The Music Lesson by Victor L. Wooten


I gave this book a 2 out of 6 rating on the “Christmas Bag scale.”  This is the third book I’ve read from the Bag (see this link for an explanation:

Victor Lemonte Wooten is a Grammy Award winning bass guitarist who has long been known for his unusual philisophical approach to music.  He has been named Bass Player of the Year by Bass Player Magazine three times, and is the only musician to have received that award more than once.  He has become legendary amongst the music community for his technical virtuosity and here, in The Music Lesson, he offers some insight into what inspires him to such levels of excellence.

The Music Lesson is “A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music.”  The book is written in first person and the narrator is a struggling musician who, after many years of barely getting by, finds himself in more of a slump than usual.  He’s broke, has no romantic prospects and is suffering from a general malaise regarding both music and life.  In walks Michael, an eccentric, larger-than-life character who has all the answers.  Though uninvited, the narrator is immediately intrigued and decides to accept his offer to teach him about Music.

Michael (who may be a manifestation of Music, a portion of the narrator himself, a guru, diety or angel…we’re never quite sure) uses unconventional techniques to teach the ten equal parts of music:  notes, articulation, technique, feel, dynamics, rhythm, tone, phrasing, space and listening.  No part is more important than the other and each, as we find out, is as applicable in life as it is in music.

The front and back of the book are covered with praise, all from musicians or music editors, so I know there is an audience for this book.  It’s also a title that has been asked for at the bookstore frequently.  But for me – it was a struggle to get through.  I found it overly didactic and was simply uninterested in the lesson.  The best I can say is that occasionally there was a clever phrasing of words that caught my attention but for the most part it was a painful experience.  There was absolutely no entertainment value for me.  Maybe you just need a greater understanding of music than I possess to get it.

I do respect Wooten’s ingenuity in creating what appears to be a full curriculum of music philosophy.  It’s no wonder that he is such an accomplished musician.  Anyone who manages to gain greater understanding by unconventional thinking is bound to see measurable results of one kind or another.  He’s definitely an outside-of-the-box thinker.

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Shack by William P. Young

There have been quite a few people coming into the store asking about this book so I decided to read it to see what the buzz was all about.  It’s a short book, but not necessarily an easy read.  The meat of the book is a series of theological discussions between the main character, Mack, and the members of the holy trinity.

Mack has suffered a horrible personal tragedy and has been trying to cope with the sadness and anger he and his family feels as a result of it.  He returns to the scene of the tragedy in an attempt to make sense of things and finds himself spending a life and heart-changing weekend with God.

I think that what a person takes from this book will depend largely on what their beliefs already are and their own spiritual questions and challenges.    The book tackles issues like forgiveness, judgment, obedience, faith, love and what God wants in terms of his relationships with people.  The discussions can get pretty deep, despite the author’s attempt to keep them simple, and I suspect that the ones that are going to make the most sense to each individual reader are the ones that are the most relevant in their lives.  I can’t really comment on the various discussions I’ve seen online regarding the deviation of traditional interpretation of scripture.  Some people are appaled by it, others find it refreshing.  I thought some of the ideas were interesting, but it’s important to remember that it is just one person’s interpretation.  After finishing the book I felt sort of sad and empty…not exactly what I’d hope to feel after reading a book that is supposed to be inspiring.

While I was reading this book I was reminded of another book I read, not too long ago, titled Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone.  The character Joshua is Jesus living in modern times.  I couldn’t help comparing the two books and I found Joshua to be much easier to understand and digest.  It also seemed to be more universal as a message for people of many beliefs whereas The Shack depends on a certain specific understanding of Christian theology.  Joshua lacks the drama and suspense of The Shack but I still found it more inspiring and motivational, perhaps because Joshua the character was more approachable, less supernatural and shared general messages on how to be a good person.  Such lessons are relevant for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs.

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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