I’ve been wanting to read The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto because I enjoyed Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, and I thought this would be even better because it is narrated by the voice of Music.
The story begins in August 1936 in Spain in an erratic 6/5 tempo. Frankie was born amid the cacophony of ringing bells and clamorous destruction. It is not so much the tale of how this orphan was adopted by a blind music teacher and how he became the greatest guitarist that captivates me; it is that Albom did a lot of research about music (esp guitar music) and musicians (not just guitarist but well-known composers and musicians of different genres). Some examples are:
- Lagrima (‘Teardrop’) – a landmark guitar piece composed by Francisco Tarrega (Frankie’s original name is Francisco) and performed by the great Andrei Segovia
- Traumerei by Schumann
- 12 Etudes by Heitor Villa-Lobos
- Ferdinando Carulli
- Dizzy Gillespie, the jazz trumpet player who once said: “It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play. Silence enhances music. What you do not play can sweeten what you do.”
- Modest Mussorsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition and how he died at 42 of alcohol consumption
- Billie Holiday (how she died at 44 because her liver had been destroyed by drinking)
- Charlie Parker (died in his mid-30s of drug overdose)
- Tommy Dorsey (died at 51 because he choked in his sleep and was too deep in pills to awaken)
- Jimi Hendrix (died at age 27 from swallowing a handful of barbiturates)
- Hank Williams (his bloodstream was laced with morphine when he was found dead in his car)
- Tony Bennett – singer, painter, Grammy winner, Kennedy Center honoree and one of my favourite singers
- The Drifters’ Save The Last Dance For Me was written by Doc Pomus, a polio victim
I also like how Albom describes certain phenomenon using music analogy:
- In Western music, things resolve. A suspended 4th moves back to the 3rd. A diminished chord slides to its tonic. Dissonance to consonance. Humans follow no such rules. Music allows for quick creation. But it is nothing compared with what humans can destroy in a single conversation.
- Love + Music = Duet; All love stories are symphonies, and like symphonies, they have 4 movements –
Allegro – a quick and spirited opening
Adagio – a slow turn
Minuet/Scherzo – short steps in 3/4 time
Rondo – a repeating theme, interrupted by various passages
Finally, music can soothe a soul. The body is another matter. Music is in the connection of human souls, speaking a language that needs no words. Everyone joins a band in this life. (A statement that recurs repeatedly throughout the book.) And what you play affects someone. Sometimes it affects the world.