March Wrap-Up

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Here are all the books that I read in the month of March, better late than never right. I read a total of 10 things not including all the Batman comics that I also read. It was a pretty heavy nonfiction month 6 out of the 10 books were nonfiction 

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The Ladies Guide to History: Hildegard of Bingen

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Hildegard was a woman who did everything she never was supposed to do and made no apologies for it. She was an abbess, although never officially given the title, composer, prophet, scientist, preacher, author and so many other things. Hildegard came to my attention in music history class when listening to the music of the Medieval Period. Imagine my surprise when a piece of music  played turned out to be beautiful and was written by a woman. This was indeed rare as any other student of music history can attest. Even after a few years this woman still had my interest so I decided to read a biographies about her.  Continue reading

The Ladies Guide to History: Marian Anderson

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Since February is Black History Month I decided to pick up a book on Marian Anderson, one of my favorite civil rights icons, A Sound of Freedom by Raymond Arsenault. The book I picked up tells the story of April 9th, 1939 when Marian Anderson sang on the Lincoln Memorial steps after being denied the ability to the perform at Constitution Hall because of a policy that refused black performers the ability to perform on Constitution Hall’s Stage. Because of this outright racist decision she sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in an open air concert that was free to everybody and became a civil rights icon.

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Book Review: Evening in the Palace of Reason by James Gaines

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As a musician I am often interested in reading about different musicians and composers so recently I read the book Evening in the Palace of Reason by James Gaines and loved it. This book contains essentially two biographies following Johann Sebastian Bach and Frederick the Great culminating in their famous meeting.  Continue reading

The Ladies Guide to History: Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir 

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Eleanor of Aquitaine was and probably still considered both a villain and hero. However you see her she is recognizable as a woman who knew her own mind and made decisions to support herself and her children. At times her life felt like I was reading a Mel Brooks movie (Men in Tights anyone?) with the endless schemes of betrayal between father and sons and brother to brother.

In Eleanor’s biography by Alison Weir the author makes it clear that Eleanor was a woman whose influence was remarkable. She had influence over two kings through marriage (albeit not at the same time) the king of France Louis VII and Henry II. She also had influence over another two kings by being their mother (Richard the Lionheart and John of Robin Hood fame). Her influence was wielded during a time period when woman had no influence and where woman were sold to the highest bidder and had relatively little control over their own lives.

This biography did a good job of introducing Eleanor not as a hero or a villain but as a woman who made decisions for good or for bad. The author made it clear that Eleanor was neither a saint nor an evil seductress set upon destroying men. The men in her life certainly made their own bad decisions. The author argues that Eleanor did not kill Henry II mistress that the rumor started by rumors and an opera. However, this biography focuses very heavily on the men in Eleanor’s life. Their were several chapters where their was only a brief mention of Eleanor and while this is understandable due to he lack of resources written about her and understanding the political landscape is to understanding what was going on in the time period and in her own life, it was a bit excessive especially when the author took a whole chapter to describe Henry II and Thomas Becket’s feud.

Overall I did think that this was an interesting and insightful biography on one of England’s most powerful women. I gave this biography 3.5/5 stars. I would love to see a reality TV show based on this family. I would love to see a scene with Richard composing songs while imprisoned and taking a break from surging castles and razing land to conduct his personal chorus. Although I have to ask did these people care nothing about the serfs and peasants?

Bonus: Here is the link to the composition Richard wrote while being held prisoner