Symphonies of suffering
June 11, 2020 by manchestereviewofbooks
The title of this book seems to contain another, perhaps earlier title. It feels like it might have been called ‘How Shostakovich Changed The World’, only later downgraded to the more modest ambition of How Shostakovich Changed My Mind. But there is something to be said about this ambition and the usefulness of this book. I think its more modest ambition is, in a weird way, a much higher one.
In fact all of this dovetails with Notting Hill Editions (NHE) and their own aims. Their linen-bound books are luxurious, but solid. Well-made and practical. According to Kim Kremer NHE are not ‘interested in offering the cheapest book’, but rather ‘in publishing meaningful books that will last being passed hand to hand.’
The importance of passing this book hand-to-hand comes across in the reading, but also in the way I put it in the new context of 2020: The world is not getting more stable – quite the opposite – and mental disturbance is rising in relation to that. Here then, is a set of resources; Shostakovich’s music and Stephen Johnson’s use of it to battle excruciatingly intense mental states. Johnson suffers from bipolar disorder.