Why write this book?

January 3, 2006

Friend and musicologist Mitchell Morris and friend and composer Mark Carlson have had to put up with my obsession about Rufus Wainwright for the past several years. Mitchell encouraged me to write a paper about RW: “present it at musicological conference, let our community discover him.” So, I started writing an article, and it seemed like a good idea to sketch out an outline as well. I showed it to Mitchell, who looked at it and said: “Roger, this is not an article, it’s a book. You should write a book!”

Having just taught a graduate seminar in analyzing the late String Quartets by Beethoven, it occurred to me that a close reading about selected RW songs could be quite interesting. As someone (a Professor of music composition at UCLA) who loves teaching people how music works, it occurred to me that writing a book about RW’s music could be an effective way for people to learn how music works, but instead of studying Mozart or Beethoven, use RW as the subject. It would ideally serve two purposes: education non-musicians about musical form and structure thereby helping them to appreciate music in greater depth; and introducing Rufus Wainwright to the Classical Music community.

This is a tricky proposition, considering that musicians have a language to communicate about musical structure and meaning, and it’s one that is not always understandable to non-musicians. Musicologist Rob Walser encouraged me to write for an ideal reader. I realized that my ideal reader is one of my current students, Nick DePinna. Nick is a young composer who straddles the classical and pop/jazz worlds; he is also someone who is as passionate about RW’s music as I am. As Nick is a student, he wants to learn about compositional technique, as well as what makes music that he likes, work.

On the other hand, I joined the official (US) Rufus Wainwright bulletin board and met an enormous community of RW enthusiasts of all ages, educations, nationalities, and opinions. I realized that too much technical description might alienate these possible readers. I know many of them will look forward to reading this book to glean whatever they can about a songwriter they cherish so much.

My brother, Andrew Bourland, co-founder of ClickZ and guru of doing business on the internet, and my partner, Daniel Shiplacoff, both have encouraged me to create this blog in the interest of getting your feedback on this project.

I hope that gives you a good picture of my goals. It’s January 3, 2006. I’m hoping to finish the book in the next year or so. Contribute if you will.

Roger Bourland
Los Angeles

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