Book of the Month: November 2021

I always laugh when I see this quote. I have several people in my life that live this way, and I’ve tried to adopt the “always have a book on hand” philosophy as well. Partially because I love reading, partially because it’s a much better practice than checking social media every spare moment (see Digital Minimalism for more on this), and partially because it’s a quirky trait that just doesn’t seem to ever go out of style 🙂 Affirmed by the fact that I left the store to talk to a student’s mom this week. His sister comes bouncing out cheerfully and says “hi!”. Then she dramatically made sure I knew that they had managed to leave the house without a single book in the car, and her brother’s half hour lesson felt like an eternity because of this 😉 I was glad to know I’m not alone in the pursuit of always keeping reading material within a hand’s reach! So without further ado …

For Students –

In this colorful and captivating book, This Magical, Musical Night boasts a Disney-esque look and feel as two kids are experiencing a concert hall for the very first time. “Who bursts in with velvet tones? The brass! What class! Oh, bright trombones … “ With each visually and aurally appealing page, the reader can experience a new way to think of the different instrument classes through rhyming and intriguing descriptions. The author doesn’t shy away from using big music words in ways that will prompt helpful music discussion and deeply aid any attempt at music listening and appreciation. The story continues with talk of tempo, emotion, style, and all things grand in an experience with the orchestra. 

Students of all ages will enjoy this colorful book, and it is a delightful way to introduce new instruments and sounds in your studio or to prepare your children to make their orchestra experience an unforgettable one! You can purchase the book here.

For Teachers –

Chasing Chopin is not your typical biography. By the end, I didn’t necessarily have the feeling that I intimately knew Frederic Chopin. It doesn’t discuss his childhood, and it hardly mentions his own piano studies (it does mention they are slim, he is mostly self-taught). I do, however, feel as though I have a deeper understanding of the politics, history, social, and personal factors surrounding Chopin’s music. 

LaFarge is thorough in her research, and in a surprise twist traces Chopin’s life through the lens of Opus 35 – better known as his Funeral March. In her own words, the “book arose from a humble desire to restore the full narrative of Chopin’s funeral march and in the process tell a larger story about music: how it comes into the world, and how it pulls us, generation after generation, along with it.” 

LaFarge goes into deep discussions on Poland and nationalism, the importance of understanding the different period instrument pianos of Chopin’s day, Chopin’s teaching and performing philosophy and how it was received by the public, and his relationships with other famous creatives, including the infamous writer George Sands. The book contains many rabbit trails, and at times I wondered what I was learning about Chopin among the vast information LaFarge gives to the reader. But each time the details circled back to Chopin, and I found myself captivated by the history and breadth of what goes into the making of a historically famous man. 

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is a complimentary website. LaFarge begins her book reciting the old cliche, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Because music is such an abstract art form, LaFarge saw the necessity to create a web page that looks like a book. Again, she has done extraordinary research, organizing the website by chapters in the book. You will find recordings of Chopin’s work – both modern day and recordings on period instruments (Chopin was extremely particular about the brand of piano he used). She has also included several recordings of more modern pieces influenced by Chopin’s Funeral March including Cole Porter, Erik Satie, and Louis Armstrong. She adds pictures of the major places in Chopin’s life along with extra research links for those curious enough to do further research on some of the outlying influences in Chopin’s life. 

Overall, Chasing Chopin is a very unique read, and gives a different and more inspiring view of Chopin than much of the literature available today. It will be well worth your time! You can order the book here 🙂

Happy Reading!

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