Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall

  I watched the pilot episode of Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon. I figured I'd read the memoir of the same title, which the show is (loosely) based on, before continuing with the series. The portions of the book that deal with the history of classical music in the United States and how that plays into its business and education sides were well-cited and thought-provoking. It definitely opens up dialogue. What is the musician's relationship to the audience? Are we including the audience in the artistic experience, or using them as a way to stroke our own egos? What is the music teacher's responsibility to the younger generation? Are we supporting unrealistic, lofty dreams of "going to Juilliard" and encouraging…

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Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki

  Memories of time spent in Japan visiting her grandfather, a professional violinist, inspire Hana to play her violin in her school talent show, even though she's only had a few lessons. Hana spends every spare moment practicing, despite unsupportive comments from her brothers, and finds a way to face her own performance anxiety the day of the show. The illustrations are stunning, and I especially appreciated Leng's attention to accurate details: the violin and the bow are shown in the correct hands, music notes are properly drawn. Uegaki's use of language is beautifully descriptive: "From his study, the clear, bright notes would drift upstairs, through the shoji screen doors to where Hana slept on sweet-smelling tatami mats, and coax…

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Capturing Music by Thomas Forrest Kelly

  Capturing Music is an "entertaining history of how musicians learned to record music for all time, filled with art that sings." This is the story of music notation, complete with musical examples, vivid, full-color illustrations, and a CD of accompanying music performed by esteemed early music vocal ensemble Blue Heron. I love how Kelly connects a human reason to each development in notation. These changes were (and are) not the result of scholars with nothing better to do, thinking up ways to make things more difficult. This was brilliant problem-solving that met very real needs of a living, breathing language as it evolved and became more complex over time. Serious musicians who enjoy theory and history will especially enjoy this…

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The Day I Almost Destroyed the Boston Symphony Orchestra by John Sant’Ambrogio

  My spouse always complains that when we get together with musician friends, all we do is "talk about music." We love trading stories, and some of our older friends have some pretty fantastic tales. I expected to love this book, but strangely enough, I'm not sure I was the right audience for it. In The Day I Almost Destroyed the Boston Symphony Orchestra, John Sant'Ambrogio hops around through time; sometimes he was a professional, other times a student, then suddenly a professional again. A more linear approach would have been easier to follow. Many of his stories contained details too familiar to me, and didn't hold my interest. I think classical music enthusiasts or music students who aren't involved (or…

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Violins of Hope by James A. Grymes

  For the past twenty years, Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein has devoted his time to the restoration of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Each violin has its own remarkable story as a liberator, comforter, savior, or an avenger, or perhaps as the only remaining memento of a dear relative. In Violins of Hope, musicologist James A. Grymes uses the violins in Weinstein's collection to tell the stories of the musicians who played and heard them. Grymes is careful not to overly romanticize the powerful role of music in the lives of Jewish prisoners. He offers an honest and balanced view, being sure to point out that there were some who resented the musicians or were troubled by their…

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The Late Starters Orchestra by Ari L. Goldman

  Ari Goldman decides to return to the cello after a twenty-five year hiatus. He starts out in his son's youth orchestra, and eventually learns of and joins the New York Late-Starters String Orchestra, an amateur adult orchestra which accepts beginners on up. Goldman shares his musical journey in his book The Late Starters Orchestra. Mostly a memoir, it also includes the science of learning music (especially as an adult vs. as a child), music history, music appreciation, and vignettes of some of the other people he meets in the world of recreational music making. His story is a familiar one to me. Most of my adult music students have returned to their instruments after a long hiatus. A few of them are…

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Stand Up Straight and Sing! by Jessye Norman

  American opera star and recitalist Jessye Norman is one of the most celebrated and highly respected singers in the world. In her upcoming memoir Stand and Straight and Sing!, she shares what it was like to grow up in the segregated South and how she made her way to stages across the globe. Norman's conversational tone is intimate and remarkably kind, even when she shares a story that could portray a colleague in an unflattering light. She also has a rebellious, "don't tell me I can't do that" kind of spirit, combined with a hint of diva, a hint of tomboy, and a very strong sense of security and comfort in who she is. To be honest, I found her to…

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Audiobook Review: How Music Works by David Byrne

Title: How Music WorksAuthor: David ByrneNarrator: Andrew GarmanPublisher: Recorded Books, LLCReleased: September 1, 2013Source: borrowed from local libraryAmazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodreadsSynopsis (from Recorded Books):Best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the iconic band Talking Heads, David Byrne has received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the insightful How Music Works, Byrne offers his unique perspective on music - including how music is shaped by time, how recording technologies transform the listening experience, the evolution of the industry, and much more.How Music Works is a non-fiction loving, eclectic reader's dream. It covers history, culture, science, psychology, technology, politics, business, entertainment, and so…

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The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

Title: The Composer Is DeadAuthor: Lemony SnicketPublisher: HarperCollinsReleased: March 2009Source: borrowed from local libraryAmazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodreadsSynopsis:There's dreadful news from the symphony hall—the composer is dead! If you have ever heard an orchestra play, then you know that musicians are most certainly guilty of something. Where exactly were the violins on the night in question? Did anyone see the harp? Is the trumpet protesting a bit too boisterously? In this perplexing murder mystery, everyone seems to have a motive, everyone has an alibi, and nearly everyone is a musical instrument. But the composer is still dead. Perhaps you can solve the crime yourself. Join the Inspector as he interrogates all the unusual suspects. Then listen to the…

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The Simple Flute by Michel Debost

Title: The Simple FluteAuthor: Michel DebostPublisher: Oxford University PressReleased: February 2010Source: my personal libraryAmazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodreadsSynopsis:Drawing from his highly praised French work, Une simple flûte, distinguished flutist and teacher Michel Debost has compiled a useful and imaginative introduction to playing the flute. This compendium of advice and insight covers essential topics such as breathing, articulation, and tone, but also explores "jawboning," "finger phrasing," "the little devils," and other quirky and vexing aspects of flute playing. Full of practical advice on technique and axioms that lend moral support during tough practice sessions, The Simple Flute will be a welcome addition to any serious or novice flutist's library. Offering concise, common-sense solutions for flutists of all levels, this book…

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