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Music > Individual Composers and Musicians

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Living in the Woods in a Tree Cover

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Living in the Woods in a Tree

Remembering Blaze Foley

Sybil Rosen

Living in the Woods in a Tree is an intimate glimpse into the turbulent life of Texas music legend Blaze Foley (1949--1989), seen through the eyes of Sybil Rosen, the woman for whom he wrote his most widely known song, “If I Could Only Fly." It captures the exuberance of their fleeting idyll in a tree house in the Georgia woods during the countercultural 1970s. Rosen offers a firsthand witnessing of Foley’s transformation from a reticent hippie musician to the enigmatic singer/songwriter who would live and die outside society's rules. While Foley's own performances are only recently being released, his songs have been covered by Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, and John Prine. When he first encountered “If I Could Only Fly," Merle Haggard called it “the best country song I've heard in fifteen years." In a work that is part-memoir, part-biography, Rosen struggles to finally come to terms with Foley's myth and her role in its creation. Her tracing of his impact on her life navigates a lovers' roadmap along the permeable boundary between life and death. A must-read for all Blaze Foley and Texas music fans, as well as romantics of all ages, Living in the Woods in a Tree is an honest and compassionate portrait of the troubled artist and his reluctant muse.

Lonesome Melodies Cover

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Lonesome Melodies

The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers

David W. Johnson

Carter and Ralph Stanley--the Stanley Brothers--are comparable to Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs as important members of the earliest generation of bluegrass musicians. In this first biography of the brothers, author David W. Johnson documents that Carter (1925-1966) and Ralph (b. 1927) were equally important contributors to the tradition of old-time country music. Together from 1946 to 1966, the Stanley Brothers began their careers performing in the schoolhouses of southwestern Virginia and expanded their popularity to the concert halls of Europe.


In order to re-create this post-World War II journey through the changing landscape of American music, the author interviewed Ralph Stanley, the family of Carter Stanley, former members of the Clinch Mountain Boys, and dozens of musicians and friends who knew the Stanley Brothers as musicians and men. The late Mike Seeger allowed Johnson to use his invaluable 1966 interviews with the brothers. Notable old-time country and bluegrass musicians such as George Shuffler, Lester Woodie, Larry Sparks, and the late Wade Mainer shared their recollections of Carter and Ralph.


Lonesome Melodies begins and ends in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. Carter and Ralph were born there and had an early publicity photograph taken at the Cumberland Gap. In December 1966, pallbearers walked up Smith Ridge to bring Carter to his final resting place. In the intervening years, the brothers performed thousands of in-person and radio shows, recorded hundreds of songs and tunes for half a dozen record labels, and tried to keep pace with changing times while remaining true to the spirit of old-time country music. As a result of their accomplishments, they have become a standard of musical authenticity.

Looking Back to See Cover

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Looking Back to See

A Country Music Memoir

The Browns—Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed—are a trio of siblings that had tremendous success in the 1950s and 60s. Following in the tradition of the best of such books, such as Loretta’s Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, this memoir, told in Maxine’s own plucky, spirited style, delves deeply into the Browns’ remarkable past, beginning with a Depression-era childhood in rural south Arkansas.

Lorenzo Da Ponte Cover

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Lorenzo Da Ponte

The Life and Times of Mozart’s Librettist

Sheila Hodges

Three of the greatest operas ever written—The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte—join the exquisite music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the perfectly matched libretti of Lorenzo Da Ponte. Da Ponte’s own long life (1749–1838), however, was more fantastic than any opera plot. A poor Jew who became a Catholic priest; a priest who became a young gambler and rake; a teacher, poet, and librettist of genius who became a Pennsylvania greengrocer; an impoverished immigrant to America who became professor of Italian at Columbia University—wherever Da Ponte went, he arrived a penniless fugitive and made a new and eventful life. Sheila Hodges follows him from the last glittering years of the Venetian Republic to the Vienna of Mozart and Salieri, and from George III’s London to New York City.

Lotfi Mansouri Cover

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Lotfi Mansouri

An Operatic Journey

Lotfi Mansouri

Lotfi Mansouri has lived a full life in opera: triumphs and near disasters, divas and divos, moneymen and true artists, he has known them all. In this entertaining and engaging memoir, Mansouri lifts the curtain and invites the reader to see how magic is created on stage. He has lived a storied life: early years in Iran, move to America, long stays in Europe and Canada, directing tasks on several continents, and a brilliant final act as the general director of the San Francisco Opera, all the while continuing to mount productions worldwide. He has known virtually everybody in the opera world over the past fifty years, and has collaborated with some of the greatest. Mansouri was also a central figure in the recent rejuvenation of opera through innovations such as supertitles and, perhaps more important, the staging and commissioning of new works that would appeal to a contemporary audience, such as SFO's production of The Death of Klinghoffer, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Dead Man Walking. Mansouri isn't shy about dropping names and bruising some egos (even his own). Anyone who wants to know what the opera world is really like can now find out in the company of a charming and expert guide.

