Friday, 19 October 2007

A Book & its Cover

Our colleague Ralph Locke writes:

As Senior Editor of the Eastman Studies in Music series (University of Rochester Press), I am often involved not just in selecting and shaping the innards of a book but its outer design as well. I was delighted and challenged when one of our recent authors, Jeremy Day-O’Connell, came up with a design for his book’s jacket himself. It was unconventional, in that it used several strikingly different images, from various times and places, creating what I feared would be a visual jumble.

The result, once it was tweaked by the designer hired by URP, was delightful and intriguing, as numerous people have commented. It means more and more, the further one reads into the book, yet it also is so striking that it makes one want to pick the book up in the first place.

I recently asked the author to set down, for this blog, his thoughts about the resonances of the jacket. I should explain briefly that the book deals with the many meanings of the pentatonic scale, more or less equivalent to the black notes on the piano. But enough from me. Here’s the author’s view of that amazing blue jacket:

“The rather dense intermixing of visual elements on the jacket is meant to reflect the rich, untidy history that is the subject of the book…Focused though it is on the musical examples, the book also explores the sources and meanings of this music, the most important of which are encapsulated as the "exotic" pentatonic (represented here by the Chinese characters, paraphrased from an 18th-century French treatise), the "religious" pentatonic (represented by the stained-glass window), and the "pastoral" pentatonic (represented by the peasants of Millet's famous "L'Angelus," which itself also contains an explicitly religious dimension).”

URP often invites authors to submit images that might be used by a designer. Should we invite authors to draft the jacket itself, in the future? Maybe Jeremy Day-O’Connell is an exception.

In any case, it’s a fabulous book and one that readers should judge by its cover!

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