A couple of recent conversations have sent me riffling back through Richard Powers' 2003 novel The Time of our Singing, a big, shaggy, rough-hewn book about a phenomenally talented black tenor, narrated by his younger brother and sometime accompanist, a hard-working and more modestly gifted pianist. Their careers follows the sweep of postwar American history (their father, a German Jewish refugee physicist, meets their mother, a black church-going singer from Baltimore, at Marian Anderson's 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial). The book has a symphonic sweep, and it's replete with precise and exquisite writing about music, like this description of the pianist practicing, trying to absorb music into his flesh:
I worked through the Lyric Pieces, one every two weeks, a dozen bars every afternoon. I'd repeat the phrase until the notes dissolved under me, the way a word turns back to meaningless purity when chanted long enough. I'd split twelve bars into six, then shatter it down to one. One bar, halting, rethreading, retaking, now soft, now mezzo, now note for staggered note. I'd experiment with the attacks, making my hands a rod and striking each machine-coupled note. I'd relax and roll a chord as if it were written out arpeggio. I'd repeat the drill, depressing the keys so slowly they didn't sound, playing the whole passage with only releases. I'd lean on the bass or feel my hands, like an apprentice conjurer extracting hidden interior harmonies from the fray.
JDavidson8 at nyc.rr.com