September 15, 2003
New book on author Paul Bowles co-edited by lecturer
who inherited famed writers musical estate
By Scott Rappaport
Paul Bowles is perhaps best known as the author of The Sheltering
Sky, the popular novel that was later turned into a feature film
in 1990 starring John Malkovich and Debra Winger.
|Paul Bowles on Music, co-edited
by UCSC lecturer Irene Herrmann, is a collection of music criticism
by Bowles, written between 1935 and 1946.
Photo: Jim MacKenzie
But few people realize that the prolific writer thought of himself
primarily as a composer of music.
A new book co-edited by UC Santa Cruz lecturer Irene Herrmann, Paul
Bowles on Music, spotlights the intersection of his two great passionswriting
The volume is a collection of music criticism by Bowles, written between
1935 and 1946, that has never before been compiled in book form.
It contains reviews Bowles penned as the music critic for the New
York Herald Tribune, as well as complete reprints of essays on music
that he contributed to Modern Music magazine, a renowned periodical
of the 30s and 40s that distinguished itself through the
highly literate composers--such as Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson--who
wrote about music in its pages.
The incisive and often humorous pieces cover classical, film, popular,
and ethnic music, including important premieres of works by Copland,
Cage, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky. They range from reviews of top jazz
concerts of the day in Harlem, to debut recitals by emigre virtuosos,
to performances by Frank Sinatra, in a compilation that highlights an
extraordinary era of American musical history.
We had over 450 reviews and we distilled it down to about 200,
Herrmann said. We had to decide what genres to includewe
ended up putting in all of the pieces on jazz. We also wanted to put
in some negative reviews, because theyre always the most entertaining.
They read well today, Herrmann added. Its fascinating
to learn what people thought of that music at its first hearing.
A staff accompanist for the UC Santa Cruz Music Department for more
than two decades, Herrmann recorded her own solo piano and chamber music
CD of Bowless music on the Koch record label in 1995. She also
happens to be the inheritor of Bowless musical estate, which contains
several previously unrecorded works by the composer. Herrmann met Bowles
in 1992 when she began to research his music.
Im interested in American music, and I was looking for
repertoire for concerts, Herrmann recalled. I think Paul
enjoyed my company, and enjoyed listening to music with me. On my first
visit, I brought and played some piano music for him from some manuscripts
that I had found in a Bowles archive housed at the University of Texas
Special Collections in Austin. It was his own music that he hadnt
heard in 40 years.
After that first encounter, Herrmann regularly traveled to visit Bowles
at his apartment in Tangier, Morocco, every summer until his death in
1999. Bowles designated Herrmann as the inheritor of his musical estate
I think he realized that I knew more about his musicwhere
it was, what was availablethan anyone else, Herrmann said.
I had done a lot of work already organizing that information.
And by great luck, I had found some of his long-lost manuscripts from
the 30s--about 10 or 12 pieces.
Throughout his lifetime, Bowles composed a variety of musical scores,
four novels, 60 short stories, various travel pieces, and dozens of
translations of Moroccan stories. In the 1930s, he was also the premier
theater composer of live incidental music, collaborating with such luminaries
as John Houseman, Orson Welles, William Saroyan, and Lillian Hellman.
Bowless original music accompanied numerous Broadway productions,
including major plays by Tennessee Williams, beginning with The Glass
Menagerie in 1944. The Museum of Modern Art in New York also presented
a performance of Bowless zarzuela, The Wind Remains, conducted
by Leonard Bernstein and choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
Co-edited by southern California classical music critic Timothy Mangan,
Paul Bowles on Music additionally includes the last recorded
interview with Bowles. It was conducted by Herrmann in Tangier, shortly
before his death in 1999.
Paul didnt like to talk about his writing, but he liked
to talk about his music, Herrmann recalled. Toward the end
of his life, he was really fragile, so rather than converse, we spent
lots of time listening to music together. He liked to listen to Lou
Harrison, French composers like Germaine Tailleferre and Satie, and
Hermann ultimately inherited the music of Bowles's estate, including
all of his sound recordings. With the help of UCSC library bibliographer
Paul Machlis, she arranged to have them categorized and transferred
He had seemingly endless piles of cassettes with performances
of his music that others had sent himthings like live radio broadcasts
from France. They were found in disarray in his apartment, Herrmann
said. So Special Collections at UC Santa Cruz now has the most
complete archive on Bowless non-commercial music available--on
about 25 CDS, she noted.
More information about Paul Bowles can be found on his official web
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