The best books to make you fall in love with music all over again

J. Anthony Allen Author Of Music Theory for Electronic Music Producers: The producer's guide to harmony, chord progressions, and song structure in the MIDI grid.
By J. Anthony Allen

Who am I?

When you get a PhD in music, you end up with a lot of music books. Like, hundreds of them. At the end of every semester I could never bring myself to sell my textbooks because I just love books. Over the years I’ve continued to collect books about music, and books about everything. I’m happy that now a few have my name on the spine. 


I wrote...

Music Theory for Electronic Music Producers: The producer's guide to harmony, chord progressions, and song structure in the MIDI grid.

By J. Anthony Allen,

Book cover of Music Theory for Electronic Music Producers: The producer's guide to harmony, chord progressions, and song structure in the MIDI grid.

What is my book about?

As an online and university class, Dr. Allen has had over 50,000 students use this ground-breaking curriculum to learn music theory. Students and Producers who have wanted to learn music theory to improve their own music, but have been intimidated by traditional approaches, music notation, and abstract concepts will find this book to be the answer they have been looking for.

From the Author: “How music theory is usually taught is unfair. It starts with the assumption that you can read music and understand the language of classical music. My book leaves all of that behind – focusing only on the MIDI grid that producers are already familiar with to learn all the key concepts of music theory, and ultimately, make better music.”

The books I picked & why

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Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde

By Joscelyn Godwin,

Book cover of Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde

Why this book?

I remember reading this book over the summer when I was on the road with a recording company. It is filled with anecdotes about the metaphysical, transcendental, spiritual, and mystic properties of music. The thing I find so fascinating about these stories is not if they are true or not, but the belief systems of these ancient people, and the power and faith they put into music.


Cry to Heaven

By Anne Rice,

Book cover of Cry to Heaven

Why this book?

We all know Anne Rice for books about vampires, but did you know she wrote a book that is a tragic story of a young prince’s banishment and his lifetime of trying to re-take his throne? Oh, and it is all wrapped up in the prince’s forbidden music career and his status as a famous castrato singer. The thing that baffles me the most about this book is how no one has made it into an opera yet.


The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

By Jamie James,

Book cover of The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

Why this book?

This book is a nonfiction history of the concept of Spherics – the idea that music and astronomy are intimately connected. It starts by talking about Pathagorous and works our way chronologically up to Einstein. There are a lot of books on the topic of Music of the Spheres (and a Coldplay album), but this is the best book I’ve found to fully understand the concept. 


Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time

By Nicolas Slonimsky,

Book cover of Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time

Why this book?

This book is essentially a book of quotes from famous musicians, composers, and conductors. I find this book especially inspiring because of the trivial nature of some of the quotes. Sometimes it is just refreshing to read Beethoven complaining about his taxes, or Mozart trying to get paid after a gig. I use this book in my university classes constantly.


Geek Love

By Katherine Dunn,

Book cover of Geek Love

Why this book?

This one is a bit of a stretch but hear me out: This is one of my all-time favorite books. It is a twisted story of a circus family and their experiences with racism, sexism, cults, body dysmorphia, and many other issues. One (or two) of the main characters is a set of Siamese twins, joined at the hip, who play the piano with four hands as part of their circus act. The book isn’t explicitly about music, but music plays into the epic and amazing story about equality. 


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