A potpourri of pieces (most about music) in a variety of keys and rhythms.
A prolific classical pianist, recording artist, and writer, Hough (The Final Retreat, 2018) has a lot on his mind. There are scores of entries here—the table of contents consumes eight pages—as the author addresses countless topics, from “The Soul of Music” and “Can Atonal Music Make You Cry?” to “Debussy: Piano Music Without Hammers” and “The Three Faces of Francis Poulenc.” Some are adaptations of previously published pieces, and others are versions of Hough’s blog posts. His subject matter ranges from music (history, technique, personalities, pianos, autobiography, even some obituaries) to sexuality (he writes in several places about being gay) to religion (he’s a Roman Catholic) to art museums, abortion, and more. All of the pieces are tightly focused—some are not even a page long, some of which readers may find themselves skimming over—and most are articulate and packed with questions for readers to ponder. (“I’m allergic to telling anyone what to do,” he writes early on.) Hough educates us on his routines, including how he likes to dress up to play and his practice methods while on the road, and he is unafraid to point out his own embarrassments—e.g., a broken pants zipper just before a performance. The author also consistently credits others who have greatly affected him: early teachers, colleagues, performers from earlier eras. Of course, some of the more technical pieces about playing the piano—uses of the pedals, how to play trills—will be of principal interest to other musicians. But much of the book is for general readers: Hough’s thoughts about wallpaper music (he hates it), comments about smoking, generous remarks about Americans (he’s from the U.K.), and discussions of favorite writers (he loves Willa Cather).
Proof that music is not just in notes; it’s also in words.
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").