We arrive at “Paul Bowles on Music,” a book I edited with Irene Herrmann.
Before he became the celebrated novelist of “The Sheltering Sky” and a cult figure in Tangier, Bowles was a composer and music critic at the Herald Tribune in New York, where Virgil Thomson was his boss. He also wrote for the important periodical Modern Music.
With the help of Herrmann, I selected the reviews and essays contained in this volume, wrote the introduction and the questions for the interview (Bowles’ last), which Herrmann carried with her to Tangier and dutifully put to Bowles while she taped his answers. I transcribed the tape and presto, we had a nifty interview about Bowles’ life as a music critic.
It took me a couple of years to put the book together, in my copious spare time. I remember much work with microfilm; a trip to UCLA special collections to retrieve an article by Bowles from an obscure avant-garde magazine; and writing to Mademoiselle for permission to reprint a couple of articles that Bowles wrote for the magazine. I never received an answer but I had done my due diligence. We put them in the book.
It came out in 2003 and got some nice reviews from Tim Page and Judith Weir and others. It never quite made the New York Times bestseller list, though.
Bowles was a good critic, who came at the job much as Thomson did, as a composer who knew something about the nuts and bolts of music and who also had his own strong aesthetic.
The photos above show the cover; the title page; the table of contents; the first page of my introduction; and two random reviews (one of violinist Samuel Dushkin and one of Stravinsky conducting his own music) from the Herald Tribune, which will give you the flavor of Bowles’ style.
As always, click on the photos for larger (readable) views.
Update: You can buy a used copy of the book for one cent plus shipping here.