Simultaneously the memoir of a famed composer, conductor, and music educator, and an important historical sourcebook on the American musical scene during the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the autobiography of Gunther Schuller chronicles the first thirty-five years of this multifaceted and expansive figure's life and work.
Schuller began composing music at an early age and joined the Cincinnati Symphony as its principal French horn player at seventeen. Since then he has written for many major orchestras and his work has earned him a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant and the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his large-scale orchestral piece Of Reminiscences and Reflections. Perhaps most famously, Schuller contributed to a new stylistic blend between progressive factions of jazz and classical music, for which he coined the term "Third Stream," and collaborated with John Lewis, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and others in the development of this style.
In this exquisitely detailed reflection on his early influences, experiences of good fortune, and powers of curiosity, as well as firsthand recounting of critical cultural and social moments and major movers of the jazz world, Schuller here beautifully and honestly narrates a life lived beyond limits.
Gunther Schuller has been on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music and Yale University; he was, for many years, head of contemporary music activities (succeeding Aaron Copland) and director of the Tanglewood Music Center, and served as president of the New England Conservatory. He is the author of The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945; Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development; The Compleat Conductor, and many other books.
"If you'd done a quarter of what Gunther Schuller has done in his lifetime, I'd want to read your memoirs, too. . . . He is the only musician in the world who can claim to have played with Maria Callas, Miles Davis, Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra, Igor Stravinsky and Arturo Toscanini. . . . Compulsively readable. . . . a cultural history of America in the 1940s and '50s, viewed through the prism of his personal experience." WALL STREET JOURNAL [Terry Teachout]
"Gunther Schuller's monumental memoir instantly becomes an essential document of twentieth-century music, in all its forms. Time and again Schuller has been witness to the making of history, and more than once he has made it himself. No future account of the period will be able to ignore this book."
"Schuller's memoir is a revelatory document, a chronicle of a passionate life in music, rich in factual detail. As the narrative evolves we are immersed in a rich cultural world of music and musicians from all stylistic persuasions as well as references to art, literature, philosophy, and romance. What a life he has led . . . and continues to lead." -Yehudi Wyner, Pulitzer Prize winning composer, pianist, conductor
"With a fertile, creative mind, endless energy, and a generous, humane soul, Gunther Schuller, a true Renaissance man, gives us a memoir rich with critical understandings and vivid testimonies. Those who study and continue the cross-fertilization between jazz and classical music will find here a treasure-trove of essential insights. A must-read-book for musicians, scholars, and music lovers." -Augusta Read Thomas, composer, University Professor, University of Chicago
"One of the world's great musical explorers guides us to some of the most interesting corners of American music history. Schuller gives a back-stage look not only at his emergence as a composer but also such history-making events as the 1949 Fritz Reiner-led "Salome" at the Metropolitan with Ljuba Welitsch and recording sessions in the '50s with Miles Davis, John Lewis, and Ornette Coleman." -Travis Rivers, senior music correspondent, Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington
Full of telling observations and commentary. . . . Compellingly intimate. . . . An essential book; as a first-hand history of American music in the middle of the 20th century, it is altogether invaluable. CLASSICAL MUSIC (Editor's Choice book of the month)
First Published: 15 Oct 2011 13 Digit ISBN: 9781580463423 Pages: 694 Size: 10 x 7 Binding: Hardback Imprint: University of Rochester Press Subject: Music BIC Class: AV
Details updated on 24 May 2013
1 Introduction: The Musician as Mediator, by Joan Shelley Rubin
5 Discovering Jazz
6 First Years at the Metropolitan Opera
7 Plumbing the Depths of New York's Cultural Scene