Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Glass Bead Game
Yet another interview with Philip Glass in today's Guardian. Appropriately the title is Play it again... A virtual prize for any reader who can send a link to a newspaper interview this weekend with a contemporary composer who is not Philip Glass.
Much more interesting is James Fenton's article on the electric harpsichord which refers to Wolfgang Zuckermann's 1970 book The Modern Harpsichord. Zuckermann was born in Berlin, and became an American citizen in 1938. He was one of the first harpsichord makers in the United States and in the late 1950's created a self-assembly harpshichord kit which sold in large quantities and revitalised interest in this neglected instrument.
In 1969, Zuckermann, in despair over US involvement in Vietnam, left New York to live first in England, and later in France. He sold his harpsichord business to David Jacques Way, who had been the publisher of The Modern Harpsichord. Although Zuckermann continued his musical activities, he became involved in the environmental debates of the 1970s and 1980s, taking an active part in creating small local collaborative projects in England that cut away from the values and patterns of the dominant consumer society.
In 1987 Zuckermann began his collaboration with The Commons, an independent non-profit policy research group based in Paris. He moved to France in 1994 and opened La Libraire Shakespeare in Avignon which is our local bookshop when we are in that part of the world. This gem of a bookshop featured here some time back.
I was in Avignon a few weeks ago. Among the books I came away with were Sophie Fuller's Pandora's Guide to Women Composers and Barry Miles' life of Allen Ginsberg. My copy of Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain also came from La Libraire Shakespeare some years back when I was on my way to a retreat in L'Abbaye de Sainte-Madeleine at le Barroux, and that's a destination that will feature here again in the next few days. My photo shows Wolfgang Zuckermann in La Libraire Shakespeare - much more interesting than another picture of Philip Glass.
The Glass Bead Game is the title of Hermann Hesse's book that influenced many musicians including Karlheinz Stockhausen. And Hesse's poetry supplied the texts for Richard Strauss' Vier letze Lieder which were in the concert I wrote about on Sunday. More passion about books here.
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