Some of Andrew Ford's books are no longer available in bookshops. Contact Andrew directly to purchase a copy of Speaking in Tongues - the Songs of Van Morrison (2005) at the price of AUD 25 + postage.
Try Whistling This - writings about music
Black Inc., August 2012
Andrew Ford's new collection of writings about music is published on 1st August by Black Inc. In Try Whistling This, Ford traces the concept of dirty dancing back to the 16th century, marvels at the weirdness of Percy Grainger and consider the decision of Wilhelm Furtwängler to keep conducting under the Nazis. He explores the intersection of words and music, the bugbear of Australian musical identity, and the fundamental importance, in music and in life, of listening.
There are essays based on Ford's acclaimed radio series Music and Fashion, as well as illuminating examinations of music-makers from Mozart to Messiaen, Elgar to Brett Dean, Cole Porter to Sondheim, Bob Dylan to Randy Newman.
> Buy Try Whistling This online from Readings (Melbourne)
Reviews of Try Whistling This
This is a superb collection of essays of opinion across a broad spectrum of musical expression by our finest commentator.
Anthony Linden Jones, Music Forum
I was entirely delighted by Andrew Fords Try Whistling This: writings about music. Ford is the most literate of composers; the most musical of writers. He demonstrates a seemingly endless knowledge of his field, while writing brilliant, entertaining criticism.
David McCooey, 'Books of the Year', Australian Book Review
Should we think of Mahler's all-embracing symphonies as 'operas without the action'? Was Bob Dylan really 'the best-read and most literary popular song writer of the past 50 years'? Is improvisation something you can practise and get better at?
One of the most attractive things about Try Whistling This is that Andrew Ford – who would, incidentally, answer 'yes' to each of those questions – is constantly spinning out new ideas, asking us to see familiar things with fresh eyes, prompting us to think again about settled opinions. And then to go back to the music and listen more intently.
Attractive too is his depth of knowledge and the breadth of his musical sympathies in this collection about music and the people who make it. There's no condescension in Try Whistling This, and no suggestion that one type of music is less worthy of serious consideration than another. Music is for him an oceanic expanse, where even the pools and inlets are refreshed by tides of fashion and currents of innovation. He is as comfortable (and adept at) discussing the austere appeal of plainsong as the supple melodic lines of Hoagy Carmichael . . .
The scope of his coverage shows just how much music is a seemingly endless field for adventures, nourished by old traditions and enlivened by new sources of inspiration. He asks us to take the time to listen to new compositions, as well as to things we think we already know. With new music, he says, 'originality should always be the point'. Perhaps we will even find something we can whistle.
Peter Fuller, Canberra Times
Ford says he doubts he is, in fact, a proper critic at all, though he is certain he knows what one does. 'The critic must ask what it is the composer and-or performer aiming for, and then whether on its own terms the music has succeeded,' he writes in an engaging introduction. The point is, it's not the critic's job to tell us whether to like a particular piece; it's to say whether it's any good, and why (or why not).
In Try Whistling This he sets up an even broader sweep than this remit would suggest, however, first throwing at the reader a longform essay called 'Music and Fashion', refigured from a six-part radio series he presented with the same title. It's a grand stroll through the past few centuries that asks, from many different angles, a deceptively simple question: why do we like the things we like?
Stephen Fitzpatrick, The Australian
Ford writes from the frontline of music; he is composer first and a writer second. He can’t help but be caught up in the drama of creation and can empathise with Mahler, for example, who could compose only during his summer break, or Walton who sometimes found it difficult to compose at all. Where other critics might take a helicopter view, or affect objectivity, Ford has both the luxury to write about what he likes and the inclination to occasionally play favourites, but utterly without dogma. A transplanted Briton, Ford lavishes particular care on Elgar, Vaughan Williams and others – and he’ll probably send you rushing to investigate some of the non-astrological music of Gustav Holst (that is, his entire output minus The Planets suite). Australian music receives Ford’s generous and sympathetic advocacy, too, in appreciations of Richard Meale, Brett Dean and others. Naturally, Bob Dylan is here, as well as Stephen Sondheim, presented with equal wonder and affection.
