I was at the library on Thursday in a sort of a panic, racing around the stacks and squirreling away books in a bag and checking them out and generally causing the guy on the security desk to look at me quizzically and say, "You know, we're open again on Tuesday, you don't need to take away the whole library!" However I thought it best to stock up on really good stuff, esp. in anticipation of a solitary-Cambridge-exiled-New-Year's-Eve (actually it's very enjoyable, in NY I would be trailing around to various parties & witnessing the inevitable meltdowns and having transportation difficulties, this has been extremely placid in contrast).
So the last book read in 2005 has been Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall. I must confess I absolutely loved it, I think it's a great book despite occasional jumbled-up-ness and minor infelicities of style (some presumably due to editing--anyone who makes it to p. 267 of this classical-music memoir does NOT need editorial asides like "string players were unpacking their fiddles, rubbing rosin (a processed tree sap that is sold in hardened cakes) on their bows for friction against the strings"; @#$%^?!?).
I like the mix of memoir and jadedness and excitement about music and passionate polemic against the contemporary culture of classical music. Plus the AGONIZING descriptions of reed-making, the bane of every oboist's existence: the oboe is the true love of my life, I played a bunch of other instruments too but the oboe was THE ONE except for the torment, the agony, of the reed thing. (NB Meghan Daum has an excellent essay called Music is My Bag that is also about oboe-playing though more generally it's cultural criticism, and horrifyingly apt to former woodwind players in my particular age and geographical demographic.)
It strikes me as odd that my thirteen- or fourteen-year-old self would have immediately said that she wanted to be a classical musician, it seems inconceivable now. (The problem with music as with acting, two things I loved and devoted large amounts of time and energy to as a teenager, was that all I wanted was to play oboe or to act in plays whereas really my personality is more suited to a being-in-charge kind of thing; I could see that only conducting or directing would really have satisfied me, I had no impulse or talent to do either and so I happily became a writer and a professor instead. And it is just as well I am not a baroque-music-fixated oboist leading chamber ensembles and living on my credit cards, it would not be a good thing at all. As this book makes painfully clear.)
With the greater self-knowledge of (increasingly advanced) age, I can see that the one job in music that really would suit me would be record producer: it's sort of the equivalent of an editor, only more interventionist, you get to choose musicians and aggressively mold their sound in an agreeably bossy-while-it's-happening-and-yet-after-the-fact-altogether-behind-the-scenes kind of way. You know what I'm talking about: not the big deal-maker, but the one who tweaks the sound on the songs that makes the whole album work right. And tells the musicians that they have completely misunderstood their talents and need to try something completely different. That sort of thing. Sounds very enjoyable... (and the novel I know that has the best description of this is Liza Cody's Gimme More, which I highly recommend.)
So anyway, best wishes for 2006; having this blog's been one of my favorite things this year, and I am sure it will be next year too, so thanks for being part of the whole business. . . .