What to read when: you need a super smart beach read
It's an ensemble piece ;)
This is the weekly reading-reco edition of “Before and After the Book Deal.” If you value my efforts to make writing and publishing a more joyful, straightforward, and potentially lucrative endeavor for all who practice it, consider upgrading to a paid subscription. Thank you!
The Yale School of Art and Music comes to our town in the summer, and every Thursday and Saturday the talented musicians give free performances for us locals. We were lucky enough to catch a quintet called “Amo Brass” last week, named for their favorite place for after-practice drinks in New Haven, “Te Amo Tequila Bar + Tacos.”
The origin story of their band name should give you a sense of this delightful quintet’s vibe. Each member got up to introduce themselves and whatever piece they were about to play, and—without exception—these talented students were so funny and charming—it was hands down the best performance (ticketed or not!) that we’ve seen at the Chamber Music Festival in all the years we’ve lived here.
Proof positive: the still image above is from one of the musician’s introductions to a piece they’re about to play called “Central Park in the Morning,” which, he explained, is about what Central Park is like in the morning. While doing research on what Central Park was like in the morning, he fell upon the TripAdvisor review of a Level 6 Reviewer, “Linda E.” who said that Central Park was “fresh and clean” in the morning, and that observation inspired the way “Amo Brass” played the piece. You can see this fantastic moment around minute 52 of this video of the concert. (For some reason, the first fifteen minutes are just an empty stage.)
Classical music— and most writing about it—is often reserved for the highest of high brow publications. But classical music used to be popular music, and I think it’s a worthy endeavor to remember that our hip, internet-savvy young people are still out there learning and perfecting classical instruments and classic pieces as I type. If you’d love a reminder that the kids, are in fact, all right, may I recommend the following read:
The book: “The Ensemble” by Aja Gabel.
The why: If you like your classical music fiction sexy, gossip-ridden and emotionally moving, look no further than Aja Gabel’s flawless novel “The Ensemble.” Through this perfect debut, we follow the rising careers of four close friends: Jana, Brit, Daniel and Henry, as they struggle to thrive (and survive) inside the cut-throat world of classical music and their own quartet. “The Ensemble,” to my mind, is the perfect beach read because it spins a beautiful, intelligent tale that you only have to sit back on a beach towel to be swept away by. It’s not convoluted, it isn’t overly dramatic, it doesn’t go off the rails at any point: it’s Bach. (If you prefer Beethoven, check out Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto.”)
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When you receive this, I will— fingers crossed—be en route to France to spend time with my husband’s family, a carry-on my only luggage because many of you have put the fear of God in me regarding your recent travel horror stories. Cross your fingers our trip goes off without a hitch, and I’ll do the same for you if you have any upcoming travel!
I’m hoping to send out a publishing advice newsletter this weekend— stay tuned!