Recent and Forthcoming Music Books (June 2022)
Sound Within Sound: Opening Our Ears to the Twentieth Century
To be published on 7 July, music critic and BBC Radio 3 presenter Kate Molleson’s Sound Within Sound is an exciting collection of 10 essays on twentieth- and twenty-first century composers. Names such as Ruth Crawford Seeger and Éliane Radigue may be familiar to followers of the classical and contemporary music scene, but there are many fascinating voices to explore here, including Julián Carrillo, Walter Smetak, José Maceda, Galina Ustvolskaya, Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guèbru, Else Marie Pade, Muhal Richard Abrams and Annea Lockwood. Molleson makes an impassioned case for each. She also reflects on the boundaries in classical music that have prevented their music from being better known.
Wayward: Just Another Way to Live
In the opening chapter of Rob Young’s 2010 book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music, he recounts the story of singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan’s journey from London to the Outer Hebrides in 1968 by foot and wagon. Young’s book formed part of a new interest in the artist, who after releasing Just Another Diamond Day in 1970, went off the radar of the popular music scene. However, the album was reissued in 2000 and began to find new audiences and influence emerging folk artists. In Wayward: Just Another Way to Live, Bunyan tells her own story in detail. From making her way in the pop music scene in London in the 1960s, to hearing that the singer Donovan had bought islands off the coast of Scotland where artists and musicians could live, she and her boyfriend then borrowed the money to buy a horse and wagon and set out on their challenging journey. It’s a compelling story that brings you up to the early 1970s, followed by a short journey to the west of Ireland, and then leaps forward Bunyan tapping her name into the internet in 1997 and discovering that her music had not been forgotten.
Frank & Co: Conversations with Frank Zappa 1977–1993
Co de Kloet
Co de Kloet is a musician, composer, producer and broadcaster who works for Dutch public broadcaster NTR and the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. In 1973, he saw Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention perform at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and became a superfan – his friends knew him as ‘the great Zappa ambassador’. In 1977, he managed to interview Zappa and it sparked a friendship between the two that continued until the American musician’s death in 1993. de Kloet recorded many of their conversations – formal media pieces and informal chats – and these, along with interjections and narratives from the author, form this recent book. Zappa had strong opinions on a range of subjects – ‘Well, the process of working with an orchestra is very exasperating because orchestras hate music’, he says in their first conversation – and the book provides plenty of insights into his life and work. A foreword by Zappa’s son Dweezil reads: ‘This book is somewhat analogous to a documentary movie for your brain. The details that unfold are sourced from authentic recordings of interviews over a period of more than twenty years. Whether my father is expressing his views of religion or politics as well as his opinion of their ill-advised enmeshment or his bleak opinion about some of his former employees playing his music in public, he gives it to you straight. Well, he gave it straight to Co, and now he’s giving it to you!’
University of Illinois Press
‘While country is rarely considered as a music that queer and transgender people would enjoy, let alone spend their lives making, this music’s history should include many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. But their stories have not made their way into the narrative,’ writes Shana Goldin-Perschbacher in her introduction to Queer Country. This comprehensive study explores the life and work of a number of artists, including Patrick Haggerty, who, with friends, created the first gay-themed country album, Lavender Country, in 1973; k.d. lang, who began her career in the country music scene; 1990s star Chely Wright, the first modern mainstream country musician to come out; Mary Gauthier, the first out lesbian to play the Grand Ole Opry; Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls; drag queen country singer Trixie Mattel, and more. Goldin-Perschbacher is assistant professor of music studies at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia. Queer Country blends ethnographic research with analysis and history to provide the first in-depth study of these artists and their work.
Oxford University Press
On the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ birth, OUP has published a new in-depth biography of the composer, the first by an American author – professor of music history at Drake University in Iowa, Eric Saylor. Drawing on recent scholarship and newly accessible scores and correspondence, the author interweaves an exploration of the composer’s life – including new insights about his early career, military service in the Great War, and relationships with the women he loved and married – with chapters surveying his body of music, spanning hymn tunes to operas, keyboard etudes to solo concerti, wind band music for amateurs to his symphonic cycle. In his preface, Saylor writes: ‘…I have begun entirely afresh with this biography, examining the documents that Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries left behind and poring over the wealth of secondary sources now available, all of which illuminate a far more wide-ranging and complex portrait of the composer than the one historically presented… The outdated assumption that his musical influences began and ended with English folk song has been replaced by a far more nuanced understanding of his idiom. Folk song is indeed a part of that, but so too is post-Wagnerian chromaticism, French impressionism, Tudor-era ecclesiastical music, neoclassicism, eighteenth-century counterpoint, Beethovenian symphonism, and so much more.’
Recently reviewed in the Journal of Music
This Woman’s Work: Essays on Music
Edited by Sinéad Gleeson and Kim Gordon
From the same publisher as Vashti Bunyan’s memoir, This Woman’s Work – edited by Sinéad Gleeson and Kim Gordon – is a collection of sixteen essays plus an introduction by Heather Leigh. Aiming to ‘confront the male dominance and sexism that have been hard coded in the canons of music’, the book includes essays by Anna Enright on Laurie Anderson, Gleeson on composer Wendy Carlos, Fatima Bhutto on music and dictatorship, Gordon on Japanese noise artist Yoshimi, and more. Read the review by Laura Watson: https://journalofmusic.com/opinion/limited-edition
Collecting Music in the Aran Islands: A Century of History and Practice
Deirdre Ní Chonghaile
The author of this recent book, ethnomusicologist Deirdre Ní Chonghaile from the Aran Islands, writes that this book ‘is the first to discuss Irish traditional music, or any genre of music, in Aran.’ That indicates its importance. Collecting Music in the Aran Islands discusses four different collections made between the 1850s and the 1970s, specifically, the music manuscripts of George Petrie and Eugene O’Curry collected in September 1857; the songs collected by Séamus Ennis over two weeks in August and September 1945; the recordings of the American collector Sidney Robertson Cowell made in 1955 and 1956, some of which were issued on her 1957 Folkways recordings Songs of Aran; and the recordings made by Aran Islands native Bairbre Quinn (the author’s aunt) between the 1950s and 1970s. Ní Chonghaile’s book has just won the American Conference for Irish Studies Michael J. Durkan award. Read the review by Adrian Scahill: https://journalofmusic.com/opinion/many-sides-music-and-song-collecting
For Recent Books on Irish Music (March 2022), see here. To submit a book for inclusion, please visit this page.