Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life

Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life : Clues to a Life : Annotated Edition

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Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life, by Alec Wilder, in a new, annotated edition with introduction and supplementary material by David Demsey, foreword by jazz pianist Marian McPartland, and photographs by Louis Ouzer.
Alec Wilder is a rare example of a composer who established a reputation both as a prolific composer of concertos, sonatas, and operas, and as a popular songwriter [including the hit "I'll Be Around"]. He was fearsomely articulate and had a wide and varied circle of friends ranging from Graham Greene to Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz. Letters I Never Mailed, hailed at its first publication [in 1975, by Little, Brown], tells the story of Wilder's musical and personal life through unsent "letters" addressed to various friends.
In it, he shares his insights -- and sometimes salty opinions -- on composing, musical life, and the tension between art and commercialism. This new, scholarly edition leaves Wilder's original text intact but decodes the mysteries of the original through an annotated index that identifies the letters' addressees, a biographical essay by David Demsey, and photographs by renowned photographer and lifelong friend of Wilder, Louis Ouzer.

David Demsey is Professor of Music and coordinator of jazz studies at William Paterson University and an active jazz and classical saxophonist. He is co-author of Alec Wilder: A Bio-Bibliography [Greenwood Press] and has contributed to The Oxford Companion to Jazz.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 332 pages
  • 157.5 x 233.7 x 22.9mm | 521.64g
  • University of Rochester Press
  • Rochester, United States
  • English
  • Annotated
  • Annotated edition
  • 15 Illustrations, black and white
  • 1580462081
  • 9781580462082

Review quote

[This] is an excellent book that may well rekindle a broader interest in the composer, a Rochester icon. . . . The letters in Letters I Never Mailed were, of course, a literary device. Wilder hated writing about himself and used supposed correspondence as a way to discuss his life obliquely. For that reason, Demsey's introductory biography is helpful since it clarifies details that Wilder often left deliberately vague. The new edition includes one other welcome addition, the photos of Wilder's dearest friend, Lou Ouzer, the famed Eastman photographer. DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, Dec. 2005 [John Pitcher] In Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life, Alec Wilder wanted to reveal himself, but not entirely. And so he left unidentified the individuals to whom many of the letters were written. The detective work of David Demsey gives us a much better understanding of the enigma that was Alec Wilder. --Marian McPartland, renowned jazz pianist, recording artist, and host for over 25 years of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz (National Public Radio)

Alec Wilder was one of the great composers of modern times. He wrote a suite for me with concert band. Nobody could play the last movement. When I asked him about all the difficult notes in my part, he said, "That's what you would have played if you had improvised!" In this new edition, David Demsey has been responsible for allowing people to understand some of Alec's equally mysterious letters, helping readers to better know one of my favorite people. --Jazz Trumpeter Clark Terry

This memoir is as odd, curmudgeonly, imaginative, funny, and charming as its author, who was one of the glorious eccentrics of American music. First published in 1975, five years before Wilder's death, it has now been annotated by David Demsey, who has managed to identify almost everyone addressed by Wilder. WHOLENOTE
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About David Demsey

David Demsey is Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University.
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