Do we really need another slim volume on the great Stephen Sondheim? Along with innumerable reviews, essays, and articles, we have Craig Zadan's account of Sondheim's early career, Sondheim & Co (1974), Meryle Secrest's Stephen Sondheim: A Life (1998), and the promise of a definitive biography from the critic David Benedict. If that were not en ... More
The history of country music in Australia is in many ways the history of the specialisation of a genre,' writes Toby Martin, explaining how the style evolved from copying the American singing-cowboy model of the 1930s to incorporating Australian bush ballads and staking a 'unique claim to national authenticity'.
Notions of authenticity are among the many lin ... More
When Napoleon called England a nation of shopkeepers he claimed to have meant it as a compliment. Its grand resources were not constituted by extensive territories, natural resources, or a burgeoning population, but in the accumulation and dissemination of wares. In Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (2008), John Plotz remarks that certain obj ... More
'Oh, I just don't know where to begin,' opens 'Accidents Will Happen', one of the best pop songs of Elvis Costello's four-decade recording career. The English songwriter (born Declan MacManus) has no such trouble with his generously sized memoir, which details the creation of so much of his work. 'A lot of pop music has come out of people failing to copy their model ... More
Sleater-Kinney, an American rock trio, are closely associated with the cities of Olympia and Portland, in the Pacific Northwest. In the mid-1990s, when Sleater-Kinney formed, the region was home to a thriving, if somewhat puritan, independent music scene, one in which participants prided themselves on their distance – both geographic and cultural – from the main ... More
Just in time for the Frank Sinatra centenary – 12 December should be a gazetted public holiday – comes the thumping second part of James Kaplan's monumental biography. Taken together, Volume I – Frank: The Voice (2010, 786 pages) – and its behemoth successor, Sinatra: The Chairman (979 pages), comprise a formidable and scrupulously detailed ... More
Ask any opera singer from the last fifty or more years who their favourite conductor is, and a substantial number would plumb for Charles Mackerras if they had enjoyed the privilege of working with him. There were always more flamboyant conductors – Karajan, Bernstein, Abbado, and others spring to mind – and certainly many enjoyed more immediate name recognition ... More
'This has been an eventful year for Christian Thielemann, the self-styled Dirigent-Überall of German conductors. After several seasons of speculation about his next career move, in June he lost out on becoming chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic but almost simultaneously landed the music directorship of the Bayreuth Festival. That post at the Wagner ... More
The writer is a conductor, opines the 'vaguely handsome, intensely laconic' cowpoke who speaks to Patti Smith as she lingers at 'the frame of a dream'. His words shape Smith's days. 'It's not so easy writing about nothing,' this companion tells her, and she scratches these words over and over onto a wall in her home with a chunk of red chalk.
Writing about n ... More
Richard Goldstein, one of the first rock critics, has always occupied a weird place in the history of music criticism. His memoir could have sat uneasily as an attempt to justify and reconcile his position, but instead, Goldstein taps into a strangely confessional vein, tracing his history from the Bronx to the Ballroom, finding his home at the More