The ends of the concert season and school year are approaching and (thankfully!) bringing along the slower pace of the summer. Even if we have a full schedule of festivals and concerts, there is a bit more free time between June and September. It’s the perfect time to catch up on reading, and a great time to reach for a something that will keep you musically inspired through the summer months. I’ve put together a list of my top-10 favorite books for musicians. These are the books I would most recommend to colleagues AND students alike.
The following books have taught me about music making and life making alike, have given me insight into composers and performers I have long admired and given me fresh perspective on what it is I do, and why it is I do it. It is, to be sure, an incomplete list–I wanted to limit it to my top 10, but please feel free to add your favorites to the comments.
P.S. Any of these would make a great graduation or post-recital gift for your favorite high-school musician.
1. Casals and the Art of Interpretation by David Blum: The thoughts and wisdom of this musical giant should be read by every musician–no matter their instrument.
2. Beethoven, by Maynard Solomon: An in-depth look into Beethoven’s life and the world in which he lived. You’ll never believe how much chocolate this man consumed on a daily basis.
3. Testimony, the Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich: No one should attempt to play this man’s music without reading this book first. An insight into his soul, and the stories behind the music.
4. Joys and Sorrows, by Pablo Casals: This one is more autobiographical than philosophical. You’ll learn important details of the political landscape (and minefield) of his time, and how they affected his career, and the careers of his contemporaries.
5. The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece by Eric Siblin: A charming and fascinating look at the Biography of J.S. Bach through the lens of his six suites for solo cello and the man who made them famous.
6. The Rest is Noise, by Alex Ross: (from his website) “The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.”
7. High Performance Habits, by Brendon Burchard: Burchard spent years researching the top performers in a wide range of fields-athletes, musicians, business, writers, artists, and statesmen, and came away with the six habits they all had in common. He also found that these habits are accessible to us all.
8. Beyond Talent by Angela Myles Beeching: This books is like a warm hug and a gentle nudge for musicians embarking on a career. She combines great advice everything from networking to branding with words of wisdom regarding balance and keeping stress to a minimum.
9. The Savvy Musician, by David Cutler: More great career advice. Cutler goes into the nitty-gritty of making recordings, setting up concerts and gettin’ S&*^ done.
10. The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron: This is a book that I recommend to everyone-even people who just want to get back in touch with their creative sides to help them in their non-artistic careers. Cameron lays out 12 months of journaling and exercises to help you figure out what the heck it is you actually want and how to go out and get it.