CHARLES IVES: 'MY FATHER'S SONG'

A PSYCHOANALYTIC BIOGRAPHY

Traditional writing on Charles Ives, beginning with Henry and Sidney Cowell's slight 1955 biography, offers a sunny, straightforward view of the composer's creative legacy from his eccentric bandmaster father. More recently, Maynard Solomon (Beethoven's psycho-biographer) has suggested that the father/son relationship was, at least unconsciously, a fiercely rivalrous, darkly Oedipal one. Feder, a psychoanalyst with musical training, now presents a biography devoted to the more complex proposition that ``much of Ives's career in music was the result of an ongoing intrapsychic collaboration with his father.'' The slightly black sheep of a wealthy Danbury, Connecticut, family, George Ives served in the Civil War and aspired to a musical career, but settled for work in the family business, using his free time for community bands and musical ``experiments.'' First son Charles, born with perfect pitch, responded acutely to George's music-making, saw his father as a hero, learned at his side. The result? ``An unrestricted, creative superego.'' But when Charles's gifts soon surpassed George's, his ambivalent feelings (shame, anger, guilt) led him to idealize his father—who died prematurely—and to forsake a full-time music career. Instead, Charles became a successful insurance executive, composing in his spare time. And his music, packed with nostalgic references to childhood and an idealized father, became a form of nonstop ``mourning''—until his own premature creative death (brought on, Feder argues, by internal conflict as much as by physical illnesses). Feder's analysis is marred by thickets of jargon, Freudian excess (e.g., the ear as substitute vagina or phallus), and numbing repetition. But his research is impressive; the work-by-work interpretations contain valuable insights; and, if Feder's thesis ultimately seems overstated and incomplete (Ives's mother remains a cipher), Ives specialists and psycho-biography enthusiasts will nonetheless want to slog through this dense, sporadically rewarding study. (Sixteen illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-300-05481-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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

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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

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