Non-Fiction Review: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound

Playlist by James  Rhodes
Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound
by James RhodesMartin O’Neill (Goodreads Author) (Illustrations)

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


James Rhodes writes about classical music and features seven revolutionary composers who changed the landscape of music forever. With chapters on Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel, this book outlines how music developed over time, and how each of these extraordinary musicians overcame the challenges of their era to create beautiful music that still resonates with musicians today.

I was really intrigued by the wild and colorful artwork depicting each composer, with elements of their time and items representing their music pasted into a chaotic blend. Bach is depicted with grand church buildings behind him, and Mozart has angels, flowers, and sunshine around his head like a halo. Chopin has a flaming heart on his chest, and a piano next to him being destroyed by sledgehammers. Rachmaninoff has butterflies and tigers, along with a diagram of a massive hand. (He had really huge hands; the bane of all pianists who try to play his piano compositions.)
I was a little dissatisfied with the writing style, which is irreverent and flippant. I guess the author is trying to appeal to the modern person by comparing Beethoven to Kanye West, but I didn’t appreciate it. And Mozart’s incredible composing output is compared to Rihanna or Coldplay releasing six albums a year, to emphasize how much and how quickly Mozart was writing. The author is trying to create some kind of bridge to the modern world, but I would prefer to just hear the history and make my own conclusions about the modern-day influences of these composers.

One thing I did love about this book is the obvious enthusiasm of the author for these composers and their music. The book really inspires the reader to listen carefully to classical music, and appreciate the different emotions and styles and technical perfection of some of the greatest music ever written!

I really liked how the chapters are organized. We are given a short bio on each composer, including some elements of their time in history and personal relationship and family life that definitely influenced and inspired their music. Then there are two ground-breaking pieces that are analyzed and described, as you listen along with the playlist, showcasing the genius of the composer and telling why that piece in particular is so important.

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