Wrapping up (or trying to) books that I started somewhere back in late July, early August. I also started and finished a couple of books during August, though I never managed to do extended reading during the month.
– Reinventing Bach by Paul Elie. Slow going to start, but I like the underlying premise enough – that modern recording and performance “reinvented” Bach – to stay with it. I bought this thinking one of the main strains of the book would be the intersection of art and technology, and it is.
– Listening In: Radio And The American Imagination by Susan Douglas. This history of radio came highly recommended to me years ago, but I never got past the first few bits, which are a little heavy on the academic prose. This time I forced myself to read through the part I had trouble with, and the book quickly opens out into a very good read. Douglas trusts her story, and the book strikes me as a model for how academics should write, with theory as a helper rather than the lash that drives dense, turgid reams of stuff.
– No Such Thing As Silence: John Cage’s 4’33” by Kyle Gann. This was bought when it first came out and sat for a long time, unread, because I wasn’t interested in Cage or modern music for a year or so. But Gann has the good critic’s gift; when you read him you want to hear the music he talks about. I picked this off the shelf because I dug out an Edgar Varese collection and wanted to know a little more about the era. Reading Gann, I’ve gone back and listened to a little more Cage.
I still haven’t finished Iron Curtain: The Crushing Of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum, though I find it no less compelling now than when I bought it eight or nine months ago. It’s just a tough read.
I also am returning to Sean Wilentz’s Bob Dylan In America and Wonderous Strange: The Life And Art Of Glenn Gould by Kevin Bazzana. I like the Wilentz so much I put off reading it end to end; instead, I’ve dipped in and out of the book, trying to postpone the inevitable. As for the Gould, I got the complete Columbia Bach recordings as my big birthday gift this year, and am reading this as a companion.