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Steve_W

Summer Reading Thread

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No one seems to have mentioned this:

A thousand mornings of music; the journal of an obsession with the violin

Author: Arnold Gingrich

A delightful read by an excellent writer.

That's one of my favorites, actually, and I think I mentioned it in an earlier incarnation of this thread. I first read it as a teenager back in the early 1970s and have probably reread it an average of once every couple of years since. I'm sure it's long out of print but worth finding.

Arnold Gingrich was a successful author and magazine publisher and a lapsed amateur violinist whose interest in the violin was reawakened in his 60s. This book chronicled his infatuation with violin playing and collecting over a period of around 3 years in the mid-1960s, during which time he purchased some nice violins (among them a Petrus Guarnerius and a Strad, also several Dodd bows) and through his associations with people who worked in shops, got to play some incredible instruments. There are some nice vignettes about the psychology of collecting, the history of the violin and its makers, and anecdotes about performing and performers. Great book. I've often wondered where Mr. Gingrich's Strad is now...

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I just finished The Invention of Heaven by Harry Mulisch. Music plays a large part in the novel which has an engaging plot seamlessly woven with philosophical meandering. The style might be called Cool Dutch Divine Realism.

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http://www.cozio.com/Instrument.aspx?id=735

It says in the book that he left it to his local college.

All Gingrich's major instruments can be seen here:

http://www.cozio.com/Owner.aspx?id=771

Cool, thanks for the link. Yeah, I remembered that he'd planned on leaving the Strad to the college, but I wondered if he'd followed through and if they kept it or sold it... Interesting that Cozio is still calling that "Stainer" a Stainer! Seemed a bit shady to me...

Speaking of old bio's, I just found a copy of Gary Graffman's "I Really Should be Practicing" which I remember reading and loving about 25 years ago. It has become a collector's item and it's difficult to find decent used copies at a reasonable price; I look forward to re-reading it this Summer.

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I've nearly finished reading Oliver Sacks "Musicophilia". Interesting read, but actually quite terrifying to find the amazing number of things that can go wrong with your brain relative to the processing of music.

Still looking for something light and fun as Paul Adam's "Sleeper".

Cheers,

Ken

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Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers has a lot to say about musicians. A nice companion to that is Lang Lang's assisted memoir: A Journey of a Thousand Miles.

Last night I turned over the last page in The Place My Words Are Looking For, selected by Paul B. Janeczko. If my sister is reading, she might as well know that this one isn't going in the mail. A treasure for sure.

A recent find I don't mind sharing is Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen. It's a scream. My geriatric friends will be pleased to know that the naked lady on the cover is scaled to go with the large type on the pages of my copy.

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Still looking for something light and fun as Paul Adam's "Sleeper".

AKA The Rainaldi Quartet in the U.S.

I agree, it's the perfect Summer read and I've found nothing else in the same vein. I'll probably re-read that and Body And Soul by Frank Conroy, and maybe Vikram Seth's An Equal Music at some point this Summer...

I recently finished Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music by Glen Kurz, based on a recommendation that I think was made somewhat earlier in this thread. It was good but I got quite PO'd with Kurz by the end; he threw away a career as a potentially great guitarist based on his inability to adjust his expectations and cope with perceived failure. This also would be an interesting companion to "Outliers."

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I'll probably re-read ... Body And Soul by Frank Conroy, ...

Yes, a worthwhile book. It is a novel, about a prodigy, but one of those that actually had a profound effect on me. In addition to being a good read, I discovered that some people think in words, which is not what I do, nor the prodigy in the novel (our only real connection :) ). Those of us who don't think in words have to 'translate' thoughts into words when someone asks: what are you thinking? Good information to have in many situations.

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I recently finished Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music by Glen Kurz, based on a recommendation that I think was made somewhat earlier in this thread. It was good but I got quite PO'd with Kurz by the end; he threw away a career as a potentially great guitarist based on his inability to adjust his expectations and cope with perceived failure.

I felt the same way you did about this book. I've known more than one musician (I can think of at least two brilliant examples), who play at an extraordinarily high level, yet think they're "not good enough" to have a career, and don't exploit their gifts. They don't play as well as, say Arrau or Heifetz, so they won't play at all.

Even for Arrau or Heifetz, I don't think it works that way; I think you do music because you have to, because you feel compelled to, whatever your gifts may be. IIRC, Kurz went on to get a PhD in romance languages at Stanford (?); he does write well. The woman who wrote Mozart in the Jungle did something similar: moved to California and got a doctorate in a subject different than music.

Maybe it's a function of being spoiled; we're all so spoiled, taking for granted our houses full of books (and now computers), food, warmth and comfort and love. I don't think most of the people in the world today and in the past, have that. Perhaps if we had less, we'd work harder?

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A wonderful old book (published in 1943 and updated in 1961) covering J.S. Bach to John Cage:

"The Stream of Music" by Richard Anthony Leonard. Copies are available from Amazon - not many, but used copies are reasonably priced.

WHen I play chamber music by the various composers just after reading about them in this book I have felt like I was there during the composing.

Andy

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Since my last post last summer, I read "Indivisible by Four" by the first viiolinist of the Guarneri - my favorite quartet. I loved the insight into that group and that medium.

If you like Science Fiction (true SF, not the fantasy stuff they sell as SF now), or just plain good writing - though it's been around a while - I just discovered Orson Scott Card's "Ender" series. Start but don't stop with the first book, "Ender's Game." They get more introspective and philosophical as the series progresses and his writing style is wonderful. I especially enjoyed "Speaker for the Dead."

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Dr. S, I agree with you about Arnold Steinhardt's writing; I like Indivisible by Four and also Violin Dreams, which I'm sure was mentioned earlier in this thread. He also has a nice blog at arnoldsteinhardt.com. Some of his "Fiddler's Beat" journal entries are very funny! [Warning, his site has background music enabled by default. It's very nice background music but still. It can be easily shut off though.]

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Yes, a worthwhile book. It is a novel, about a prodigy, but one of those that actually had a profound effect on me. In addition to being a good read, I discovered that some people think in words, which is not what I do, nor the prodigy in the novel (our only real connection :) ). Those of us who don't think in words have to 'translate' thoughts into words when someone asks: what are you thinking? Good information to have in many situations.

WOW!!! I never thought about it that way!

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