Emotionally wrenching music from northwestern Greece evokes questions about the meaning of music itself.
King, a Grammy-winning producer, describes himself as an “obsessed” collector of 78 rpm phonograph records, counting among his treasures American folk music and Delta blues recorded in the 1920s and ’30s. In his exuberant literary debut, he recounts his discovery of music far different from any that he had heard before, music so intense and transformative that it set him on a quest to find its cultural roots and to decipher “a larger enigma: why we make music.” In 2009, the author was vacationing in Istanbul when he noticed a dusty collection of records on a shop shelf. Buying a few, he carefully transported the fragile discs home and, with great anticipation, played them. The sound, he writes, was startling: “a dissonant instrumental played with an uncontrolled abandon”; a clarinet “sounded as if it were in the throes of death—bent, contorted, and skirting along the margins of control.” The music came from Epirus, a remote region in northwestern Greece that had “steadfastly resisted assimilation” for thousands of years. After acquiring hundreds more records, King made several trips to the mountain villages of Epirus to investigate the “musical biosphere” from which the viscerally shattering sounds emerged. He locates one origin of the music in “laments and funeral dirges,” which evolved from metrical poetry into instrumental pieces: “a calculated wailing through an instrument such as the clarinet or the violin” that represented “collective remembrance” rather than the commemoration of one individual. In Epirus’ sheepherding villages, the shepherd’s flute, he believes, was the foundation of all the music that ensued. Participating in festivals, learning traditional dances, drinking the “psychotropic grape distillate” tsipouro, interviewing musicians, collectors, and scholars, King concludes that the “preeminent purpose” of music in Epirus was “therapeutic and curative to the individual and the village.” Music, he writes, “was a tool for survival.”
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").