Whether or not readers (aging or otherwise) will profit by the author’s example, this enjoyable blend of music appreciation,...

READ REVIEW

GUITAR ZERO

THE NEW MUSICIAN AND THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, can a 38-year-old tone-deaf professor of cognitive psychology get a guitar and learn how to make it talk?

That’s the question Marcus (Psychology/New York Univ.; Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind, 2008, etc.) asked himself a few years ago, and this intelligent, educational and exuberant book is his answer. Marcus approached his lifelong dream from both a personal and professional level; he wanted to play, but he also wanted to challenge the “critical periods” theory of learning, which suggests that you should learn music early or not at all. The author threw himself into mastering his ax, pushing the limits to see just how far a new trick could take an old dog. In the process, he explores how the senses reorganize to adapt to new information and investigates where music comes from, what evolutionary function (if any) it serves and why some people have rhythm and others don’t. Marcus asks eternal questions on which the jury is still out: Where does talent come from? How far will sheer hard work take you? Why are there countless obsessive, 24/7 guitarists, but there’s only been one Jimi Hendrix? Why do the most dedicated composers of rock and pop songs fall far short of what Bob Dylan or the Beatles accomplished in their 20s? Is it genetic? Nature or nurture? The author sought opinions and advice from people across the music world—e.g., jazz impresario Pat Metheny and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine—and even attended rock-band camp, humbling himself to audition for a band of 11-year-olds who needed someone on bass.

Whether or not readers (aging or otherwise) will profit by the author’s example, this enjoyable blend of music appreciation, science and personal exploration commands a new respect for how the brain and body responds to the promise, and shock, of the new.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-317-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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

Did you like this book?

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more