Tunstall is at times flatly earnest, even sappy, but never at the expense of conveying what is truly inspiring about her...

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CHANGING LIVES

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL, EL SISTEMA, AND THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF MUSIC

The story of “El Sistema, an extraordinary program for children and youth in Venezuela, where music education and social reform have been fused on a national scale with astonishing results.”

Music educator Tunstall (Note by Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson, 2008) traveled to South America, California and elsewhere to explore the El Sistema's global groundswell. Founded in 1975 by pianist José Antonio Abreu, the movement, which currently serves nearly 300,000 underprivileged children throughout Venezuela alone, seeks to develop civic engagement and social responsibility by engaging youth with the rigors of the musical discipline and the interpersonal dynamics of playing in an instrumental ensemble. El Sistema has been profoundly successful, earning massive government support in Venezuela and spawning dozens of offshoots throughout the world, including the United States. Having produced arguably the most celebrated conductor today, 30-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, the program has become the most symbolic example of the social relevance that classical music can have in today's cultural landscape. Tunstall soundly probes how it is that classical music has played such a powerful role in the protection, education and elevation of so many children born into poverty. The author does a noble job tracing the history of El Sistema, while managing to keep the narrative as much in the immediate present as possible. Occasionally, Tunstall's otherwise enjoyable and sincere narrative becomes infected with the hyperbole endemic to classical music culture. Transformation, intellectual awe and spiritual uplift are notions that have always coded classical music with elitism while masking its deep anxiety over its own relevancy. Yet the author does readers a service by drawing attention to the group energy, individual artistry and organizational power that the social structures of classical music require.

Tunstall is at times flatly earnest, even sappy, but never at the expense of conveying what is truly inspiring about her subject.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-07896-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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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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