THIS BOOK IS the result of over twenty years spent playing music, writing music, listening to music, thinking about music, talking about music, and reading and writing about music. In that time, my musical experiences and my thoughts about music have been shaped by more significant encounters than I could begin to list. For two decades of rich music-making and vivid intellectual inquiry, I owe many debts of gratitude to my teachers, colleagues, students, family, and friends.
In an effort to keep my text as clear as possible, I have omitted the usual academic practice of referencing other writers by means of footnotes. A bibliography lists works that were helpful to me, directly or indirectly, in writing my own. It is offered as an idiosyncratic set of suggestions for further reading. While my own text avoids direct engagement even with these authors, readers with a knowledge of musical aesthetics will recognize the almost constant presence of Theodor W. Adorno. Although I have deliberately avoided dealing with his writings explicitly, the broad thrust of his ideas is evident throughout, and I acknowledge here my profound intellectual debt to his work.
But my single most important influence here, and the person to whom my final acknowledgment is made, is Simon Johnson—conductor, chorus master, teacher, and my father. At his death in 1993, he left unfinished a manuscript for a book on music he intended to call “The Capacity of Wonder. ” I have never seen the manuscript, but the title aptly sums up his life as a musician and as a teacher and goes to the heart of what he bequeathed to those who came into contact with him: a vision of music that develops our capacity to exceed the boundaries of our mundane lives and revivifies our sense of being part of a greater reality. His approach to music informs the core of this book.