it’s monday! what are you reading? + elliott carter

It’s Monday, what are you reading? Hosted every week by Sheila at Bookjourney… but I can only seem to get one of these “Monday” posts in a month! Pretty busy, and it took me a while to get through the last books I was reading.

Well, I finished Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, which brought me up to my goal of reading 30 books in 2012! I feel very good about that, especially after only reading three books last year. I think it may be more books than I have ever read in a single year…

This week I started reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, mostly because the film is coming out next month and also partly because the last few books I read were very dark and disturbing. I was in the mood for something lighter and less intense.

But, what I’m really reading this evening are the articles online about composer Elliott Carter, who died today at age 103. I actually broke down in tears in my office this afternoon when I read the news—and I have never cried over a celebrity death.

Carter was a big influence on me when I was a composition student—I really love his music and he was just so inspirational and important to a whole generation of composers. His contributions to contemporary music are immeasurable. Read his New York Times obituary: Elliott Carter, Composer Who Decisively Snapped Tradition, Dies at 103

And here is a heartwarming and delightful interview from only six months ago on Bloomberg.com: Elliott Carter, 103, Has World Premiere, Ponders Hitler, Romney (Yes, he was still composing and having premiere performances of his music!) My favorite quote from this interview:

Tarmy: Can you attribute your longevity to anything?

Carter: I have no idea. I do a little bit of exercise every morning, and now I read in the paper that exercise for older people is bad for the harp—for the heart, not the harp, I mean. The harp is bad enough.

Also, click here for youtube videos featuring Elliott Carter’s music—highly evocative, expressive, complex, and beautiful.

listen to this

My husband gave me Alex Ross‘s Listen to This for my birthday in 2010 and I did start reading it then… only to put it down for over a year and a half. <shameface> However! Last month I was craving some music reading and started over with Listen to This. As a musician and music critic myself, I have admired Alex Ross and his work since I first read The Rest is Noise in 2008.

Listen to This is a collection of essays originally published in The New Yorker, for which Ross is the music critic. The essays range broadly across centuries, from the classical to pop genres, from investigative reporting to academic criticism, and with some artist profiles thrown in for good measure.

Ross’s enthusiasm for his subject matter is undeniably apparent and makes even the topics you are less interested in highly readable. His lively conversational style and accessible language helps bring lofty classical analysis down to earth for the non-trained music lover. (Although, there is very little in way of technical analysis in the book.) He is informative without lecturing. Any social commentaries in the book are more plainly stated, staying away from becoming preachy diatribes. Because of the non-chronological and unrelated arrangement of essays, I ended up reading about a chapter a day, on average. It was easier for me to absorb each topic more fully that way—giving the information a chance to settle before moving onto the next topic.

My favorite chapters were those about Esa-Pekka Salonen, Schubert, the St. Lawrence Quartet, “The Crisis in Music Education,” the Marlboro Music School and Festival, and Bob Dylan. (I have the hardcover edition, so I am a little bummed to learn I missed a John Cage chapter added later in the paperbacks! Grr!)

I am hesitant to declare either Listen to This or The Rest is Noise the “better” book, necessarily. They are just too different, with Noise being very specific to twentieth-century music and composers, and Listen more wide-ranging and non-linear. What I like about Listen to This in particular is Ross’s ability to make it feel okay to like any and all types of music, that each musician and genre has its merits equal and important to our cultures and societies, no matter how opposing in style, traditional or experimental, old or new.

Read from September 8 to October 21, 2012.

nick’s interview in kcm

Also in the April 4 issue of KCMetropolis.org, my husband Nick is featured in an interview on KCM’s Movers, Shakers, Stalwarts series! He is an emerging composer and making waves in the music world right now locally, nationally, and internationally. Pretty cool and impressive, in my humble opinion!

Read full interview at KCMetropolis.org: Movers, Shakers, Stalwarts: Nicholas Omiccioli