23 November 2012

Strings Attached : The Life & Music of John Williams

  • John Williams was my biggest boyhood hero.
  • Unfortunately this authorised biography falls short. Strictly for fans only. Too much mechanical regurgitation of his performance history; not enough insight into what makes him tick. Perhaps the more interesting bits of the book is his thoughts on Segovia stifling the creativity of his students and "Appendix A: Thoughts from John Williams" (eg see comments section later) and Chapter 12 South American Masters subsection "Barrios" (again Segovia does not come out very nice).
  • My rating : 2.5/5. Disappointed with the book; respect for JW the virtuoso guitarist remains immense.


Taichiseal said...

From Appendix A

I have never understood why people don't do more to prevent or control their coughing. How difficult is it to hold a handerkerchief over your mouth to muffle a cough? A loud cough in a quiet moment can destroy the essence of the whole piece for an entire audience, not to mention the performers. To me it's simple: audiences have a responsibility to each other and to the performers they have come to see. I really appreciate what some venues do, providing cough sweets in the foyer so that people who haven't bothered to think about it themselves are reminded about coughing and given something to help."

Sadly, we are not privy to more of this kind of personal JW thoughts in the book.

Taichiseal said...

Chapter 12

"Although the Paraguayan held him in the highest regard and wanted to be his friend, Segovia's unfortunate and condescending attitude Agustin Barrios Mangore may have derived from some sense of threat of competition from the Latin American. It was almost certainly part of his preoccupation with European classical repertoire and, in John William's opinion, a function of the tendency for ex-colonial powers to look down on their former colonies, especially in popular culture. Segovia's prejudice was expressed in many ways, from the trivial to the fundamental, and some certainly reflected the patronising view of a native of the colonial power. Good quality gut strings, the best of which were made at the time in Italy, were almost impossible to come by in Paraguay in the early years of the twentieth century so Barrios was obliged to make do with the more readily available steel strings. Some other prominent performers acknowledged that Barrios had little option than to use metal strings and declared that his artistry transcended their limitations but Segovia loftily stated, "I wouldn't know what to do with that wire fence", damning the strings and the player.