Lou Harrison Cover

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Lou Harrison

Leta E. Miller

Music's inclusivity--its potential to unite cultures, disciplines, and individuals--defined the life and career of Lou Harrison (1917-2003). Beyond studying with leading composers of the avant-garde such as Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, conducting Charles Ives's Pulitzer Prize-winning Third Symphony, and staging high-profile percussion concerts with John Cage, Harrison has achieved fame for his distinctive blending of cultures--from the Chinese opera, Indonesian gamelan, and the music of Native Americans to modernist dissonant counterpoint. Miller and Lieberman also pull readers into Harrison's rich world of cross-fertilization through an exploration of his outspoken stance on pacifism, gay rights, ecology, and respect for minorities--all of which directly impacted his musical works. Though Harrison was sometimes accused by contemporaries of "cultural appropriation," Miller and Lieberman's brisk study makes it clear why he is now lauded as an imaginative pioneer for his integration of Asian and Western musics, as well as for his work in the development of the percussion ensemble, his use of found and invented instruments, and his explorations of alternative tuning systems. Harrison's compositions are examined in detail through reference to an accompanying CD of representative recordings.

Luigi Russolo, Futurist Cover

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Luigi Russolo, Futurist

Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult

Luciano Chessa

Luigi Russolo (1885–1947)—painter, composer, builder of musical instruments, and first-hour member of the Italian Futurist movement—was a crucial figure in the evolution of twentieth-century aesthetics. As creator of the first systematic poetics of noise and inventor of what has been considered the first mechanical sound synthesizer, Russolo looms large in the development of twentieth-century music. In the first English language study of Russolo, Luciano Chessa emphasizes the futurist’s interest in the occult, showing it to be a leitmotif for his life and a foundation for his art of noises. Chessa shows that Russolo’s aesthetics of noise, and the machines he called the intonarumori, were intended to boost practitioners into higher states of spiritual consciousness. His analysis reveals a multifaceted man in whom the drive to keep up with the latest scientific trends coexisted with an embrace of the irrational, and a critique of materialism and positivism.

Making the March King Cover

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Making the March King

John Philip Sousa's Washington Years, 1854-1893

Patrick Warfield

John Philip Sousa's mature career as the indomitable leader of the United States Marine Band and his own touring Sousa Band is well known, but the years leading up to his emergence as a celebrity have escaped serious attention. In this revealing biography, Patrick Warfield explains the making of the March King by documenting Sousa's early life and career. Covering the period 1854 to 1893, this study focuses on the community and training that created Sousa, exploring the musical life of late nineteenth-century Washington D.C. and Philadelphia as a context for Sousa's development. Warfield examines Sousa's wide-ranging experience composing, conducting, and performing in the theater, opera house, concert hall, and salons, as well as his leadership of the United States Marine Band and the later Sousa Band, early twentieth-century America's most famous and successful ensemble. Sousa composed not only marches during this period but also parlor, minstrel, and art songs; parade, concert, and medley marches; schottisches, waltzes, and polkas; and incidental music, operettas, and descriptive pieces. Warfield's examination of Sousa's output reveals a versatile composer much broader in stylistic range than the bandmaster extraordinaire remembered as the March King. Warfield presents the story of Sousa as a self-made business success, a gifted performer and composer who deftly capitalized on his talents to create one of the most entertaining, enduring figures in American music.

Mapping Canada’s Music Cover

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Mapping Canada’s Music

Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann

Mapping Canada’s Music is a selection of writings by the late Canadian music librarian and historian Helmut Kallmann (1922–2012). Most of the essays deal with aspects of Canadian music, but some are also autobiographical, including one written during retirement in which Kallmann recalls growing up in a middle-class Jewish family in 1930s Berlin under the spectre of Nazism.

Of the seventeen selected writings by Kallmann, five have never before been published; many of the others are from difficult-to-locate sources. They include critical and research essays, reports, reflections, and memoirs. Each chapter is prefaced with an introduction by the editors. Two initial chapters offer a biography of Kallmann and an assessment of his contributions to Canadian music.

The variety, breadth, and scope of these writings confirm Kallmann’s pioneering role in Canadian music research and the importance of his legacy to the cultural life of his adopted country. In the current climate of cuts to archival collections and services, the publication of these essays by and about a pre-eminent collector and historian serves as a timely reminder of the importance of cultural memory.

Marga Richter Cover

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Marga Richter

This is the first full-length introduction to the life and works of significant American composer Marga Richter (born 1926), who has written more than one hundred works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance, opera, voice, chorus, piano, organ, and harpsichord. Still actively composing in her eighties, Richter is particularly known for her large-scale works performed by ensembles such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and for other pieces performed by prominent artists including pianist Menahem Pressler, conductor Izler Solomon, and violinist Daniel Heifetz. _x000B__x000B_Interspersing consideration of Richter's musical works with discussion of her life, her musical style, and the origins and performances of her works, Sharon Mirchandani documents a successful composer's professional and private life throughout the twentieth century. Mirchandani covers Richter's formative years, her influences, and the phases of her career from the 1950s to the present. Drawing extensively on interviews with the composer, Mirchandani also provides detailed descriptions of Richter's scores and uses reviews and other secondary sources to provide contexts for her works, including their relationship to modern dance, to other musical styles, and to 1970s feminism._x000B_

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