and musical theory; nonetheless, it provides people like me with a port of entry into two topics that could easily be treated with too much complexity. Maybe this book is just a collection of very interesting and unrelated topics.

A thoughtful, engaging discussion of a complex relationship
I have read Rothstein's book several times since it was printed, and I have also used it as a text in several Honors College courses devoted to the the relationship between music and mathematics. One way of defining music is that it's a five letter word in the English language for a lot of different things that people do with patterns of sound and silence. And one way of defining mathematics is that it's an eleven letter word in the English language for a lot of different things that people do with pattern. By exploring the ways in which music and mathematics handle pattern, one is naturally pointed in other directions (weaving, art, science) that demonstrate how valuable it is to recognize and explore the inter-connectedness of apparently "different" fields. Rothstein's book is an elegant exploration of this kind of inter-connectedness. Although both musicians and mathematicians might find themselves alternately arguing with Rothstein about an issue in their own field, or befuddled because he is talking about something they do not understand, "Emblems of Mind" provides both with a thought-provoking and outstanding contribution to the literature on the topic. While other texts have tended to be so sophomoric as to be useless, Rothstein's book challenges the reader to explore more deeply a connection which seems so obvious yet amorphous when one looks at it more closely. It's unfortunate he doesn't write more about it.

Emblems of Mind
Published in Hardcover by Times Books (1995)
Author: Edward Rothstein
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Visions of Utopia (New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities)
Published in Hardcover by Oxford University Press (2003)
Authors: Edward Rothstein, Herbert Muschamp, and Martin E. Marty
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