Pianist/pedogogue Sherman has mixed together takes on Zen philosophy and modern chaos theory with the meandering literary style of Laurence Sterne and snippets of fortune-cookie wisdom to produce this collection of brief, largely unrelated paragraphs on music, modern society, and piano technique. Seemingly incapable of expressing a thought that takes longer than a paragraph or two to develop, Sherman has created a book that is brief yet tedious. It is divided into five general parts: the first on piano playing, the next on teaching, a section of ``cultural critique,'' the fourth on interpreting the score, and a final ``coda'' that features more philosophical mumbling. As you might suspect from an expert pianist, Sherman is at his best when writing about the mechanics of piano playing. His description of the different fingers, for example, is amusingly poetic (``The thumb is a finger in the sense that a whale is a fish''). But his tendency to rely on facile linguistic games and puns (``Each chapter of the struggle tempers the mind and mines the temper'') has the effect, at best, of clouding his meaning. Sherman is at his worst as a social critic, bewailing the ``virtual reality and virtual junk'' that dominates contemporary life. He dislikes popular culture in general and rock music in particular, which he describes as ``monotonous, predictable, stagnant, and dreary.'' Yet he fails to acknowledge that his beloved Mozart, Wagner, and Chopin were all at one time blackened with the name of crowd pleasers. One recital would tell us more about piano playing than a library of books like this one.
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").
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)