Wednesday Book Review—The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music
Victor L Wooten: $18.50 paperback, 978-0-425-22093-1, 275 pp., Berkeley Books 2008
“WARNING Everything in this book may be all wrong. But if so, it’s all right!”
The epigraph of The Music Lesson lets readers know that they are in for an interesting ride. If you want a book that scientifically breaks down the teaching of musical scales, this is not the one. But if you want a book that takes you on a spiritual journey toward feeling Music, this is definitely the one. Grammy® Award-winning bassist,Victor L. Wooten, uses story to show readers Music and Life.
This book is out there. Way out there. This book is past out there and looking back on it in a rearview mirror. And I loved it.
At the Ottawa Public Library, The Music Lesson is filed in the non-fiction section, and there would be some who would scratch their heads over that placement. The book has a fable quality similar to The Alchemist, and there are parts of this book that you simply won’t believe. But that’s the way Wooten would have it. He writes, “I won’t promise you complete accuracy or complete honesty, and don’t waste your time trying to figure out which part is truth and which is not. It’s what you get out of it that’s important. ‘Truth is your decision anyway’.”
Wooten’s Music lesson starts at a crossroads in his life. His career is in a slump; he has no new gigs lined up and the landlord is demanding rent. When he thinks that waiting tables is the only way out, an eccentric Music man shows up in his apartment, out of nowhere and out of everywhere. This all-knowing philosopher wise man shows Music personified to Wooten through a series of lessons that resonate with Life truths. Early on, Wooten asks his mentor, “Are you saying that you can play any instrument? The reply: “Of course I can, and so can you! . . . A true writer can write using a typewriter, a pen, a pencil, or anything else that he chooses. You wouldn’t call him a pencil writer, would you? . . . The story is in the writer, is it not? Or is it in the pencil? Your problem is this: You have been trying to tell your story with a bass guitar instead of through it.”
Wooten’s musical connection deepens with each new experience of rhythm, articulation, phrasing and rest. Wooten meets a series of peculiar but profound characters along the way and their wisdom encourages Wooten to unfold musically, and personally, until the student becomes the teacher. Through this book Wooten is the eccentric Music man showing up in our apartments out of nowhere and out of everywhere.
Wherever you decide that truth lies in Wooten’s Music Lesson, it is one entertaining read.
“We think that Music stops at the ears. That is a mistake. Vibrations can be felt in all places and at all times, even with the eyes.”