Music

Two books in the TLS

July 9, 2008
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Two books in the TLS

The July 4 Times Literary Supplement ran an excellent review Evelyn Bloch-Dano’s Madame Proust: A Biography—an engaging account of the life of Jeanne Wiel, mother to Marcel Proust, and as Bloch-Dano demonstrates, a decisive influence on the great writer’s career. Touching on a myriad of ways in which Proust’s mother helped to mold her son into one of the nineteenth-century’s most famous novelists the review pays special attention to Proust’s mother as a German Jew living in France just before the Dreyfus affair, which revealed the strong undercurrents of antisemitism and injustice that permeated French culture and greatly affected the role Jeanne took in protecting her son from the social pressures and prejudices of the day. Ingrid Wassenar writes for the TLS: For Bloch-Dano the key to Jeanne is her status as an assimilated Jew. She is represented as a Third Republic Esther: “To save her people, Esther must hide her true origins without ever denying them.” In the Old Testament, Esther treads a fine line between obeying the Persian King Ahasuerus and placating her Israelite uncle, Mordecai. In similar ways Jeanne Weil did not truly belong to herself.… Madame Proust raises fascinating questions about the nature of maternal love . . .

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The epic history of the AACM

June 3, 2008
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The epic history of the AACM

The June issue of Downbeat Magazine is running a positive review of George Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music—the definitive history of one of the most influential avant-garde jazz collectives in existence, the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Writing for Downbeat jazz critic Howard Mandel begins his review: George Lewis’s epic history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians sets a new standard for scholarly writing about the people who make Great Black Music, or any other kind. A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, interweaves interviews with 67 of Lewis’s AACM colleagues, select journalistic reports and theoretical writings with the perspective of a trusted insider across a societal portrait worthy of Tolstoy. Lewis dramatizes the story of independent, underfinanced, determined, sophisticated artists from a working-class minority subculture struggling to launch an esthetic movement that emphasizes individuality, continuous exploration and personal development in a world that could hardly care less. Downbeat magazine seems to be having some technical difficulties with their website, but for now you can read the full unedited version on Howard Mandel’s blog Jazz Beyond Jazz. Also read an excerpt . . .

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Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

May 22, 2008
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Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

Charles Hirsch’s new book Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans was reviewed yesterday in the Times-Picayune. Contributing writer Jason Berry begins by drawing a parallel between the early New Orleans jazz scene Hirsch brings to life in his book, and the city as we know it today: The music we now call jazz flowered at the dawn of the last century, a time of grinding poverty and struggle for black people, as Charles Hersch writes in a provocative new history, Subversive Sounds. A political scientist by training, Hersch illuminates how musicians of color drew from realities that few white people experienced in forging a form of dance music for people of both races. In that sense, Subversive Sounds is more than timely. The social realities of New Orleans today resemble the city in 1900: racial polarization beneath a blanket of poverty and uncertain leadership. A century ago tourism was in its infancy; today’s “cultural economy” markets an urban identity shaped by African-American traditions that ran deepest in downriver wards that were wrecked in the flooding of 2005, areas where tour buses show visitors the wonder of our Pompeii on the Mississippi. Read the full review . . .

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Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

May 14, 2008
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Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. From its working-class roots on the South Side of Chicago, the AACM went on to forge an extensive legacy of cultural and social experimentation, crossing both musical and racial boundaries. The success of individual members and ensembles from Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Anthony Braxton to Douglas Ewart, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Nicole Mitchell has been matched by the enormous international influence of the collective itself in inspiring a generation of musical experimentalists. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images. Read the press release. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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The collective history of the AACM

May 2, 2008
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The collective history of the AACM

Today’s New York Times is running a piece on author George E. Lewis’s new book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music—the authoritative historical account of one of America’s most influential avant-garde jazz collectives. Founded in 1965, many icons of the avant garde, musicians like Anthony Braxton and Leo Wadada Smith, have joined its ranks. And many of them continue to play as members of the collective today. The NYT article includes information on several upcoming events in NYC including a special book release concert happening next Friday (May 9th) at the Community Church of New York. From the NYT: The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization that has fostered some of the most vital American avant-garde music of the last 40 years. Though noncommercial, often pointedly conceptual and unabashedly arcane, this music has had a profound influence over the years on several generations of experimental musicians worldwide. The scene plays out vividly in A Power Stronger Than Itself: The A.A.C.M. and Experimental Music, an important book by the trombonist-composer-scholar George Lewis due out from the University of Chicago Press this month. Reconstructing that inaugural meeting from audio tapes, Mr. Lewis conveys . . .

