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*A Sound Mind: How I Fell in Love with Classical Music* – Marginal REVOLUTION

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That is the new book by Paul Morley, with the parenthetical subtitle “(And Decided to Rewrite its Entire History)”.

It is one of my favorite books of the year, though I recommend it most to those who already have a background in the topic. It is wide-ranging, with plenty of emphasis on the contemporary and why Harrison Birtwistle is the brilliant composer you never properly understood.  If you grade music books on “how many different pieces of music does it make me want to listen to/relisten to,” this is one of the best music books of all time.

Here is one excerpt I liked:

Eno said that he was interested in the Borgesian idea that you could invent a world in reverse by inventing the artefacts that ought to be in its first.  You think what kind of music would be in that world — in this case, background music made as art — then you make the music and the world forms itself around the music…

Bang on a Can produced a live instrumental version of the four pieces, and Eno has humbly said that their interpretation moved him to tears.  Husband-and-wife artists Lou reed and Laurie Anderson heard it performed live and they said it was heartbreaking.  Without thinking, or rather, with thinking, Eno had composed a piece of music that is all at once flat and multidimensional, barren and detailed, near and far, music and sound, feeling and unfeeling, spiritual and vacant, real and unreal, mundane and magical.

It is the kind of book that suddenly stops and reels off 89 numbered points you are supposed to be interested in.  And I am.  But sprawling it is, and your mileage may vary.  And yes most of it is about actual “classical” music, whatever that is supposed to mean these days.  This is one book I will not throw out.