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How to write a big book in two days

Posted by Richard on UTC 2018-09-19 17:02.

Want to become a published author in a couple of days? Follow our step by step guide:

  1. Go to a good library. Go to the music section. Find the bound sets of English-language musical journals. Don't bother with the foreign-language stuff – too much like hard work.
  2. Close your eyes and pick out half a dozen volumes at random. Take the pile to the photocopier.
  3. Stick your finger randomly in each volume and copy a couple of articles from it. By all means pick stuff that sounds interesting, but don't hang about reading – the book won't write itself, you know.
  4. Be tidy: take the journals back to the shelves. You may want to write another book next week (on Quantum Mechanics, say), so best not to tick off the staff.
  5. Write a brief introduction that purports to link all the articles together. You will find some phrases that you can use in the section 'Writing the introduction' below. You'll soon get the hang of it. Half an hour should be enough.
  6. Think up an imposing general title, say, er… Schubert. The title doesn't need to have anything to do with the stuff you have copied. Don't ruin your sales by being too specific, e.g. A book of random copies of other people's work.
  7. Take the pile of paper to a minor publisher, who will print it and sell it for ₤192 a pop.

Writing the introduction

Professor Horton, who comes from somewhere his book calls 'Durham University UK', has provided the following pick-'n-mix resource for writing introductions. Just cut bits out, paste them in (in any order you like), add a bit of punctuation and Bob's your uncle.

the tendency towards dualism constitutes one of the defining features of musical historiography in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the categories guiding critical assessment betray overarching binary oppositions, which are at once problematic and hard to displace composers fall in or outside the canon, at the centre or at the margins their music is construed as progressive or reactionary, mainstream or non-conformist, durable or transient, perfect or imperfect the reception of both Schubert the man and Schubert the composer reveals these propensities with special clarity although nobody today would contest Schubert's canonical status this is in truth an aggregation of dialectical critical positions which when disaggregated reveals a contested and fractured critical terrain understood socioculturally, these dualisms feed into long-standing and sometimes heated debates it is in this post-canonical spirit that I want to frame the conspectus of Schubert reception, interpretation and analysis offered by this volume rather than arguing for a fresh round of revisionism, this introduction glosses the threads of reception that the book appraises, exploring their critical, historical and analytical implications the agent of destabilization is the music’s harmonic provisionally in addition to the overarching dualities explored above, attempts to place Schubert in relation to his time and the legacy of Beethoven have bequeathed some durable interpretative strategies, which are supported by an evolving repertoire of metaphors the philosophical complexity of Adorno's essay can mask a characteristic tendency towards generalization, which makes its analytical verification a frustrating enterprise of course, the kind of empirical-analytical work required to give these assertions analytical substance is inimical to Adorno's dialectical philosophical mentality rather, what readers should take away from this book is an indicative sense of the field of debate, which this introduction has sought to appraise and augment as I have attempted to clarify, the issues raised in ostensibly discrete fields of research in fact reflect overarching concerns, which are refracted through Schubertian sub-disciplinary lenses

When you come to write the introduction to your next book, Quantum Mechanics, replace Schubert with Heisenberg and Beethoven with Dirac. You can leave Adorno – he's OK to use with anything.

Horton's Schubert

We can't leave a book of photocopies that costs ₤192 without some sort of review – our readers would feel cheated (not as cheated as Professor Horten's readers do, though). Here goes.

There are perhaps half a dozen simple people who maxed out credit cards buying this book out of their own pocket. After lugging it home, only to find that they have bought about 480 pages of photocopies, some of them will have ended up teetering on the parapets of bridges and on the window-sills of high buildings – what else can you do when after a frenzied bidding battle on ebay the best offer comes in at 20 pence and you no longer have enough cash left for a sandwich from Subway? Farewell, cruel world.

'You cannot judge a book by its cover'. No, indeed – nor by its title, for example: Schubert. Binding a jumble of old to ancient articles on extremely specific issues and titling it Schubert is not just cheeky – it is provocatively cheeky; charging ₤192 for a bundle of photocopies masquerading under the title Schubert is offensively cheeky. The UK Trades Descriptions Act should be invoked in such cases.

It is also brazenly provincial to restrict the selection of photocopied articles to those written in English. Schubert was a German-speaking Austrian composer. Almost all the song texts he set to music are in German. Almost all the documentary evidence we have about him is in German.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that much of the cutting-edge research on Schubert, certainly the biographical aspects, has taken place in German-language journals. To produce a volume entitled Schubert that contains not a single piece from the German-language Schubert research catalogue is outrageously provincial. What would the English speaker say if a German academic published a book on Edward Elgar or Charles Ives that contained only German-language articles?

All bad enough – but there is much worse. For some reason Horton cannot resist scratching the scab 'Schubert was a gay/bisexual/sissy (butch Beethoven's bitch)'. He reproduces Maynard Solomon's 1989 article 'Franz Schubert and the Peacocks of Benvenuto Cellini'. Rita Steblin, among others, destroyed Solomon's piece long ago.

To the clear-headed specialist Solomon's argumentation has as much validity now as the phlogiston theory has in modern chemistry: reproducing it here is as otiose as reproducing in a chemistry textbook an argument for the existence of phlogiston. Reproducing in the interests of 'debate' Rita Steblin's 1993 refutation of Solomon's thesis, 'The Peacock's Tale: Schubert's Sexuality Reconsidered' is as otiose as adding a chapter in the aforementioned chemistry book promoting oxygen as a possible challenger to phlogiston. All that debate has been had, it has been and gone, it is a dead parrot (put colloquially) or, as Ernst Hilmar put it in in a cry of frustration in Schubert durch die Brille in 1994 (12, p. 129-130): 'Es ist genug', 'That's enough'!. That was nearly a quarter of a century ago – why are we still here?

Despite that, Horten continues scratching at the scab: 'Steblin’s essay (Chapter 3) exhibits the most adverse (and in some estimations, politically motivated) reaction'. Horton abandons all pretence at measured scholarship in favour of slanders – he doesn't bother mentioning the sources of the 'some estimations' – the 'adverse reaction' – which consider Steblin's carefully documented work to be 'politically motivated'. This statement alone should disqualify Horton's photocopied collection as a serious academic contribution to Schubert studies.

A missed opportunity and such a pity. A serious Schubert scholar could have produced a tour d'horizon of contemporary Schubert research that was half the size, cost a tenth of the price and was a thousand times more useful to music students strapped for cash.