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Guide | A Musical Reading List For The Labour Day Weekend

By Robin Roger on September 4, 2020

Image of Glenn Gould used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Even for adults, the Labour Day Weekend has a “back to school” feeling, so we include a book about learning in this list in addition to others to offer some consolation for the onset of autumn.

With Your Own Two Hands: Self-Discovery Through Music by Seymour Bernstein

As Ludwig Van’s recent report made clear, studying music is extremely beneficial to the brain. Always a worthwhile pursuit, it’s even more essential during the pandemic to safeguard your smarts. Long before the scientific studies began accumulating data to prove this, Seymour Bernstein understood the impact of studying piano on the whole human being. His book is a good place to start while you aren’t able to have lessons in person, and a worthwhile resource at any time. Watching Ethan Hawke’s documentary about the charming pianist, Seymour: An Introduction is a great prelude to the text.

Parallel Play by Tim Page

The memoir of this Pulitzer Prize winning music critic whose writing appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other publications, is a frank description of growing up as a misfit in an era when eccentric children with obsessive interests and aberrant social behaviour were unjustly expelled, rejected and humiliated by their families and communities. The illumination provided by being diagnosed at age 45, with a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome, allowed him to put his suffering into perspective, and to produce this thoughtful reflection on his atypical life, ten years after the diagnosis.

Glenn Gould: A Life in Pictures by Malcolm Lester, Yo-Yo Ma, and Tim Page

Tim Page, who forged a friendship with Glenn Gould, before the Asperger diagnosis existed, concurs with the posthumous view that Gould suffered from the same condition. But his understanding of Gould’s genius goes much further and deeper, as he makes clear in the introduction to this treasure trove of pictures of Gould. With a foreword by Yo-Yo Ma and captions by Malcolm Lester, literary advisor to the Glenn Gould estate, this is a perfect volume to peruse on the weekend before Gould’s birthday on September 11.

The Partnership: Brecht, Weill, Three Women and Germany on the Brink by Pamela Katz

Kurt Weill’s greatest talent was as a composer but his second greatest talent was for attracting stellar collaborators including Ira Gershwin, Ogden Nash, Maxwell Anderson and most famously Bertolt Brecht. This rich and vivid description of the life and times of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill provides the cultural, political, and romantic background to one of the most significant musical collaborations of the 20th century. The central role played by three women who supported, inspired and performed their work — Brecht’s wife, his mistress and Weill’s wife — is fully acknowledged and documented for the first time.

The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

The charismatic composer, Albert Sanger, at the centre of this 1924 novel, is the father of seven neglected children who live with him in an isolated Alpine compound. (He is modeled after Augustus John, the British artist who was rumoured to have fathered 100 children). Composers, acolytes, and musicians flock to his chaotic family retreat, where his daughter forms a maniacal devotion to the junior composer Lewis Dodd. A pre-Nabokov depiction of an underage woman’s passion for a mature man, told from the perspective of the willing nymph, the novel has generated three movie adaptations and a stage play.


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Robin Roger
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