Believe Your Ears: Life of a Lyric Composer

Believe Your Ears: Life of a Lyric Composer

by Kirke Mechem


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Believe Your Ears is the memoir of composer Kirke Mechem, whose unorthodox path to music provides a fascinating narrative. He wrote songs and played music by ear as a newspaper reporter, a touring tennis player, and a Stanford creative-writing major before studying composition and conducting at Harvard. He describes his residencies in San Francisco, Vienna, London, and Russia, and gives detailed attention to his choral music, operas, and symphonies.

He writes that “the twentieth century gave us much brilliant music” but shows how atonality came to dominate the post-war period. His lyric style belongs to no particular “school,” avoiding the trends, –isms, experiments, fads, and lunacies of the period. He encourages younger composers who are trying to bring back beauty, passion, and humor—even entertainment—to classical music. He asks music lovers to believe their own ears, not the lectures of “experts.”

Believe Your Ears is addressed to all who love classical music. Along the way, readers will meet Dimitri Shostakovich, Wallace Stegner, Billie Jean King, the Grateful Dead, Richard Rodgers, Benjamin Britten, Bill Tilden, and Aaron Copland—a who’s who in Mechem’s storied career.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442250765
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 07/16/2015
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Kirke Mechem is the composer of some 250 published titles, most notably four operas and many orchestral and vocal works that have graced the stages of opera houses and symphony halls throughout the world. He is commonly referred to as the “dean of American choral music.” His opera Tartuffe has been performed more than 400 times in six countries.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Exposition
Chapter 2: Military Music
Chapter 3: Key Change: The Accidental Composer
Chapter 4: Counterpoint: What Is American Music?
Chapter 5: Development
Chapter 6: Vienna, con tutta forza
Chapter 7: Major / Minor
Chapter 8: Vienna, recapitulation
Chapter 9: Choral Cycles
Chapter 10: Sinfonia Giubilante
Chapter 11: Lento, molto sostenuto
Chapter 12: Unresolved Dissonance
Chapter 13: London: Deceptive Cadence
Chapter 14: Professor Nontroppo to the Jayhawk
Chapter 15: Opera 101: Composing Tartuffe
Chapter 16: Opera 102: The Real Opera World
Chapter 17: The Life and Death of John Brown
Chapter 18: Everyone Sang
Chapter 19: John Brown’s Resurrection
Chapter 20: Intermezzo: What Is American Opera?
Chapter 21: Russian Extravaganza
Chapter 22: Tartuffe Spricht Deutsch
Chapter 23: The Rivals: Flatulence Will Get You Nowhere
Chapter 24: Darcy Sings: Pride & Prejudice
Chapter 25: Coda: A Summing-Up
Appendix 1: Choral music: “The Text Trap”
Appendix 2: “Afterword” to John Brown
Appendix 3: “The Hymn Bandit”

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