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Press Release: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

April 24, 2008
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Press Release: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

New in Paperback—Piero Melograni here offers a wholly readable account of Mozart’s remarkable life and times. This masterful biography proceeds from the young Mozart’s earliest years as a wunderkind—the child prodigy who traveled with his family to perform concerts throughout Europe—to his formative years in Vienna, where he absorbed the artistic and intellectual spirit of the Enlightenment, to his deathbed, his unfinished Requiem, and the mystery that still surrounds his burial. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt. . . .

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The monumental AACM

April 10, 2008
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The monumental AACM

In 1965 a group of Chicago musicians dedicated to exploring the frontiers of American jazz banded together to create the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians—one of the most radical and influential musical collectives in the history of the genre. Now, author George E. Lewis has chronicled the definitive history of the movement in, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, a book music critic Peter Margasak praises in today’s Chicago Reader for “ deeper into the formation and development of the AACM than any previous history, and as a formal acknowledgment of the group’s enormous importance and influence….” Margasak’s article continues: In the early 60s the marketplace was indifferent or hostile to creative jazz, and the AACM was the first sustained musician-run group to support it, producing legendary artists like Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Henry Threadgill. The organization remains active today, led by reedist Douglas Ewart and flutist Nicole Mitchell, and its members still display the fierce determination and brilliant creativity that made its name a seal of quality. And on Tuesday, April 15, 4:15 pm you’ll have a chance to see some of the AACM’s brilliant creativity yourself if . . .

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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

April 19, 2007
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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

Adding to the long list of positive reviews of Philip Gossett’s new book Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera, in this month’s Literary Reviewcritic Patrick O’Connor rains his praise on Gossett’s extraordinary study of the Italian opera. O’Connor writes: a very personal and wide-ranging study of the great nineteenth-century Italian composers, and the problems and challenges facing those who decide to study their music beyond the available printed scores.… The depth and scope of Gossett’s book, on which he has been working for over twenty years, makes it one that will be of immense value to anyone approaching the subject of opera in the so-called age of bel-canto. Although the minute detail of some of the individual music examples he chooses may be beyond even the informed opera aficionado, he writes so clearly, and with such vigor, that the arguments about transpositions, cuts, translations and interpolations, take on something of the feel of detective work. And indeed Gossett’s work is both extensive enough to enthrall aficionados of Italian opera and passionate enough to captivate newcomers seeking a reliable introduction to it—in all its incomparable grandeur and timeless allure. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Harvey Sachs on 98.7 WFMT

February 22, 2007
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Harvey Sachs on 98.7 WFMT

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of conductor Arturo Toscanini, WFMT’s Critical Thinking with Andrew Patner will feature a two part conversation with Harvey Sachs, editor of The Letters of Arturo Toscanini, which we recently published in paperback. The first show airs on February 26 at 10:00 pm central time and the second on March 5 at the same time. If you’re in the Chicago area be sure to catch the show, if you’re not, WFMT offers streaming audio, but you’ll have to subscribe to listen. Fifty years after his death, Arturo Toscanini is still considered one of the greatest conductors in history, and probably the most influential. His letters, expertly collected, translated, and edited in The Letters of Arturo Toscanini, will give readers a new depth of insight into his life and work. As Sachs puts it, they “reveal above all else a man whose psychological perceptions in general and self-knowledge in particular were much more acute than most people have thought likely.” They are sure to enthrall anyone interested in learning more about one of the great lives of the twentieth century. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Phillip Gossett on 98.7 WFMT

January 8, 2007
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Phillip Gossett on 98.7 WFMT

Tonight—Monday, January 8—at 10 p.m. 98.7 WFMT Radio’s Critical Thinking with Andrew Patner will present the first of two programs with University of Chicago musicologist Philip Gossett discussing his new book Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera, illustrating his points on bel canto opera performance with musical extracts. The second program will air Monday, January 15, at 10 p.m. Divas and Scholars is a dazzling and beguiling account of how opera comes to the stage, filled with Philip Gossett’s personal experiences of triumphant—and even failed—performances and suffused with his towering and tonic passion for music. Writing as a fan, a musician, and a scholar, Gossett, the world’s leading authority on the performance of Italian opera, brings colorfully to life the problems, and occasionally the scandals, that attend the production of some of our most favorite operas. Read an excerpt. . . .

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