Claudine Shaffer's Reviews > Above Parr: Memoir of a Child Prodigy

Above Parr by Patricia Parr
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really liked it

Patricia Parr is a musician's musician - better known amongst her esteemed peers, and by Canadian classical music enthusiasts, than by the general population (unlike Glenn Gould, who enjoys a worldwide following). The reason for this? Whereas Gould, a child prodigy himself, pursued a solo career that constantly put him in the spotlight, Parr sought out an alternative medium of music making - chamber music - which is less about showcasing the talents of a specific musician, and more about music as "conversation" (requiring the development of skills that are both musical and social). As her career unfolded across seven decades, Parr grew to become one the all-time great musical conversationalists.

Thematically, Parr's book takes this "social" aspect of music very seriously - probably because, as a young child, she suffered the isolation of a brilliant but profoundly shy virtuoso. As she matured, both artistically and as a person, chamber music became her way of connecting with others. As she says in her book, "where words fail, music speaks." This was one of the more powerful messages of her book.

While there were times I wish she would have explored these themes at greater length, ultimately Parr does a great job of posing open-ended questions to her readers. And really, this is what all good memoirs should be doing. Memoirs, which differ profoundly from autobiographies, should be suggestive - allowing us to make up our own minds. This, among many other reasons, is why I think Parr's book works very well as a memoir and is definitely worth reading.

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Reading Progress

June 29, 2017 – Started Reading
July 16, 2017 – Shelved
July 16, 2017 – Finished Reading

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