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Strings Attached: The Life and Music of John Williams [Hardcover]

William Starling
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Oct 2012
John Williams is indisputably one of the most accomplished and celebrated musicians of his generation. A master of the classical genre, he has been pivotal in bringing the guitar to a wider audience with the group SKY and through collaborations involving the music of South America, Africa and jazz. The product of unprecedented cooperation from Williams, his family, friends and professional associates, Without Strings is the first telling of the fascinating life of a world-renowned musician and, equally, the story of a man and the making of his identity. John Williams might never have come to the guitar, allowing his extraordinary talent to blossom, without the foresight, ambition and subtle discipline of his father and teacher, Len Williams and, to a lesser extent, his mother Melaan. Williams has almost certainly exceeded any dream his father dared have for him as a classical guitarist. But while fulfilling that ambition did he also, in his own quiet way, rebel against the authoritarian nature of his father? As it tells John s story, this book challenges its readers to consider the influence of his father, for good and ill, as it contributed to making John Williams the successful, complex and compassionate man he was to become.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: The Robson Press (29 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849544042
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849544047
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Best of all, Starling includes a wealth of anecdotes about Williams's life. --Quarter Notes Magazine

About the Author

WILLIAM STARLING is a writer and amateur musician.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Prodigious Talent 15 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The layout of this biography is very different from nearly most other biographies that I have read with specific chapters dealing with certain topics and appendices dealing with other aspects rather than a straight chronological coverage of his life. What comes through most strongly is the man's self-possession which he most surely needed growing up in the bohemian household of his parents and the near totalitarian control mania of his father when it came to his son's future career. It is interesting that two of the greatest guitarists of the late 20th Century, Julian Bream and the subject of this book, were both heavily mentored by their fathers. In Williams' case his father, Len, uprooted the family from Australia to bring John to London where he felt that his son's prodigious talents could be better served. Len forms a major part of this book which is not surprising when you read the huge influence he had on his son during his formative years.

The book also covers the somewhat fractured relationship with Segovia and gives some more detail to the dispute that Williams has referred to in some interviews over his decision not to take part in a guitar competition that Segovia had recommended. It was to lead to a huge argument between Segovia and Len Williams that must have been terrifying for a teenager to witness. The musical insights are fascinating, especially into John Williams' desire to explore aspects of music other than the classical genre. This is in the face of some trenchant criticism that he was failing in his duty to use his God given talents (the critics argument - not mine). However, I think the description of his musical career is somewhat rushed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strings Attached, Heart Detached. 27 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Much depends on the expectations evoked by the term "biography", a word astutely avoided in both the title and subtitle of this book, "Strings Attached, The Life & Music of John Williams". If you anticipate the exploration, at long last, of the personality of one of the great musicians of our time, then this is definitely not the book for you. The man who, all his life, has chosen - paradoxically - to avoid the limelight whilst exposing himself to the fiercely lit focus of the concert platform, remains a complete mystery. The author, William Starling, no doubt under strict guidelines, does not attempt to paint a psychological profile of his subject. Instead, cleverly, he gives us an in-depth study of the father - all Claudius and no Hamlet - in an astutely entertaining character assassination : no holds barred in the description of a man who emerges as a ruthless egomaniacal monster whose iron will made him succeed at everything he chose to do, including - Pygmalion-like - in creating a fearless, and virtually perfect, music machine which was, eventually, transformed into an exquisite and sensitive musician.
When Len Williams dies, the book dies with him ; ensues a tedious and seemingly endless list of concert and recording dates which read like an impresario's diary ; gone is the preceding incisive insight ; instead, a turgid litany of concert halls, recording studios, conductors, and colleagues, with none of the psychological perceptiveness for which the author had, hitherto, shown a marked ability.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A peek into the life of a very private man 30 Oct 2012
One of the most famous facts about John Williams, the famous guitarist, is that he's a very private person, eschewing the trappings of celebrity while being celebrated by those who know of him and admore his talent - and do not confuse him with his arguably more famous film-music-composing namesake.

It is therefore fascinating to get a glimpse into a varied life which has been the inspiration for an equally varied musical career, covering the gamut from quiet intimate solo recitals to the crash and bang of full-on rock staging; from sublime performances of Bach and the core Spanish repertoire to championing the Latin American repertoire (previously largely derided by the classical establishment), and expanding the modern repertoire with commissions and compositions from across the spectrum of styles and traditions.

The core of the book is based on interviews with Williams himself and those around him about his life, his influences and inspirations, and includes more than a little controversy with forthright views on some of those influences.

A direct and conversational style, though not a linear biographical recital, makes for an easy read, full of details and information previously known to very few. Recommended reading for fans and detractors, and for anyone interested ion the trajectory of a leading proponent of classical performance of the whole of the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By S Moore
Put simply, this is a fascinating insight into the life of an intensely private individual and one of the greatest classical musicians of all time. In this superbly written authorised biography Starling sets out a carefully crafted account of the genius guitarist that is Mr John Williams. From his early days under the tuition of his father Len, himself a highly regarded pioneer of the guitar, to his first encounter with Maestro Segovia and into his highly celebrated professional career.

Starling could not of made this masterpiece of a book happen without the consent of his subject and associates. It's hard to put this book down once you get started and it is the only account available of its kind.

Whether you are a classical guitarist yourself or have a fleeting interest in classical music, this book will not fail to entertain you. Money well worth investing and a book I personally treasure in my collection. Well done Mr Starling!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
To me it was disappointing and not a patch on Bream's "A life on the Road"
Published 2 days ago by mr george c johnston
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read
Reading between the lines of Mr Starling's introduction, I suspect that John Williams felt that insufficient recognition had ever been accorded to his undoubtedly influential... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars strings attached
a very informative book and a very good read and great value for the money it has already been
borowed twice by my freinds
Published 17 months ago by william robson
2.0 out of 5 stars Bland biography
I for one would have liked the story to be told by himself.After all,he's still alive! Often it seems his father is the main character of this book. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jan S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable !
I can only assume the low star ratings for this book are at best mischievous. It is a wonderful read. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Alien
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor book
More of a biography of the father, Len Williams. Little insight into John Williams, the man. Written as if by an idolising teenage. Read more
Published 21 months ago by tpmanchester
5.0 out of 5 stars Strings attached
An interesting read although I would have liked to have more of his personal opinions on the "Music" aspects as a lot of the book revolves more around the personality of... Read more
Published 21 months ago by 0153lesosteo
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating read
What could have been an enlighteniing biography of this seminal figure in the guitar has turned out to be a disappointment. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Andrew
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