A Boss Blogs About Her Mate

beth wareham, co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books

I did something ridiculous; I published my husband. That’s him – a music critic at the New York Times – looking decidedly unlike any classical music critic I’ve ever seen. His book is entitled Something I Heard, and if you love music – and more importantly, GREAT writing – he’s your guy (along with The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, once a young critic under my husband’s tenure as chief critic.)

I’m no classical music fan. Hendrix is my go-to and I’ve been waiting for Cardi B all my life. But I’ve learned about classical music – oh, how I’ve learned – sitting in concert halls around the world with him, rushing up the aisle so he could get home to file his review. I know my Haydn and found out I’m an Alban Berg fan (who knew?)  I’ve been to Puccini’s house, saw Wagner operas in Berlin and know where Dvorak  wrote Rusalka. Weird, right?

But that’s not why I fell in with the dude. I fell in love with a writer and what he wrote and what he read. In his book Something I Heard, you’ll hear it, great writing like this:

Tango I

“The tango is sublimated warfare. It rarely smiles. Elegance, ritual and a deep dignity win out over darker impulses. In a single Argentine dance form the universal paradoxes of romance between two human beings seem to gather.”

That’s one hot paragraph and it’s what the guy does, boiling intense experience into a few tight sentences.  It’s the writing that he’s known for, but don’t ask me. Ask The New Yorker. They say, “no one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recall the heyday of Virgil Thomson.”

Wow. That’s some praise. I do chase him about the house yelling, “what does Mr. Limpid say to that, huh?” But man, what praise. I agree with those rascals at The New Yorker. If you want to understand music more deeply or just want to roll around in great writing, this just may be your book. But what do I know, I’m just the wife.

To order Something I Heard, click on the title.

Formats: e-book, paperback, hardcover, audio book

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Critics Cringe: It’s Good If You Say So

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Spoiler Alert: I am married to the man that wrote this book. I published the book; The New York Times did the editing. (Big shoutout! Less work for me.) None of that is interesting. What is of note is that I was sitting next to him as he listened to so many of the performances in this book.  I also watched as the world of classical music reacted to his reviews. Most days, they wanted to kill him. And that, folks, is a critic doing a job well. He or she is not there to make a bunch of friends.

Despite the ill will in the business, audience members often came up to him after a performance and wanted to know what he thought. He’d grunt a bit and say “what did YOU think?” When they responded, I never heard him put them down. He always said the same thing, “it’s good if you think it is.”

That is the point. Nothing matters but the individual having a reaction to the material and performer on stage. A “review” can tell you what happened, connect that moment to a longer continuum and give you a vague idea if it’s something you might like. Beyond that, critics really can’t do much for you because it’s about you.Your experience, in the end, is the only one that matters.

Because of him, I often traded in the soul-shattering work on Hendrix for the soul-shattering work of Wagner. My husband’s reaction? Made perfect sense to him because, as he said, “they are both great.” I got him to deconstruct the opening  chords of Baba O’Reilly. He taught the mean beauty of the opera Wozzeck, Lulu and Otello. I still remember Rusalka singing to the moon.  He wrote a piece comparing a Schubert song cycle to Bob Dylan’s 2001 masterpiece, “Ain’t Talkin.” I like to think I had a hand in that.

Like Alex Ross, the New Yorker critic who worked under Holland, these critics jump around, writing about classical as well as all the other music forms, though I’d say Holland is a boob when it comes to rap. These critics attach classical music to a larger world and that matters, that keeps it alive and moving. Holland, in particular, is always searching and reading about history, context, source material. It’s not a commitment to anything, it’s just his curious mind at work.

With Something I Heard, he put a long career of listening to music in one place so that an arc would appear. You’ll have to read it to see. (The ebook is in a promotion and available on amazon for coffee change.)

Is there a future for classical music? What a stupid question. If it’s good, there is. Even this aging rocker feels that Marta Argerich is as good as Tina Turner. Yeah, this is a divided house that stands.

To order: Something I Heard, click on the title.

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ONLY THE SUPERCOOL KNOW IT

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EINSTEIN CHANGED EVERYTHING

/Bernard Holland, excerpted from Something I Heard, Lisa Hagan Books, 2016

“EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH” changed my life. Everything I thought musical theater was abruptly wasn’t. St. Paul had his road to Damascus; mine was the Brooklyn-bound No. 4 train to Atlantic Avenue.

Philip Glass and Robert Wilson first brought “Einstein” to the surface in 1976 after exploratory trials in Europe with two performances at the Metropolitan Opera House. It reappeared in 1984 and 1992 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The first revival was my introduction. The second revival left me just as disoriented as the first.”Einstein,” or a lot of it, returns in a concert version at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble. There have been two audio recordings that I know of, the one on Nonesuch, from 1993, perhaps better than the one on Sony Classical, from 1985.

He should, before its remarkable group of players, singers, stage directors

and set designers shuffle too far into old age.

For accounting purposes, “Einstein on the Beach” can be described asa series of stage pictures, dances and narrations lasting about five hours and set to music by a dozen or more chorus singers, a violinist (the Einstein of the title), more singers and a few woodwinds and electronic keyboards.”

Einstein” begins with a train and ends with a bus. In between are a courtroom, a jail, a glowing monolith moving in signature Wilsonian slow motion, a trip to the supermarket, lovers exchanging gooey vows on a park bench and much, much more. Einstein in a snowy fright wig and suspenders sits downstage and saws furiously on his violin through much of the evening. The chorus intermittently appears and disappears from sight.

People smarter than I have expended a lot of brain power trying to figure out what “Einstein on the Beach” means. I don’t think it means anything. It is majestically two-dimensional. Its references to the atomic age, criminal justice, true love, air-conditioning and Patty Hearst are merely art materials, like red paint or blue. Those who want to link it to our inner beings or to outer space are welcome to try.

To best say what “Einstein on the Beach” is, consider first what it isn’t. Forget Aristotle, tragedy, unified time and place, beginning, middle and end, and all other cultural baggage. Something happens onstage; then Mr. Glass and Mr. Wilson change the subject. They do it without warning: no coda, no slowing down, no stretto, no summing up.

The music stops as if you were pushing a button on your radio. It starts again the same way. Charles Ives gave us a preview of no-ending endings about 1920, with “The Housatonic at Stockbridge.” The orchestral version floats along in a kind of misty indeterminacy and then, with a downward half-step in the violas, simply disappears.

Expect no overture from “Einstein,” nothing to put listeners in their seats and prepare them for what is going to happen. This is not Verdi; there will be no first-act finale to send audiences humming to the lobby bar. Indeed, there is no intermission. If you are bored or in need of the necessary, Mr. Glass and Mr. Wilson invite you to create your own private intermission. Take your time getting back to your seat. You probably won’t have missed a thing.

That is because “Einstein” likes to repeat itself. My fondest recollection of both revivals remains the delicious Lucinda Childs and her tape-loop- like recitation of a trip to “a prematurely air-conditioned supermarket.” With Ms. Childs’s every sing-song repetition, the allure of “bathing caps with Fourth of July plumes on them” is more hypnotic.

“Einstein on the Beach” is also different for musicians and tends to terrorize the unsuspecting and conservatory-trained who are asked to play it. One can be the best counter of rests and the master of tricky entrances in the orchestra, but those skills will have been mastered in European music based on change and development.

In Mr. Glass, so little happens so many times, with so many small additions and subtractions in line and rhythm, that sameness — or the illusion of sameness — becomes a series of traps.

 

What’s needed is a new performance technique, indeed a rewired brain. Classically trained musicians tell of complete mental exhaustion after dealing with this music. Not even the best symphony orchestras do it well. There is the tale of the principal double-bass player in an eminent Midwestern orchestra so confused by the demands of a Glass piece that one of the composer’s operatives had to stand behind him at performances and give verbal cues.

 

A friend of mine came upon Mr. Glass after a rehearsal during the Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer season in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., years ago. “How are they doing with your piece?” he asked.

Mr. Glass answered, “Are you kidding?” and walked away.

Like his colleague Steve Reich, Mr. Glass has relied on a core of New York professionals: instrumentalists and singers with one foot in the Juilliard School and the other in rock music. Michael Riesman has always led the Philip Glass Ensemble and continues to do so. Rock thrives on sameness, intractable repetitions and the patience to deal with both. A certain empty-headedness comes into play, but an exalted empty-headedness, actually a form of high intelligence.

One theory of education says that learning is not accumulating information but discarding what your mind doesn’t need. Musical people like me are too cluttered. I sweat when the music goes from 6/8 to 3/4 time and can only wonder at the ability of these players to do

 sameness and difference so confidently. A new generation of outsiders is a lot better at it than their immediate predecessors.

 

Mr. Glass found his style of composing as a student in Europe, when asked to transcribe a performance by the Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar in a film. “In Western music,” Mr. Glass has written, “we divide time — as if you were to take a length of time and slice it the way you slice a loaf of bread. In Indian music (and all the non-Western music with which I’m familiar), you take small units, or ‘beats,’ and string them together to make up larger time values.”

Mr. Glass’s going-nowhere-fast school of music synchronizes with the glacial going-somewhere-slowly visual art of Robert Wilson. In “Einstein,” the pace of physical movement acts in inverse proportion to the onlooker’s feeling of space: the slower the bigger.

We are all products of our hometowns, and one can imagine Mr. Wilson, who is from Waco, Tex., looking out over the vastness of the cattle range and seeing a lot of the same thing moving little, if at all. Maybe the reason Texans seem so much more vivid than the rest of us is that they need personalities strong enough to wrestle to the ground those hard gray-blue skies and seemingly endless stretches of land, devoid of contour and drained of color.

“Einstein on the Beach” is the ideal entertainment for people smart enough not to think too much. Relevance, allusion, historical significance, metaphor, symbol and myth may make the inquiring mind go round, but too much meaning can also clog the arteries.

Let “Einstein on the Beach” be your Lipitor. Look at it (if you have the chance) and listen to it. “Einstein” may well be speaking volumes to your subconscious without your knowing. Ask your subconscious if you must, but it will probably tell you to mind your own business.

 

Tap here for an excerpt of the Einstein on the Beach

To order Bernard Holland’s SOMETHING I HEARD for essays on the good, the bad and the ugly in the 20th century’s classical music scene from Shostakovich’s epic struggle with the Soviets to Yo-Yo Ma’s difficulty in traveling with a very pricey cello.

To order, click on the title: Something I Heard.

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FORMER NEW YORK TIMES CRITIC KEEPS IT CLEAN

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Despite repeated requests by his editor to write something dirty about classical music, former New York Times Chief Critic Bernard Holland refused, saying “classical music showers daily, just like me.”

To read more of Mr. Holland’s thoughts, check out http://amzn.to/1S9AQIV. You’ll hear the music. No way you can’t. I even loved it and baby, I’m a rocker.

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WE SUBMIT FOR YOUR APPROVAL: Books to Make You Smarter, Books to Entertain

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Dear Friend: Shadow Teams now powers Lisa Hagan Books, an independent publishing company working in the United States, Canada and the U.K. We now believe everything everyone told us about how hard you must work on a startup.
We are extremely proud of our first group of books. We offer them below.

Simply click on the title of the book to order.

Please forward on this email to family, friends and other readers. We would love your feedback and help in spreading the word. http://www.shadowteams.com

Anyone who signs up for our email will get three chapters of our next release for free. (What is the book, you ask? It will be a surprise, just like all presents.)

If you wish to review the book — for print, blog or possible interviews – or for potential inclusion in curriculum, please email beth@shadowteams.com

ADULT NON-FICTION

SOMETHING I HEARD
b9thnolinelargery Bernard Holland
New York Times Critic Remembers 1981-2008

For twenty-plus years, music critic Bernard Holland heard it all. He reviewed and interviewed many of the most celebrated classical artists – singers, conductors, instrumentalists, composers and the avant garde – of the twentieth century for the New York Times.

Reporting both sides of the culture war between music history and radical change, Holland writes critiques on Philip Glass to Verdi, Messiaen to Bach, Peter Sellars to Zeffirelli, and Linda Ronstadt to The Three Tenors.

Along the way, the reader chats with Herbert von Karajan, takes a plane trip with Yo-Yo Ma, joins in with the boos at Bayreuth, and walks the slow walk with Robert Wilson.

“No one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recalls the heyday of
Virgil Thomson.”
-The New Yorker

MEMOIR

Hive-Mind
by Gabrielle Myers
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With the lyrical precision of Annie Dillard and the exquisite food writing of M.F.K. Fisher, Gabrielle Myers takes us on a Northern California idyll – an internship at the Tip Top Farm and Produce in Vacaville.

Here, the beauty of the land – light streaming through fig branches; carnelian tomatoes exploding in front of rows of sweet peas – is tended by the mysterious frenetic Farmer and her companion, Baker. Together with their intern Gabrielle, the trio tends a landscape full with sustenance and life. Their days are filled with back-breaking farm labor and their nights are alive with the freshest, most creative meals imaginable.

At night, Gabi lays in her yurt pondering her mother’s suicide attempt, working on stories to tell herself to make it alright, while just up the hill another mind, busy as a hive, fights a storm of loss and sorrow that threatens to shatter their eden. And what of these stories we tell ourselves? Myers asks.

Sometimes, they can’t be rewritten.

“The voice in Hive-Mind is complicated, edgy, vulnerable and deeply in love with fig trees, cherry tomatoes, and the sound of crickets on a hundred-and-ten degree day. In these dark, environmentally catastrophic times, we need books like this one to shake us out of our slumber, remind us where we came from, reconnect us to what we have.”
– Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

Order now from Amazon.com by clicking on the title above.

PARANORMAL

Men in Black:Personal Stories and Eerie Adventures
by Nick Redfern

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Nick Redfern’s new, and third, book on the Men in Black is filled with the very latest revelations on the sinister and deadly MIB. Never-before-seen witness testimony combines with papers from some of the leading figures in UFO- and paranormal-themed research to provide an outstanding look at this creepy and disturbing phenomenon.

Men in Black: Personal Stories & Eerie Adventures takes the reader on a mysterious, macabre, and menacing journey into the world of the dark-suited silencers. It’s a journey that encompasses tales of UFO conspiracies, government agents, strange and bizarre monsters, the occult, demonology, and psychic attack.

“Reading and reviewing the always-fascinating writings and research of author and “unsolved mysteries” lecturer Nick Redfern, for more than a decade, has allowed me to gain new insight on conspiracies and paranormal subjects. And Redfern refuses to let up…..”

– Red Dirt Report

Order now through Amazon.com by clicking on the title above.

BUSINESS

Build the Fort: 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10-Year Old Can Set You Up for Start-Up Success
by Chris Heivly

In Build the Fort, Heivly breaks down his childhood personal fort-building experiences and uses them as an analogy to his journey as co-founder of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2 billion) as well as The Startup Factory (a seed-stage investor & mentorship program).

Build the Fort outlines five basic elements that are common to both fort-building and startups:
• Socializing Your Idea without fear or inhibition,
• Identifying and Marshaling the People You Trust,
• Gathering the Minimal Resources Closest To You,
• Acting on the Smallest and Simplest of the Idea, and
• Build the Fort.

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Whether you are 16 or 60, Build The Fort will provide the reader a better understanding of the earliest micro-steps of starting your own business by overlaying Chris’s 30 years of experiences in startups, investments, big-company intrapreneurship and community development.

“Chris is a ‘been there, done that’ kind of guy when it comes to startups. From his own highly successful startup, to leading a venture capital firm, to running a successful accelerator, to personally mentoring hundreds of entrepreneurs, Chris is not only someone who knows his stuff, but is the kind of person who truly cares.”
– F. Scott Moody
CEO of AuthenTec (sold to Apple)

Available on Amazon.com by clicking on the title above.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Motherless
by Gabriel Horn

An island appears and disappears. A mysterious animal stands at the edge of the forest, watching. A door becomes a portal to the deepest secrets of the ocean. Through the darkness, a wolf strikes for life.

Born in a downpour that breaks a record drought, she is named Rainy. A young Native American girl, orphaned at 5, she lives with her grandfather on the white sandy shores of the Florida coast. As she approaches adolescence, Rainy struggles with her love for the Earth and the horrors inflicted on our natural world, facing questions of loss and identity, and the very essence of the human spirit. They are questions that hours spent in classrooms, and even her grandfather’s ancient wisdom, cannot answer. Exasperated, a storm rages inside of her, ultimately releasing her own spirit to the storm raging outside, and lifts her into a dream that is more than a dream.

Beyond this dream, in a place where the ordinary and extraordinary merge, Rainy Peek realizes her destiny and what it truly means to be MOTHERLESS.

“…insightful and eloquent”
– The Tampa Tribune
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