Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review - Imperfect Harmony, Stacy Horn

Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others


Stacy Horn

Category: Nonfiction: Memoir

Synopsis: Horn discusses her 30 years spent as a choral participant.

Date finished: 4 October 2013

Rating: ***

Preconceived notions about a book can be bad news—especially if you can’t get over them. I expected this book to be different, to feel different. I expected to feel uplifted after reading it. Instead, I didn’t really feel anything. It was like clipping my fingernails—good to have it done, but it didn’t change me.

And that’s a shame, because I really wanted to like this one. It was a gift and it came highly recommended, and I just hate not liking those books.

So, what was the issue? I’m unsure. Horn obviously loves doing research, and I normally get a kick out of that. I mean, I could watch Gretchen Rubin do research all day. But Horn’s research fell flat for me. Also, her email interviews of her singing friends were uninspiring.

I’m not a singer myself, so all the unexplained musical terms and all the foreign music titles just meant nothing to me. I kept thinking how hard writing about music must be. Most people are much more able to summon up a visual image, or even a taste, than a sound. And to put a book about music in front of a nonmusical reader—no matter how interested she is—is just too big of a task. Still, I did enjoy the explanations of the different composers and their work. I learned something here, and that’s a big plus for any book.

I was irritated by several typos and other errors. A poorly edited book makes me care just a little bit less. And I also thought Horn “doth protest too much” when she talks about how happily non-Christian she is. Little things, but they both brought me down.

But I think the main thing is that I expected more emotion. Horn took a scientific-y, scholarly approach, and it didn’t resonate, especially since I’m not musical myself. It just seemed too clinical. She talked about how uplifting playing and hearing music is, but she didn’t prove it with her own experience. She did address her personal experience to a given piece, and those were the best moments for me. Her story of being demoted from Soprano 1 to Soprano 2, the disappointment she felt, and then the pleasure she experienced when she realized Soprano 2 has its own joys, if not the highest notes, was my favorite part of the book. That’s an experience that translates to my own life, and I think I’ll remember it long after I’ve forgotten the book.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
A singer, yes. Others, probably not.

You might also enjoy:
Coming to My Senses, Alyssa Harad – similar in that she describes a passion that not all partake in or understand, but her research is in balance with her pleasure. A much better execution. 

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