Friday, 21 November 2008

Shameless self promotion

Just in time for Christmas, I thought I'd point to a few things that I've been up to (relatively) recently.

A heads-up on the arrival of my book Discover Film Music from Naxos. It comes with two 78-minute plus CDs, with examples of everything from Steiner's King Kong (1933) to ... errr .... Ifukube's Godzilla. Actually there's a disc of Hollywood music from the aforementioned ape to Spider-Man, and another covering composers from or working in Britain, Sweden, the USSR, Italy, Switzerland, France, Japan, Belgium and Poland. Not the whole of the rest of the world, I realise, but there was a word-count! Finally, there's a timeline (highlighting selected Oscar-winners and literary adaptations with notable scores) and a glossary. There's a description on the Naxos site and you can buy it from all the usual outlets. If you need any more persuading, there's a review here though you might have to scroll down a bit to get to it.

I should also point out a few other recent arrivals, all Shostakovich-related. A couple of (quite different) round ups of his cinema career that I've written appear in two symposia.

With 640 pages, Michael Mishra's A Shostakovich Companion from Praeger Publishers should keep everyone who has a sturdy enough bedside table entertained for a good while. There's a full description and a list of contents here. In brief, the first half is taken up by Michael's look at how Shostakovich's music was received through and after his life (thankfully, a section not hijacked by Testimony discussions), and an analytical biography. Then there's a series of essays (including a return appearance from the editor!) analysing aspects of selected works. Approaches range from the musicological (his passacaglias) to the more literary (his dramatic impulse seen through the two operas). Finally a trio of articles look at his pianism, his legacy as seen through his students, both official and unofficial, and, courtesy of yours truly, his cinema work.

With a cover price of £95 it might be something that you'd want in your Christmas stocking (though one kindly soul is selling a second-hand copy on Amazon for only £94.99!) Whilst the cover might not be as striking as some others, I've included it simply because I've done it for everyone else and I'm nothing if not fair.

If you're harder pressed (and happy to take a shorter essay from me - though who would want to do that?) you could shell out about half as much for Pauline Fairclough and David Fanning's Cambridge Companion to Shostakovich (details here). Where the analyses in Mishra's book often look in great detail at particular works, this takes in entire genres (though with chapters on the First Symphony and the Second Piano Sonata). It begins with musicological workouts for the symphonies and string quartets before wandering further afield. The ballet, film and theatre music is set in the context of Shostakovich's life and the political turmoil in which he was unfortunate enough to live. This approach has the advantage of including some usually overlooked pieces, like The Song of the Forests, a work better than its 'inspiration' (Stalin's reforestation scheme) might imply.

Just to reassure everyone that my contributions to these two books are different, and different again from my full-length book. Indeed, if I ever got the chance to do a second edition, I'd definitely include some of my subsequent observations from these essays as well as my ongoing research.

Finally, a more specific essay Keeping the Icons on the Wall: Shostakovich's Cinema and Concert Music appears in the trilingual (English, Russian and Italian) Dmitrij D. Šostakovic (1906-1975). Tra musica, letteratura e cinema (there's also a pdf with a little more info). I look at some of the revolutionary songs and other pieces that Shostakovich quoted in various works and see how their repetitiveness, in conjunction with the films' cinematic style, could echo the effect of religious icons, enhancing the propaganda while turning music critics off. This book's a bit harder to track down, but you can buy it direct from the publishers Leo Olschki and there's also a list of overseas sellers on the site.

Sadly, I don't get any extra money should you decide to indulge in these tomes (and I selflessly urge you to do so), but I do get a nice warm glow from knowing that I've satisfied you!