Spend 15 minutes chatting with Ford (or reading one of his books) and you soon sense that there is no bottom and no sides to his knowledge. There are plenty of smart people around, but the miraculous thing about Ford’s manner is that he makes you feel smarter too.
Robert Murray, Melbourne Review
The strength of the pieces collected here lies in their approachability, making even rarefied music easier to understand, and providing pointers for adding depth to the listening experience. It's a 'bedside reader' for the musically curious, uplifted by Ford's celebratory spirit and eclectic range.
James Koehne, Adelaide Advertiser
Ford is well studied yet very accessible. Classical music dominates this tome, with considerable focus on Australia composers, but Ford does tackle Dylan, Randy Newman and Cole Porter. Most of all he shatters the idea of classical music frozen in time, breezing through centuries and styles with rare perspective.
Doug Wallen, Rolling Stone
The Sound of Pictures
Black Inc., November 2010
The Sound of Pictures: Listening to the Movies, from Hitchcock to High Fidelity looks at the ways directors have used music and other sounds in more than 400 films. How did Alfred Hitchcock use music to plant clues in his films? Why do some 'mix-tape' soundtracks work brilliantly and others fall flat? How do classics from A Clockwork Orange to The Godfather, Cinema Paradiso to High Noon, use music and sound effects to enhance what we see on screen? In addition to Ford's own essays, there are his interviews with five composers Ennio Morricone, Richard Rodney Bennett, Dick Hayman, Lalo Schifrin and Howard Shore) and five directors (Bruce Beresford, Sally Potter, Wim Wenders, Peter Greenaway and Peter Weir).
> Read a sample!
> Buy The Sound of Pictures from Readings (Melbourne)
Praise for The Sound of Pictures
Pick of the Week!
If you want to be reminded (who does?) of the too-frequent mediocrity of much criticism in this country, read the beautifully written opening essay in this entertaining book about movie soundtracks. Andrew Ford, surely one of this country's most astute music critics (and a composer to boot), writes with such knowledge and authority about film scores, the reader is left gasping at his deep attentiveness to the subtleties involved in the interplay between sound and image. He ranges widely and is as comfortable evaluating Bernard Herrmann's contribution to Hitchcock's movies as he is writing about Thomas Newman's use of marimba and tabla in American Beauty.
But this book is much more than just the opening essay. It is structured to include insightful interviews with five composers, including Ennio Morricone and the New York jazz pianist Dick Hyman; six critical essays on topics as diverse as 'Pop Goes the Score' (with an excellent analysis of the role played by the song 'High Noon' in the movie of the same name) and 'Listening for Clues in Hitchcock'; and interviews with directors including Bruce Beresford, Sally Potter, Wim Wenders and Peter Weir.
For most moviegoers, the most effective music operates as a subconscious backdrop, so this book's appeal lies in the way it bypasses the images and storylines and brings the soundtrack to the fore. It makes readers think and respond differently to movies and become much more aware of the role played by music, its manipulative power and the importance of song choice.
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
In writing The Sound of Pictures, Ford wanted to 'discuss actual films and not other people's theories about them' and expressed his desire that it should be free of academic obfuscation. Ford has done exactly that, producing an immensely readable book, full of revealing information and interesting anecdotes. The Sound of Pictures will be joyfully read by movie and music fans alike.
Peter Crossing, The Canberra Times
[T]his extended think-piece on the historical role and range of movie music is one of the best works since Adorno and Hans Eisler's ancient Composing for Films, which has been the standard film school text forever and runs the high art line until you want to scream.
The Sound of Pictures is a must-read for anyone with an interest in film or music.
Terry Oberg, The Courier-Mail
Ford's roving curiosity and inclusive prose ensure The Sound of Pictures holds premium interest for all movie enthusiasts, casual and committed.
Gerard Elson, Bookseller+Publisher
The Sound of Pictures is a consciousness-raising affair that helps the film buff and even the most casual viewer understand how music complements a film.
Martin Stevenson, The Examiner
Music can be integral to making a film work, but it's the director and the starts who generally get the credit. More power to Ford for showering a little attention on the contribution of screen composers with such well-informed enthusiasm.
