As some of you know, I wrote my first and probably the last book two years ago (I’m a composer, not a writer). The title translates word to word to ”Why Is Contemporary Music So Difficult”, and it tells about just that, contemporary art music, but is a popularization, written for the common streetwalker. You don’t need to know any musical term in advance to read through the 270 or so pages. My point in the book is that it’s not difficult, it’s all about how we approach the contemporary arts ourselves (and also an introduction to the post WW2 art music). There’s nothing to be understood, you just need to take it as it comes, the only important thing is how you feel it. Everton is mentioned twice in the book. The first chapter starts with a Bill Shankly quote about William Ralph Dean. 😀
The book was released 15 months ago, and it received astonishingly much publicity for a book about such a highbrow subject. There were several interviews, articles, podcasts and blogs on various TV and radio channels and magazines, and lots of reviews in newspapers. I was asked to give a talk here, there and everywhere. Obviously this merry-go-round will last until the end of November this year, for a certain reason.
In last November the book was nominated for the Finlandia Prize (non-fiction) from a longlist of 265 books; the shortlist included five other books, all proper non-fiction literature of important subjects like history and social politics written by proper scholars and experts, and not like mine which was written in a lively, humorous style, with which I had made plenty of radio programs in the gone years - I’ve always thought that you must (be able to) talk about art music in an anti-pompous way (Beethoven was a dork, Prokofiev was a prick, Boulez was a ####…).
Being nominated already felt like a victory because it would mean an upsurge in sales, only a month before Christmas. The Finlandia is the most prestigious prize over here, and also the prize money is more than twice the, say, Pulitzer, tax free.
At the end of November, I was in Rome, because I had a world premier of my septet ”Pragma” at the Nuova consonanza festival, and I had decided to stay for six weeks there to work and enjoy La Città Eterna (which I love), and to take a two-week intensive course in Italian. At the start of the second school week, between the classes, my publisher called and told me that I should give my passport number, because he’d book me flights to come and pick the Finlandia Prize. Fcuking hell! Bismillah and Allahu akbar! Può essere vero?!
I have no memories of the latter class. At one point I was strolling around the Campofiori, talking on the phone with the publisher, or to my wife, not sure. It was sunny, I was dizzy, and soon the Tevere was running below me, but my feet couldn’t touch the ground. I might have thrown my only banknote (€50? Who carries cash nowadays?) to a black guy playing some boogie on Ponte Sisto.
Returning to Rome two days later with a hangover that is children’s play for an 18 years old, but a Himalaya-like challenge for someone approaching the end of his sixth decade was an unforgettable trip. 🤢
The prize didn’t change my life, but it certainly gave me a pleasure that I could feel both mentally and corporeally. Is it like this that you feel when you win the FA cup or suchlike (not that I’d won a quadruple… 😏 ?
The book sales soared, and although Finland is a small market, my royalties are considerable for me, not to mention the fiscal injection that the prize itself made. Luckily there was room on my bank account, since I’ve been a freelance composer since 2016/17, with no regular income.
Not only did the book swell my self-confidence and my bank account, but a direct result - I think so - is the heavily grown interest towards performing of my music. It is very difficult to have your orchestra pieces performed unless you’re a dead master like Sibelius, Britten or Ligeti, or Saariaho or Adams if you’re still breathing, but this coming season six orchestras are taking up my works, and there are lots of chamber music performances coming, both domestic and abroad on different festivals. Although I wasn’t a nobody in art music circles, I’m sure the success of the book has set the bar lower, when people are considering whether they should program my works.
And now to the point that made me start writing this all (I thought it would be a brief mention of future translations…): a major European literature agent has had a sample translation made. Of course nothing is certain, but since the subject is universal, there’s a good chance that the translating and publishing rights are sold to a few countries, and I’d be surprised if there wouldn’t be an English translation available in near future.
After this personal success, to have seen Everton relegated would have been a blow that only the people on this forum can understand. So nice to have written this to fellow forumists who understand. 🙂