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Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music [Hardcover]

Joel Sachs

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Book Description

May 29 2012
Joel Sachs offers the first complete biography of one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century American music. Henry Cowell, a major musical innovator of the first half of the century, left a rich body of compositions spanning a wide range of styles. But as Sachs shows, Cowell's legacy extends far beyond his music. He worked tirelessly to create organizations such as the highly influential New Music Quarterly, New Music Recordings, and the Pan-American Association of Composers, through which great talents like Ruth Crawford Seeger and Charles Ives first became known in the US and abroad. As one of the first Western advocates for World Music, he used lectures, articles, and recordings to bring other musical cultures to myriad listeners and students including John Cage and Lou Harrison, who attributed their life work to Cowell's influence. Finally, Sachs describes the tragedy of Cowell's life - his guilty plea on a morals charge, which even the prosecutor felt was trivial, but brought him a sentence of 15 years in San Quentin, of which he served four.

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Review


"Sachs leaves us thinking of Cowell as not just a great American musician but a
great American, period." --Booklist


"Gorgeously written...Sachs sets a furious narrative tempo from the get-go, each page seemingly revealing a nugget of information that history was hitherto reluctant to divulge...This man made of music deserves this first biography and a revival too; let's hope Sach's book seals the deal." --Gramophone


"A magisterial biography...Essential." --Choice


"A more complete picture of these years than we could have hoped for. Henry Cowell is a compelling read, but it also offers a remarkable contribution to studies of American musical culture in the twentieth century...Sachs has offered both a captivating biography for the general reader interested in American music and an excellently documented version of the composer's life in which even a dedicated Cowell scholar is sure to find something new and of interest." --ARSC Journal


"Offers a rich discourse not only on the life of Henry Cowell (1897-1965), but also a
commentary on the many prolific figures close to him...Joel Sachs has not only deftly navigated through an extraordinary amount of source material but also delivered a riveting
account of Cowell the musician. This book will provide a rich resource for anyone with
an interest in American music, ethnomusicology, music and politics, and music and
society in the first half of the twentieth century. Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music is
an extraordinary contribution to the field." --Notes


About the Author

Joel Sachs is Professor of Music History, Chamber Music, and New Music Performance at The Juilliard School, where he conducts the New Juilliard Ensemble.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting Tale of Musical Genius July 6 2012
By Virginia Musician - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
Joel Sachs quotes Henry Cowell as feeling that as a composer, he was most concerned with the future of music. But in this beautifully-written biography, there is much to inspire and inform us about the past: information about not only the unusual life and career of this composer of over 1,000 concert works, but also about challenges faced by artists as they lived through wartime, Depression, and more positively, efforts to promote peaceful exchanges in the climate of a Cold War.

This account of Cowell's life and work provides succinct overviews of his activities as creator, performing pianist, educator, cultural representative, and promoter of his colleagues' works as well. Multitudes of details lead the reader to be in awe at the accomplishments, networking, bravery, and generosity of this gifted artist--who flourished despite a highly impoverished childhood with little schooling, and despite four years in prison (on a charge that today would probably never be prosecuted at all). One also comes away with admiration for the role of his wife, Sidney Robertson Cowell.

A riveting book to be read and treasured not only by musicians and music students, but also by anyone interested in knowing more about how serious creative artists functioned and survived in America during the earlier half of the 20th century. The notes and bibliography provide welcome information about sources for further exploration. Hopefully this excellent and long-awaited book will spur further performances and recordings of Cowell's music. Bravo!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars henry cowell: a man made of music Aug. 4 2012
By peter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
Exceptionally well written biography of one of the pioneers of contemporary music.
Should be required reading for anyone interested in the cultural history of the United States in the first half of the 20th Century.
5.0 out of 5 stars A March 30 2014
By john goodman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Joel Sachs' authoritative and important biography of the composer Henry Cowell gives us an in-depth view of one of America's most important composers and early pioneers of new music. The improbable achievements of this maverick are laid out in great detail in Sachs' searching portrayal. It is a quintessential American story of rags to cultural riches and it is as surprising and compelling as the very music he wrote. Sachs has done us a great service in bringing this story to us so cogently. Cowell's influence has had a broad and lasting reach across the entire field of music which comes down to us today. We can only hope that this powerful biography will help place the music of Henry Cowell back in the contemporary repertoire where it belongs.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great composer - great book Nov. 21 2013
By Ulrich Krieger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
A great, well researched, and well written and long overdue book on one of the most important pioneers of American art music.
5.0 out of 5 stars Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music Jan. 14 2013
By Aaron B. Krosnick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Fascinating biography of a composer I was not terribly familiar with. The author was a high-school classmate and remains a friend.
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