Category: Music

Eugene Vodolazkin: Брисбен (Brisbane)

The latest addition to my website is Eugene Vodolazkin‘s Брисбен (Brisbane). The story is told in alternating chapters, the first telling of the early life of our hero Gleb Yanovsky, till he becomes famous as a musician, and the second from, 2012 when three key events change his life. He is born and bred in Kyiv (like Vodolazkin) where, under the influence of his father, he takes up music. He eventually studies guitar but his dream is to go to Leningrad, where he studies language rather than music. He meets and marries Katya, a German woman, and they both become teachers. He is attracted by a generous offer to play music, so they go to Berlin, where the offer does not work out. However, he gets his chance and we gradually see his career take off. However,in the later story, we learn early on that he has Parkinson’s disease and the second half is, in part, how he copes with that, as well as political events. Vodolazkin is clearly concerned with the issue of how Gleb’s music and his life are interconnected and, to a lesser degree, his language(s) as he speaks Russian as a child to most people but but his father speaks Ukrainian. This is another complex and fine book from Vodolazkin.

Adelle Stripe & Lias Saoudi: Ten Thousand Apologies: Fat White Family and the Miracle of Failure

The latest addition to my website is Adelle Stripe & Lias Saoudi‘s Ten Thousand Apologies: Fat White Family and the Miracle of Failure. This book is a fictional biography and an alternative version of historic events about Fat White Family, a contemporary English rock/punk band. The book is told in the third person (presumably by Stripe) with first person commentary by Saoudi, the frontman of the band. Saoudi (Algerian father, English mother) started at art school but soon moved into music and, in particular, aggressive, punk with outrageous performances. We follow the rise of the band (with many hiccups on the way) and their thoroughly self-destructive nature (lots of alcohol and drugs, continual squabbling, lots of personnel changes, clashes with the authorities) . Whether you are interested in the Fat White Family or not, the book is certainly a fascinating account of a band that set out to shock and is clearly self-destructive, narcissistic, provocative, controversial and badly-behaved.

Wolf Wondratschek: Selbstbild mit russischem Klavier (Self-Portrait with Russian Piano)

The latest addition to my website is Wolf Wondratschek:‘s Selbstbild mit russischem Klavier (Self-Portrait with Russian Piano). The unnamed Austrian narrator meets Suvorin, a retired Russian classical pianist in a café and they become friends, meeting regularly in a Italian restaurant. Much of the novel is Suvorin recounting his life, his views on various matters, particularly literature and music but also on ageing. He has given up playing and even going to concerts. His wife was killed in an accident and his children have moved away, so he is very solitary, though occasionally meeting other retired musicians. We learn little about the narrator, who wanted, when young to be an opera singer, but a lot about Suvorin and the problems of ageing. Wondratschek tells his story well, showing ageing and all its problems. This is Wondratschek’s first book published in English.

David Mitchell: Utopia Avenue

The latest addition to my website is David Mitchell‘s Utopia Avenue. The story starts in January 1967 in London and tells how a group is formed by a Canadian manager of four different characters, three men and one woman and the various trials and tribulations they face including but not limited to sex, drugs, family issues, band relationships, the press, a US tour, record companies, publicity and money. Many real-life famous and not so famous musicians and others make an appearance as we follow the band from their disastrous first gig to US fame and the inevitable problems a band faced in the 1960s as well as one or two not so inevitable problems, including the psychological problems of the lead guitarist. Mitchell tells an excellent story but you will enjoy it more if you are familiar with the era and the musicians of that era.

Margo Glantz: El rastro (The Wake)

The latest addition to my website is Margo Glantz‘s El rastro (The Wake). This is one of two of her novels that have been translated into English. This novel is narrated by Nora Garcia, a professional cellist, who is attending the funeral of her late ex-husband, Juan. He had been a famous composer and pianist. They had divorced when he was unfaithful and she had not been back to the village where they lived together and he had lived till his death, for some time. She finds the buzz of voices at the wake disturbing and does not take to the people, most of whom she does not know. However, most of the novel is taken up with her thoughts, which are portrayed like a piece of classical music, with themes emerging, fading away, coming back and merging wih other themes. These themes include, of course, classical music, both what she and Juan had done together but also a range of other classical music she thinks about, the heart, particularly the medical aspect of the heart (both Juan and the pianist Glenn Gould, Juan’s favourite, had died of heart failure), the comments of Maria, a woman she did know, who tells her more than once about her take on Juan’s illness and death, Dostoevsky, life and love. It is a very fine novel, enhanced if you have a knowledge of or, at least an interest in classical music, though that is not essential to appreciate its qualities.

Andrew Chubb

Fox Glacier

One the pleasures on our holiday in New Zealand was meeting lots of nice people, such as the people in the bookshops mentioned in the previous post. One other very nice person we did meet was when we visited Fox Glacier (not very good photo at right). We saw him eagerly photographing everything – plants, rocks and so on. We assumed that he was a professional photographer. However, when we started talking to him, we found that he was a pianist and composer from Australia, called Andrew Chubb. He was a charming and interesting man, who plays the piano professionally. He said that he was interested in and influenced by Philip Glass, a composer I also like. He has his own website, where you can listen to some of his own compositions (sadly not yet available commercially, though you can buy a couple of scores).

Bar Beach

On the photography front, he collaborated with photographer Allan Chawner on an exhibition for which Chawner provided the photos and Andrew the music. It is about Bar Beach, a beach near Newcastle, New South Wales (photo at right). Here are links to other videos of his playing. I am looking forward to his coming to England, if he ever does.

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