The ever prolific Andrew Ford has just published The Memory of Music, which by a quick consultation with his own not quite up-to-date website appears to make it, impressively, his ninth book. Already the new title has received plaudits from Steven Isserlis and Gavin Bryars suggesting it is up to his usual illuminating, informative and witty standard. For those who have not yet picked up a copy, several excerpts have already been published in Resonance, The Sydney Morning Herald and Limelight, in amongst which are amusing stories about his vexed experiences trying to learn the piano, and some very frank and illuminating anecdotes about Peter Sculthorpe.
Part memoir and part philosophical reflections about the nature of music, The Memory of Music reveals a lot more than Ford’s previous books about his inner mind as a composer and musical thinker, and it’s a wonderful read as far as that goes: engagingly fluent and direct, provocative without being pretentious, and sometimes downright cheeky – much like his musical compositions, one might say. And that might be the point: one wishes more composers would do similarly and communicate their ideas to the musically interested public through words.
It is against the grain for many composers to do so – generally they still prefer to leave discourse about their music to musicologists. That position, of remove from the general public, might have been de rigueur for composers of new music in past decades, but it looks increasingly out of place today. Steve Reich and Philip Glass have both written books aimed at the general reader, and before them fellow American composers Copland, Bernstein, Virgil Thomson and Ned Rorem. Ford is to be applauded for breaking the mould in this country, and one would like to see others take up the challenge he has set.
The Memory of Music is published by Black Inc. Details can be found here.