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Paul Bowles on Music: Includes the last interview with Paul Bowles Hardcover – September 2, 2003
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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).