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Paul Bowles on Music: Includes the last interview with Paul Bowles Hardcover – September 2, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bowles on Music captures the writer from 1935 to 1946: the formative years of the much lauded "Greatest Generation." It was one of the most exciting periods in our nation's history, and Bowles, a talented and mostly self-taught composer, had the right ear and eye to capture it."--"Orange County Register"

From the Inside Flap

"In this wonderfully engaging and informative collection we hear the voice of a different Paul Bowles. Writing on a wide range of subjects--jazz, film music, classical music, popular music, ethnic music--he is direct, opinionated, incisive, analytical, humorous, and passionate."—Millicent Dillon, author of You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520236556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520236554
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,076,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to read this book of Paul Bowles's (1910 - 1999) music reviews for several reasons. I am an admirer of Bowles's fiction, including the novel "The Sheltering Sky," which he wrote as an expatriate American in Tangiers beginning in 1947. Furthermore, before he began his career as a novelist, Bowles was a rising and prolific composer. A self-taught protege of Aaron Copland, Bowles wrote ballets, suites, art songs, film scores, and scores for the theater, including plays by Tennessee Williams. Music and literature are two of my passions.

This leads me to the third reason for wanting to read this book. Bowles spent several years reviewing music of all sorts, chiefly for the "New York Hearald Tribune" and for the periodical "Modern Music". He wrote this work as a journalist, for little pay, and with tight deadlines. Yet he managed to write well and to find something important to say. It is this work-a-day world of writing that reminds me of my efforts, and those of my fellow reviewers, writing on this site It is a challenge to write short pieces with regularity on subjects one loves and to try to produce something others will find valuable. In short, Bowles's reviews, and his progress from composer to critic to novelist somehow became emblematic and inspirational to me of the Amazon reviewing process.

In this book, Timothy Mangan and Irene Herrmann have gathered together Paul Bowles's music reviews written primarily from 1940--1946. Bowles writes in a spare, understated, succinct style that will be familiar to readers of "The Sheltering Sky". His reviews cover a broad spectrum and include reviews of scores for films, record releases, and concerts.
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Format: Hardcover
It would be possible to know of Paul Bowles (1910-1999) as a writer exclusively. His first novel, The Sheltering Sky (1949), established him as one of the greatest English language novelists of the post-war generation. However, Bowles was a gifted and prolific composer as well. While he was modest about his accomplishments as a composer, Bowles' managed to compose three operas, five ballets, incidental music for over twenty stage productions, as well as many chamber works, film scores and songs. Of the two pursuits (writing and music composition), Bowles described them as being "different rooms". His creative mind could only manage one at a time and to him they were distinct. It is with interest then to learn in Paul Bowles on Music (edited by Timothy Mangan and Irene Herrmann) that Mr. Bowles was writing articles and reviews about music long before the publication of his novels and stories. In all, he managed to write over four hundred articles and reviews for Modern Music and the New York Herald Tribune where he was ultimately employed as a music critic and writer between 1942-1945. The book provides an important introduction which describes how Bowles was courted by the composer and music critic Virgil Thomson for the Herald Tribune job and how he doubted he could write under strict deadlines.

Except for a non-revealing interview (his last) at the end of the book, the rest contains his articles and criticisms arranged in chronological order. The idea is an appealing one since this `non-fiction' of his has never been compiled in one book until now. With Bowles' music reaching a wider audience of late one might be interested in what he had to say about the subject. Unfortunately, there is not much interest in reading the reviews.
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Format: Hardcover
this book consists of articles from "modern music" and short reviews (written under deadline) for the new york herald tribune between 1935 and 1946. concerts and new records are briefly noted, while longer pieces study the new art of film soundtracks and music from other countries.
what is interesting is that bowles, as a composer, not only deals with the performances, but with the compositions being played. pleasure for some readers will be found in the way works and artists are savaged in such a civilized way.
sometimes, however, the criticism is direct. shostakovich's 6th symphony is "insensitive heavy-handed clowning". one piece by richard strauss "has an ugly form and character", while another has "fascinating hideousness". rachmaninoff is tagged with an "unamusing degenerate style" and a "deficient harmonic sense".

of possible interest to some are the short mentions of new 78s by the likes of tampa red, sonny boy (john lee) williamson, and jazz gillum. was there anyone else reviewing "race records" for major publications?

dealing with art music, one encounters concepts such as " tonal ambiguities", "phrasal tournure", "harmonic unreliability", "harmonic brutality", "circumspect tonalities" and "meaty logical harmony".

occasionally, a review such as the one describing his friend virgil thomson's 2nd symphony ("its musical ideas alternate between naive sincerity and the professor's classroom joke") make one want to hear the composition in question.

the only real gaffe comes when, referring to moroccan ghaita players, he says, "gills are pierced in the neck of the player". the technique of "circular breathing" was evidently unknown to him at this time ( before he moved to tangier and became a famous writer of fiction).
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