Professor D. Kern Holoman, conductor emeritus of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, will sign copies of his latest book in the lobby at the orchestra’s concert Sunday evening at the Mondavi Center.
“The Orchestra: A Very Short Introduction” remains true to its title, clocking in at a nimble 158 pages. It is part of a series published by Oxford University Press that provides a “very short introduction” to topics ranging from advertising to witchcraft.
“The premise of the series is that you get 30,000 words, 10 illustrations, five sidebars and abbreviated annotations at the end,” Holoman explained. “I found it challenging in the same way that, once upon a time, when I wrote liner notes for LP record albums; it was a challenge to say what I had to say in the context of a 12-inch-by-12-inch space cardboard record jacket.”
Given the format, Holoman picked his topics carefully. “An orchestra involves musicians — but also patrons, and a building and a city. Without any one of those things, the orchestra that we know (in modern times) doesn’t exist,” he said.
“There’s a chapter that talks about venues, including the Mondavi Center, Davies Hall (in San Francisco) and Disney Hall (in Los Angeles). And there’s a chapter that looks at economics — how much money do these people make, then and now.”
“I was shocked to find that at one point some years ago, the amount of money spent on classical music (in this country) was bigger than the amount spent on baseball,” he added.
Holoman also writes about the orchestra changes due to a rise of influential general managers, agents and musicians’ unions. And he talks about the diplomatic significance of orchestras going on international tours, crossing tense political boundaries during the Cold War.
“Unlike a lot of books I’ve done, when I wrote this one, I had an outline in mind,” Holoman said. “I actually wrote it pretty much from page one to page last, over a period of about six months. And I did quite a lot of it without direct access to a major library — I was testing out how good it is to use books stored on my iPad.”
While this latest book is “very short,” Holoman also has written several “big” books; his biography of composer Hector Berlioz spans 704 pages and his biography of conductor Charles Munch runs 352 pages.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.