Reinventing Bach by Paul Elie

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...there's nothing here to frighten even the most aggressively secular of horses; Elie remains throughout a thoughtful guide. If the book misfires it is because he largely ignores the recent reversal of fortunes undergone by the music-recording industry...
-Guardian

Synopsis

The story of a revolution in music and technology, told through a century of recordings of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach

In Reinventing Bach, his remarkable second book, Paul Elie tells the electrifying story of how musicians of genius have made Bach's music new in our time, at once restoring Bach as a universally revered composer and revolutionizing the ways that music figures into our lives.

As a musician in eighteenth-century Germany, Bach was on the technological frontier—restoring organs, inventing instruments, and perfecting the tuning system still in use today. Two centuries later, pioneering musicians began to take advantage of breakthroughs in audio recording to make Bach's music the sound of modern transcendence. The sainted organist Albert Schweitzer played to a mobile recording unit set up at London's Church of All Hallows in order to spread Bach's organ works to the world beyond the churches. Pablo Casals, recording at Abbey Road Studios, made Bach's cello suites existentialism for the living room; Leopold Stokowski and Walt Disney, with Fantasia, made Bach the sound of children's playtime and Hollywood grandeur alike. 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 computers and smartphones put the sound of Bach all around us. In this book we see these musicians and dozens of others searching, experimenting, and collaborating with one another in the service of Bach, who emerges as the very image of the spiritualized, technically savvy artist.
Reinventing Bach is a gorgeously written story of music, invention, and human passion—and a story with special relevance in our time, for it shows that great things can happen when high art meets new technology.

 

About Paul Elie

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Paul Elie, for many years a senior editor with FSG, is now a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. His first book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, received the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle award finalist in 2003. He lives in New York City.
 
Published September 18, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 509 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Reinventing Bach
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Anthony Tommasini on Oct 07 2012

For such a champion of recorded music, Mr. Elie sometimes writes confusingly about its technology.

Read Full Review of Reinventing Bach | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Guy Dammann on Jul 05 2013

...there's nothing here to frighten even the most aggressively secular of horses; Elie remains throughout a thoughtful guide. If the book misfires it is because he largely ignores the recent reversal of fortunes undergone by the music-recording industry...

Read Full Review of Reinventing Bach | See more reviews from Guardian

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