Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music Hardcover – May 29 2012
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"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
"An expert sleuth, Sachs is able to tease a trustworthy narrative out of conflicting reports, correcting, corroborating, and expanding upon the account of events given by both Henry and Sidney Robertson Cowell, his wife...This careful approach is fully displayed in Sachs's treatment of Cowell's arrest, jail term, pardon, and unusual marriage...Joel Sachs is to be commended for his detailed attention to the wide variety of documents and sources in the Cowell Collection at the New York Public Library and elsewhere, a patient and major undertaking of several decades...With Sachs's monumental new biography we can now examine all facets of Cowell's entire life and career. His book is a major contribution to U.S. musical scholarship and points scholars of early twentieth-century experimental music in new directions."--Journal of the Society for American Music
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
One of the hard knocks Cowell faced was a famous morals charge. Sachs necessarily treats that in considerable detail, objectively and without unnecessary prurience. One hopes that particular issue can now be laid to rest and all future writing about Cowell can get beyond it.
A natural result of reading this book will be to motivate you to listen to more of Cowell's music, and if the book accomplishes only that, reading it will have been time very well spent indeed. Cowell's music has largely dropped out of the regular repertoire, which is another ground for heart-break, because so much of his music is beautiful and wonderful. His later music often reminds me of Schubert, in being at once immediately enjoyable and seemingly simple, but growing more and more interesting on every repeated hearing.
I remember meeting Joel Sachs at the Juilliard school where he was championing new scandinavian
music. At that time, he told me about his work on Cowell, and I am very impressed by the result.
I heard about the book when listening to the BBC3 program "Composer of the Week" where Joel
was a guest presenter on Henry Cowells life and work.
Should be required reading for anyone interested in the cultural history of the United States in the first half of the 20th Century.
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