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BAD SINGER

THE SURPRISING SCIENCE OF TONE DEAFNESS AND HOW WE HEAR MUSIC

A spirited, even adventurous look at the mysteries of how the human brain perceives and processes sound—and even, on...

“I’m a bad singer. And deep down, it matters.” Falling down a rabbit hole in B-minor, Canadian science writer Falconer (Magazine Journalism/Ryerson Univ.; That Good Night: Ethicists, Euthanasia and the End-of-Life Care, 2009, etc.) explores all that bad singing entails.

The author grew up in the golden age of pop music, but he lacked the ability to carry a tune. As he writes, his siblings were similarly unable to distinguish notes and pitches, to the point where one sister could not even tune a guitar well enough to take the lessons that might have given her a fighting chance. Once grown up, Falconer marched into practice rooms and laboratories to figure out what’s taking place between the ears—and, to boot, what’s happening at the intersections of music and technology. We don’t really need to sing in order to enjoy a song, he writes, “any more than we need to paint to enjoy Vermeer or Monet or Basquiat.” But that equation doesn’t quite hold up, since we don’t gather around to group-paint but do, as Falconer notes, come together in song—or at least once did, since group songs are harder to come by, given the fragmentation of the market. Back on topic and in quest of the dulcet tone, the author examines the neurological and physical tricks that go into our ability to match pitch to voice control—to sing on key, that is, a talent not everyone has. At the far fringes of his amiable researches are amusiacs, those who for whatever reason cannot process music but few of whom admit as much lest “other people will consider them inhuman.” At the nearer edge are such wonders as software that allows even the most tone-deaf among us hit the notes, tortured though they may be in real life. So look out, Kayne….

A spirited, even adventurous look at the mysteries of how the human brain perceives and processes sound—and even, on occasion, manages to make beautiful music.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1770894457

Page Count: 304

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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