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Distant Melodies

Music in Search of Home

An engaging blend of memoir and music history, Distant Melodies explores the changing ideas of home, displacement, and return through the lives and chamber music of four composers.

How does music played and heard over many years inform one’s sense of home? Writing during the COVID-19 pandemic, when travel is forbidden and distance felt anew, Edward Dusinberre, first violinist of the world-renowned Takács Quartet, searches for answers in the music of composers whose relationships to home shaped the pursuit of their craft—Antonín Dvořák, Edward Elgar, Béla Bartók, and Benjamin Britten.
 
Dusinberre has lived abroad for three decades. At the age of 21, he left his native England to pursue music studies at the Juilliard School in New York. Three years later he moved to Boulder, Colorado. Drawn to the stories of Dvořák’s, Bartók’s, and Britten’s American sojourns as they tried to reconcile their new surroundings with nostalgia for their homelands, Dusinberre reflects on his own evolving relationship to England and the idea of home. As he visits and imagines some of the places crucial to these composers’ creative inspiration, Dusinberre also reflects on Elgar’s unusual Piano Quintet and the landscapes that inspired it.
 
Combining travel writing with revealing insights into the working lives of string quartet musicians, Distant Melodies is a moving and humorous meditation on the relationship between music and home.

208 pages | 8 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2022

Music: General Music

Reviews

“This is a book of intimate grandeur and accessible depth. It captures the spiritual essence of two of life’s most important anchors: music and home. For music lovers, Distant Melodies is filled with unexpected gems about things we thought to be familiar already, and like a great quartet it illuminates a musical life with precision and humor. But non-musicians will also recognize themselves in the revelations of this book, for this is a book about finding purpose in life.”

Patrick Summers, artistic and music director, Houston Grand Opera

“This highly readable book combines original historical research, revealing biography, and beautiful writing. Dusinberre offers fascinating musical insights into how string quartets grow and change. I learned so much from it!”

Michael Beckerman, New York University

“Dusinberre doesn’t write just about music but about the exhilarations and frustrations, the collaborative synergies and impasses, the fascinations and longueurs of making music. With wit and verve, Distant Melodies presents a poetic blend of personal memoir, music-historical vignettes, and absorbing practical criticism. It is rare to encounter a performer of Dusinberre’s deep experience who also writes with such erudition, lucidity, and candidness.”

Nicholas Mathew, author of 'The Haydn Economy'

“Music’s power to connect us across different times and places is at the heart of Distant Melodies, a book that is full of historical, musical, and personal insights, told with humor and warmth. Vignettes of Elgar as woodsman and Dvořák as trainspotter humanize these revered figures, while accounts of the Takács Quartet playing Bartók in Budapest or Dusinberre rehearsing Britten in lockdown provide a glimpse into the performing mindset. The book may end up uncertain about what the future holds, but what comes through most strongly is the bond between players keen to continue making music meaningful and meaningfully, to make the life we have worth living.”

Laura Tunbridge, author of 'Singing in the Age of Anxiety'

“What a gem of a book! As with his earlier Beethoven for a Later Age, Dusinberre manages to mingle historical perspective with personal and practical experience relating to a quartet repertoire that has meant a lot to him over the years. The result is a brilliantly engaging and attractive narrative. Not to be missed!”

Marc-André Hamelin, pianist and composer

Table of Contents

Members of the Takács Quartet
 
PART ONE
Here and Elsewhere
Elgar’s Hills
Elgar’s Retreat: What Remains
Freedom’s Soil: Dvořák at Home and Abroad
Turning the Page
 
PART TWO
Bartók’s Lontano
Where Britten Belongs?
A Chorus of Birds
 
Acknowledgements
List of Permissions
Works Cited
Notes
Index

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