Music with Minnesotans: Charles Baxter

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
February 2, 2011

St. Paul, Minn. — The first time I read a book by Charles Baxter, I was swept away by the lilt and musicality of the language. While he tells me his intention is to convey a story that isn't necessarily meant to be read aloud, Charles creates a strong, distinctive voice with a power and truth that reaches out and invites one to let themselves go and simply follow along.

I was delighted when Charles agreed to join me on Music with Minnesotans.

And he's a natural choice for a guest as many of his stories have classical musician characters.

Take for instance one of the stories from his new collection "Gryphon." A pianist sets aside his dream to become a soloist and instead writes criticism. When asked to accompany a local singer, he finds she approximates pitches and will never sing accurately, nor does she really care to try. Charles paints his musicians precisely and even includes a few staves of the wickedly difficult song that the unfortunate soprano massacres.

Though much of his fiction is not specifically about music, there are references as in the case with the title of his National Book Award nominated "The Feast of Love" borrowed from a composition by American composer Virgil Thomson.

With all his knowledge and love of music, I guess I wasn't all that surprised when Charles told me it was my job as a DJ he coveted. Sharing his passion for music with others and giving them a gift of a listen of his favorite pieces seems like the ideal career for this writer!

Enjoy these unusual selections that are gifts to me to listen to as well.


Charles Baxter's playlist:

Theodore Chanler, Eight Epitaphs - Sanford Sylvan

Virgil Thomson, The Feast of Love - David Clatworthy

Dmitri Shostakovich, Prelude and Fugue in A - Keith Jarrett

Virgil Thomson, A Joyful Fugue - Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Bernard Herrmann, For the Fallen - New Zealand Symphony Orchestra


Check out more from Music with Minnesotans:

Linda Z. Andrews, Ann Bancroft, Philip Brunelle, Mayor Chris Coleman, Michael Pearce Donley, Joe Dowling, Dr. Victoria Elmer, William Gurstelle, Karen Hansen, Steve Heitzeg, Stuart Loughridge, Stephen Paulus, Lois Quam, Mayor RT Rybak, General Larry Shellito, The Reverend Spenser Simrell, Dale Warland, and Matt Wehling.


Join me next week when naturalist Nancy Gibson is my guest. She helped found the International Wolf Center in Ely. Her classical music introduction began as a child dancing to Mozart's "Elvira Madigan" concerto and later sharpening her tastes with help from another wolf lover, pianist Helene Grimaud.

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