Clues to a life

Greenwood Books on East Avenue (near the RPO Box office) is slowly selling off about eight thousand books formerly owned by the late composer David Diamond. The books, mostly about music, are on a shelf near the entrance, facing the door. I’ve bought two so far, and the cool thing about them is that Diamond wrote in his books, reacting to what he was reading.

For example, in The State of Music, critic and composer Virgil Thomson writes about the lifestyles of musicians:

“It is not healthy for musicians to live too close to the confraternity. The white light of music is too blinding and professional jealousies are a fatigue. One needs friends of another mind. A great deal of my own life seems to have been passed among painters. My sister, who was ten years older than I, was a china-painter. She earned a good living at it and paid for my music lessons, bought me my first piano. The house was full always of her colleagues and customers and the blessed odor of turpentine. To this day that resinous acridity seems to me the normal atmosphere for music to breathe and grow in.”

In the margins, Diamond wrote, “acetone for me. Sabina’s nail polish.”

In the chapter “How Composers Eat,” Thomson says,

“Composers work better and faster when they have a bit of bourgeois comfort. Too much money, with its attendant obligations, is a nuisance to any busy man. But poverty, illness, hunger, and cold never did any good to anybody. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

Diamond’s response: “alas, how well I know this!”

There’s a story in there somewhere.