Friday, October 7, 2022

Simon Morrison's "Mirror in the Sky"

Simon Morrison teaches music history at Princeton University.

He is the author of Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement (2002, 2019), The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev (2013), and The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years (2009) as well as editor of Prokofiev and His World (2008) and, with Klara Moricz, Funeral Games: In Honor of Arthur Vincent Lourié (2014).

Morrison applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Mirror in the Sky: The Life and Music of Stevie Nicks, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a discussion of Stevie Nicks’s song “Beauty and the Beast.” I talk about the source of inspiration for the song, Cocteau’s film of the same name, and I go into some detail about the story the music tells, using these words:
The song moves from innocence to experience, with a conclusion that pushes into pain; the strings transform both the sung line and the lyrics by insisting on Hollywood Romantic ecstasy, whereas Nicks expresses what she called “desperation.” Her voice is childlike and hesitant at the start, grows robust, and sinks low at the end like a flickering flame at the base of a wick. Parenthetical whispers take us inward, just as they do in the film. Nicks mentioned Mick Fleetwood as partial inspiration for the Beast but also talked about the passing of his father, and so a specific moment of loss is captured.
The Page 99 Test works pretty well for the book, which is both a biography of Stevie Nicks and a biography of her songs. Here we a sample of the latter. The writing is fluffier here than in other parts of the book, but it illustrates the effort I made to provide context for the music and provide some general details about it. Usually I go for precise information about how the music was recorded – the goings-on in the studio – and in discussing the making of this song I focused on Nicks’s decision to include a backing orchestra.

I wrote this book because my experience with Nicks’s music, and I’m sure the experiences of most of her fans with her music, did not align with what journalists have said about her. I consider her to be one of the finest songwriters of the past half-century and wanted to make that argument while also correcting some misperceptions and filling in the biography.
Visit Simon Morrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue