In "Reinventing Bach", his remarkable second book, Paul Elie tells the electrifying story of how musicians of genius reinvent Bach for our time, at once restoring him as a universally beloved composer and revolutionizing the ways that music figures into our lives. As a musician in eighteenth-century Germany, Bach was on the technological frontie - restoring organs, inventing instruments, and perfecting the tuning scheme still in use today. Two centuries later, pioneering musicians took advantage of amazing breakthroughs in audio recording to make Bach's music the sound of transcendence in our time. The sainted organist Albert Schweitzer used wax-cylinder recordings to spread Bach's sacred works with missionary zeal. Pablo Casals, cutting 78s at Abbey Road Studios, made Bach's cello suites existentialism for the living room. With Fantasia, Leopold Stokowski introduced children to Bach at his most abstract, inventing the movie soundtrack in the process. Glenn Gould's "Goldberg Variations" opened and closed the LP era and made Bach the byword for postwar cool, and Yo-Yo Ma has brought Bach into the digital present, where smartphones, video, and multimedia put the sound of Bach all around us. "Soundabout" is a gorgeously written story of music, invention, and human passion - and a story for our time, for it shows that great things can happen when high art meets new technology.
Praise for "Reinventing Bach" "This intelligent, wide-ranging book brings Bach's eternal music into conjunction with the forces of history. Paul Elie makes us realize how even great music, if it is to last over time, must change in order to stay the same." --Wendy Lesser"By juxtaposing the LP and the iPod, Elie reminds us of how technology has democratized and universalized Bach . . . Elie has many strengths and strands: detailed and beautifully described moments of listening, engagingly narrated summaries of scholarship, alert attention to telling facts, and a loving knowledge of many different kinds of music, including Robert Johnson and Led Zeppelin. There's plenty of audiophile information--wax cylinder, recording, mono, stereo, different kinds of tape, 78s, long-playing records, CD's, iPods--and a lot on the placement of microphones. Wearing his learning lightly (with wonderful endnotes as a ground), Elie is polyphonic and contrapuntal . . . Elie's book is held together by chain of voices following one other as they make an entrance, step back, overlap, and enter again to reveal a new aspect against the changing conversation: Schweitzer to Casals to Stokowski to Gould to Ma. Other voices too move in and out, filling out the progressions: Tureck, Schoenberg, Einstein, Jobs, even the musically fantastic Mickey Mouse. The voice hovering over all is Elie's own, modest, serious, attuned to the whole . . . It is a pleasure to read such a serious and inventive book on Bach, and that's saying something." --Alexandra Mullen, "Barnes and Noble Review""Thoughtful and elegant . . . Elie remains throughout a thoughtful guide." --Guy Dammann, "The Guardian" "In "Reinventing Bach," Elie weaves . . . several lives together in order to make an effective case that Bach's music, like all classical music, can never be 'played' exactly, with total fidelity to the source; fidelity isn't even the goal. Performed live, it has always been 'interpreted' by conductors,