A well-tempered song of praise.



New York Times editor Whitney (Spy Trader, 1993) crafts a joyful and well-versed celebration of the pipe organ in American musical history over the past century.

For sheer musical power and sonority, pipe organs are hard to beat. The author, who has been playing them for 40 years, here chronicles the struggle for the soul of the organ that took place in the US during the 20th century. He starts with Ernest Skinner, an organ builder who developed the eclectic electropneumatic instrument with its smooth orchestral sound, and continues through the renaissance of the classic baroque tracker-action organ. Whitney has a fine old time describing the architecture of the instruments from windchest to whistle, as well as their special qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. Occasional ventures “up to the chirping stops of the one-foot sifflote on the positive,” or “the enclosed swell division with a romantic voix celeste” give us a peek into the musicality of the nomenclature, without being so frequent as to become annoying. The author introduces other makers, including G. Donald Harrison, who brightened Skinner's instruments and then spearheaded the classic revival, and Charles Fisk, who revived the eclectic organ. Whitney also profiles the enormously popular organists Virgil Fox and E. Power Biggs, ably reflecting the character of each: strict, cool, clipped Biggs, who along with Harrison championed the return of an organ that Bach and Handel would have recognized as their own; and colorful, dashing, brilliant Fox, who loved the orchestral organ for its ability to show off his romantic, 19th-century playing style. But the star here is the pipe organ itself, pneumatic or tracker, with its great peals of sound that in the hands of someone like Bach render the instrument “awe-inspiring in its majesty and solemnity, proclaiming the power and the order of the universe.”

A well-tempered song of praise.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-59648-173-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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