Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Musical Tragedy

The Band That Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down With the Titanic by Steve Turner
Just when you think you've read all the books on the Titanic, here come one with new information and a completely different slant.  It is told from the viewpoint of a musical historian and focuses on one of the best loved myths surrounding the Titanic.

It is a story of eight regular guys turned heroes.  A story of working band members who took up their instruments in a moment of tragedy and panic to bolster the spirits of their fellow shipmates.  And, they kept playing and playing.  Even as the ship sank, even as the lights extinguished, even as the frozen waters claimed them.  Their eternal contribution to the world is not just the haunting refrain of "Neared My God To Thee" but a reminder that music has a responsibility to those who hear it and those who play it. 

While there may be debate over the title of that last song and some particular details, this book settles the rumors once and for all.  The myth is true. 

The author painstakingly researched every bit of detail possible, providing pictures and first-hand accounts of those not normally connected to the Titanic in such a way.  I really liked the perspective of hearing from a musical historian.  It forced me to look at the story in a different way, a way not familiar to me, being 'unmusical'. 

The author found tidbits of information and connected it to the story that made the tragedy so much more personal, more human, more like something that wasn't found in some dusty history book or museum but a story of people I might have known or been connected to.

It is a look, simply, at the short lives of a group of men in a band who were nothing really remarkable but have become quite unforgettable. 

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