Priscilla McLean: “Hanging off the Edge” Reviews

 

SIX EXCERPTED PRESS REVIEWS OF "HANGING OFF THE EDGE"

Joan O’Connor, Music Library Association: Notes, June 2007 —

“This book could be called a contemporary woman composer’s version of Dr. Burney’s diaries and travel accounts. It contains fascinating details about people and places throughout the world and also about the obstacles which twentieth-century performing artists encountered. The reader experiences many things with the McLeans: the equipment schlepping; battles with facial shingles; lack of insurance; cross-country travel; prices of food, cars, tuition; inter-active performance pieces; composition competitions; MacDowell Colony resident fellowships; an Indonesian videographer; hiking in wildlife parks, rainforests, and mountains; even writing a review for Notes.

The book contains no index but does provide a list of works, recordings and music publishers, major articles, books, and biographical descriptions, comments on the accompanying compact disc, and endnotes. This book takes the reader on a fascinating journey through our contemporary world with its thoughts, customs and hang-ups while experiencing the life of this modern troubadour.”

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Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Computer Music Journal, Spring 2007 —

“In my opinion it is invaluable for composers of all ages and stages (from students to masters of the craft) to have insight into another’s creative and generative musical process. A student will quickly relate to McLean’s descriptions of her earliest pieces and the tangled web of hard work, desperate deadlines, and yes, even intrigue and subterfuge (the story of her confounding of the Louisville Orchestra is hilarious) that went into their making. A more experienced composer will be gratified by reading of her struggles, successes and failures that mirror what many have lived through also and what some may have thought only happened to them. I was particularly delighted to find our commonality in our feelings and approaches to the electronic music medium, “My approach to electronic music has always been this total frenzy of joy. I don’t know why.” (p. 151) By providing the reader with sound examples (either on a separate cd that can be ordered from the composer or via MP3 download), McLean further expands this section as a valuable teaching resource.

A final reason to add the text to your personal and institutional libraries is because in chronicling the adventures of the McLean Mix, the composer gives one an exclusive peek into what is almost a completely vanished lifestyle: that of the wandering troubadour. And it is the wandering troubadour of the Medieval period, traveling lightly, living frugally and making the most of every performance chance she is given. The McLean Mix are not ‘rock stars’ and they are not academics ‘doing the conference circuit’. Barton and Priscilla are simply composers and performers using their life experiences and their musicality to provide entertainment and enlightenment in the best way they know how. Read how they do it in this text. Admire and be astonished at how they do it. Most of all, learn from how they do it.”

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Louise Lepley, “American Music Teacher” Magazine, April/May 2007 —

“The book clearly addresses contemporary concerns of how to make a viable living in music during a time when the demand for live performances, as well as the audience of music aficionados to support these performances, is shrinking. Music students and pre-professional musicians embarking on their early careers in music will find this book to be of special interest. McLean is to be commended for her courage. Few musicians would have either the tenacity or the imagination to remain "Hanging Off the Edge," for an entire career span.”

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Robert Martin, Professor, Truman State Univ. Amazon.com (reviewed 5 stars), November 2006 —

"Priscilla McLean invites us to share her life as a practicing composer/performer making a living by performing the music she and her husband write. I have seen the McLeans in concert and they are a force for good in our culture. By that I mean that they encourage us to stretch our boundaries of what is art and music while at the same time entrancing us. I only wish that their CD was available in connection with the book. However, the information on how to get the CD is, I believe, included with the book. I found the book inspiring and would be delighted to offer the McLeans a place to stay on their travels, a venue to present their works, and even to help pay for their visit." [buyer review]

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Elainie Lillios, SEAMUS (Society of Electro-Acoustic Music U.S.) Newsletter, July 2006 ——

“As I read Hanging Off the Edge, my admiration for Priscilla McLean grew. Priscilla McLean is a woman who embodies the true artist — proudly celebrating her successes, passionately embracing her creative inspirations, and shamelessly admitting her fears and shortcomings to the entire community­in print no less! The book is a true testimony from someone who has discovered that which means the most to her, who then charges forth, embracing each new challenge with true artistic freedom and experiment- ation. Hanging Off the Edge would make a great common reading project for a composition class or seminar, or for a women’s studies course. Assign this book to your students and design a curriculum incorporating the

wonderful listening excerpts discussed in Chapter 3 that are available free via the American Music Center’s “New Music Jukebox” website at http://www.newmusicjukebox.org/composers/...Doing so will create a true multi-leveled learning environment, providing students with an opportunity to read about and then experience first-hand, this important contributor to the American electronic music culture.

I'm convinced that Priscilla McLean is one of the most creative, well-traveled, and under-appreciated woman composers of our time. I recommend reading Hanging Off the Edge as a means to gain an appreciation for this courageous modern-day musical troubadour. You might just find Priscilla McLean's "joie de creer" contagious — I certainly did!”

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Warren Burt, MusicWorks Magazine (Toronto), Summer 2006 ——

“There are a number of...reasons for reading this book. For one, [Priscilla McLean is] an excellent composer, who consistently produces works that are sonically attractive, emotionally engaging, and full of intricate textures. For another, her writing is often quite humorous; she’s not afraid to write about embarrassing moments or impossible situations in her life that most of us would rather forget. For yet another, she’s a passionate advocate for artists’ rights, and for the need to treat artists and their work with respect. And finally, she’s also a very compassionate writer, depicting the people and situations she encounters with sympathy, understanding, and warmth.

Anyone considering making a career in contemporary composition should read this book to see not only the appalling and unfair working conditions they will inevitably face, but also to see how, in spite of all that, the McLeans did it, with grace, optimism and energy. It will also be an enjoyable read to anyone involved in new music ­ watching the McLeans wander around the world, encountering diverse peoples and cultures, and interacting with them. Finally, for those with an interest in contemporary music history and sociology, in the rise of music technology and its adoption as lingua franca by several generations of composers, and for those interested in finding out more about an engaging composer whose works are too little known, this book will be essential.”

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Stephen Dankner, The Williamstown (MA) Weekly Advocate, The Classical Beat, March 2006 —

"Priscilla is also an author, and her autobiography ‘Hanging Off the Edge’ has just been published. A product of 12 years' effort, it's a great read. The book is a compelling insider's look at the world of experimental music in its nascent stage, meeting composer and husband-to-be Barton, her life's journey and musical collaborations with him on their many concert tours and much more. The book includes a compact disc of 14 of her works, all of which are transcendently beautiful, mysterious and transfixing; they are an odyssey for the mind as well as the ear. This is a profound journey through time and experience. The love of music in Priscilla McLean's words is a constant companion. This is a 'must read' for music lovers of all stripes."