Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

Perri Knize, Author . Scribner $25 (371p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7638-2

Embarking on piano lessons in middle age, environmental journalist Knize sets out on an ancillary quest to find the perfect piano on a limited budget. She scours North America's piano outlets, immerses herself in the colorful online subculture of piano aficionados and grows fluent in the language of keyboard connoisseurship (“a thin, shrill, brittle treble,” she sniffs at a Steinway). Then she falls in love with “Marlene,” a Grotrian-Steinweg grand with the “sultry and seductive” tone of Dietrich herself; she's so smitten that she mortgages her house to buy it. Then disaster strikes: when shipped from the New York showroom to her Montana home, the piano sounds “weird and echoey,” and its glorious treble is dead. Desperate to restore Marlene's voice, Knize mobilizes an army of eccentric piano technicians (these lowly craftsmen emerge as wild-eyed artists in their own right), delves into the subtle intricacies that influence a piano's sound and ponders the haunting evanescence of music. Sometimes the mysticism—music “ 'is a way of exiting the petty self and entering the Over-soul... [i]t's about existing at a certain vibration' ”—gets thick enough to cut with a knife. But Knize writes in a wonderfully evocative, lushly romantic style, and music lovers will resonate to her mad pursuit of a gorgeous sound. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-957-32-6662-4
Paperback - 371 pages - 978-0-7432-7639-9
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4165-4600-9
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