A dense, evocative, rewarding journey to the no-man's-land between the realms of music and language. Award-winning music scholar Swain (Colgate Univ.) has written a brave, boundary-breaking book for musical theorists and for those linguists with an excellent music education. Everyone else, however, will have to rely on their gut feelings that a great piece of music has spoken to them or that a poem in a foreign language had music that moved them—two points well explored here. Swain builds an eloquent case for comparing music and spoken language, establishing ``how musical elements are gathered and understood like speech elements; how that understanding is specific to a community of speakers and listeners; how the meaning of music may now broaden and now narrow, ever responsive to its context; how composers can use that context to teach their listeners to hear syntax that endures but for one piece, an ephemeral syntax that is music's answer to metaphor; how composers have imitated linguistic idealists in the production of artificial systems in our century; how music and language have similarly evolved.'' Swain's sentences are not usually this long, but this opening of his eighth and final chapter encapsulates much of the ambitious theorizing that goes on here. Just when we feel the author is stretching a point, he strikes a familiar note with insights such as his observation that we ``are much more forgiving of syntactic errors in the performance of natural language than in music.'' Swain also scores points when comparing the untranslatable quality of musically significant poems to the ``formless, unpredictable blur of sound'' of a foreign musical language. Such high-altitude mountain climbing is not for everyone, but this is a landmark expedition in the exploration of the upper reaches of human communication.
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").