Monday, 14 July 2014

Light Summer Reading

I have just been weeding out the row of books by the bed, taking out the things  I thought I ‘ought’ to read and leaving just the ones I’m enjoying.

First, Maynard Solomon’s huge book on Mozart. To call it a biography would be limiting; it tells you everything you could want to know about Mozart. Rather more than you want to know, many would say; most people, if they listen to Mozart at all, prefer to just lie back and enjoy it; they insist that any sort of analytic or technical approach will detract from the enjoyment. Bollocks. The people who say that haven’t actually bothered to go deeper; they’ve made their minds up already. I have only read the first 200 or so pages of the book’s 600 odd, but already not just my understanding of but my pleasure in Mozart’s music are hugely increased. Incidentally most of those first 200 pages are concerned with showing us what an utter whining selfish greedy guilt-generating bastard poor Wolfgang’s father Leopold was.

Next, Ο Θίασος, the scenario of Angelopoulos’s film, set in WWII and the immediate post-war years, about a travelling theatre troupe. Watching an Angelopoulos film is rather like reading Proust; it takes someone half an hour or ten pages to open a bloody window, but there’s a hypnotic fascination to it. This book was given to me by my young friend Anastasia, whose paternal grandmother in Volos has a huge library and allowed her to choose a book from it for me. A perfect choice.

A novel, ‘The Understudy’, by Elia Kazan. I had no idea the great film director had written novels, and am surprised and pleased to find that this one is well-written and enjoyable.

Finally — four books are quite enough now that the silly summer season is upon us — ‘Rebetika, songs from the Greek Underworld’, by various authors, published by the small but enterprising Athens house Aiora. This is a rich and comprehensive study, by far the best English language (well, mostly American) book about this music, often called the Greek equivalent of the Blues. What’s more it’s got lots of proper musicological discussion, with real music examples (You know, the stuff written on special paper ruled with five lines) and song texts in the original and in (very bad) American translations.

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