Alistair Jones, The Australian
Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz
- 170 musicians get vocal
on The Music Show
ABC Books, March 2008
Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz is the title of a new book of interviews from ABC Books in which, as the subtitle has it, '170 musicians get vocal on The Music Show'. Ford has presented this radio program – something of a ABC Saturday morning institution – since 1995, and the new book, edited by Anni Heino, brings together conversations with guests such as John Adams, Victoria de los Ángeles, Robyn Archer, Pierre Boulez, David Byrne, Harry Connick Jr, Bob Geldof, k.d.lang, Tom Lehrer, Yehudi Menuhin, Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mitsuko Uchida.
> Visit the website of The Music Show,
Buy the book online.
The variety of musicians interviewed in the book - 45 of them at some length, another 125 of them or so represented by pithily related comments - corresponds to the amazing mixture of talent heard on ABC Radio National's The Music Show on Saturday mornings. Jazz musicians, opera conductors, concert soloists, country and western performers, orchestral composers, pop and rock composer-singers, directors, scene designers, even the occasional writer, all make their appearances . . . For wit I give first place to the peerless mouth-organ player Larry Adler; for deep-seated goodness and wisdom Bob Copper of Rottingdean, whose family has been singing traditional songs in parts for generations. Similarly inspiring is Kev Carmody's account of how the indigenous droving camps he knew in his younger days lapped up radio broadcasts of Bach and discussed at length the characters of Dylan Thomas's radio play Under Milk Wood.
Roger Covell, Sydney Morning Herald
Radio National's The Music Show makes cleaning the house on a Saturday morning almost bearable. Just when I'm getting into an existential funk about the pointlessness of it all, I'll be diverted by pianist
Mitsuko Uchida talking about the crucial differences between Beethoven and Mozart, or jazz singer Annie Ross recalling the time she had to fill in for Billie Holiday . . . As someone who isn't a music aficionado, I often don't know the interviewees but it usually doesn't matter. In radio and book form, these conversations are an entertaining education in what it means to make music.
Fiona Capp, The Age
This was never going to be an unbiased review. Having said that, Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz more than lives up to the expectations of this rusted-on listener. One of the joys of The Music Show is its eclecticism: the show's charter is to cover as many types of music as possible, and it spans classical, jazz, folk, blues, country, gospel, comedy, rock and pop . . . [The book] reflects the element of suprise always present in [the show] . . . An interview with Chad Morgan, discussing the perfect country song (everyone dies), is immediately followed by Yehudi Menuhin's recollections of playing to recently liberated prisoners of Bergen-Belsen concertration camp.
Robyn Murray, Southern Highlands News
In Defence of Classical Music
ABC Books, September 2005
In his new book, In Defence of Classical Music, Andrew Ford asks how the symphonies of Beethoven and string quartets of Brahms can possibly be relevant post 9/11. He argues that it is precisely because we live in discordant times that classical music is more valuable than ever.
'Classical music is not escapism,' Ford maintains, 'it is a form of consolation. A retreat, certainly, but a retreat into reality rather than away from it.'
Following the essay which gives the book its title, there are ten shorter essays on individual composers: Dowland, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Sibelius, Ravel, John Adams, Kaija Saariaho and Ross Bolleter. Finally, in an attempt to take the reader into the mind of a composer, Ford turns to his own music, with discussions of The Waltz Book, Learning to Howl, and Manhattan Epiphanies.
The book is brilliant - especially Part I, which is a necessary prelude to
everything I have ever written about music, though neither I nor anyone else
has ever done it!
Emeritus Professor of Music, University of York
Andrew Ford relishes the debate, arguing that the classical music audience
must bring 'its ears, its concentration, its imagination and its memory' to
the experience. No, classical music will not make you a better human being
('a particularly insidious myth'), yet why, Ford wonders, did he have a
bigger appetite for the classics immediately after September 11, 2001, 'in
particular the string quartets of Brahms'? Wonderful mysteries.
Tony Maniaty, The Australian
He summarises his argument by bravely pointing out that 'classical music is
a source not only of consolation but of certainty . . . it reaffirms
creativity because it has survived'. Here is a cause that is elegantly,
perhaps classically, argued.
Martin Stevenson, The Examiner, Launceston
A great read!
Kate de Goldi, "Good Morning", TVNZ
This book is currently out of print (try AbeBooks.com).
> Read a sample!