“Bold and insightful.” —Anthony Tommasini, former chief classical music critic, The New York Times
A new book by William Westney, author of the bestselling The Perfect Wrong Note, takes a fresh and creative look at the human dimension of classical music-making and why it matters more than ever in the contemporary world.
Eros at the Piano takes readers on a remarkable journey, combining intellectual vigor with down-to-earth wisdom for performers, teachers, and students. Using a conversational tone and rich with cross-disciplinary insight, Westney weaves together the philosophical concept of Eros with the art and practice of classical musicians. Why Eros? Eros was the ancient Greek god not only of love and sensuality but of all human creativity and interconnectedness, symbolizing a great realm of feeling and of wordless understanding.
It has always been a challenge to capture in words the ineffable experience of music. Eros offers a useful concept, a way to refer to that embodied realm of knowing, and it can inspire virtually every aspect of musical life: practicing, teaching, technique and connecting with audiences. Westney draws upon a lifetime as concert artist and educator to bring to life a refreshing vision of classical music today.
William Westney is author of The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self, an international bestseller which has become a pedagogical classic. He personifies a rare combination of abilities, having achieved distinction as concert artist, author, and award-winning educator. Winner of numerous performance prizes, most notably the Geneva International Competition, he has concertized on four continents. Westney’s trailblazing performance workshop “The Un-Master Class”® was profiled in a New York Times article and has been given at conservatories around the world. Westney is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Texas Tech University.
Chapter 1: Tone
Chapter 2: Exploring Eros
Chapter 3: Logos, Eros and the Integrated Musician
Chapter 4: Dissolving Boundaries
Chapter 5: Luxuriant Technique
Chapter 6: Practicing: The Pleasure of Process
Chapter 7: Performing: Joining the Flow
Chapter 8: The Teaching Connection
Chapter 9: Research: The “Enjoyment Mode”
Chapter 10: Love, Energy and Transformation
About the Author
In this bold and insightful book, William Westney grapples with elusive questions about music as a ‘life force’ and comes up with compelling answers. He finds guides (almost soulmates) in a panoply of philosophers, poets, and performers—from Plato to Jung, Martin Buber to Yo-Yo Ma. Westney draws upon decades of experience as an exemplary pianist and empowering teacher to offer fresh approaches to practicing, technique, and trusting one’s musical, emotional, and sensual instincts.
Mining the rich mythology of Eros, William Westney guides us back to the life-giving act of making music, and he does it the way he always has—with imagination, humor, and love. In exploring what it means to be a human performer, he helps us strengthen and cherish the ways in which we connect.
The concept of Eros, as broadly conceived by Westney, becomes more and more compelling as a template for understanding the human significance not only of classical music but of all the arts. That concept is beautifully exemplified by the writing itself, which in its engagement and lucidity holds the reader in its warm embrace.
Westney shares an abundance of inspired ideas from philosophers, scientists, former teachers, and other musicians in this wonderful new book. Musicians will gain insight into their performances from the numerous philosophical and pedagogical ideas that are presented in this creative and fascinating work. This is a book that explores the love, energy, and transformation that all performers constantly strive to achieve.
I have been thirsting for this life-affirming perspective on classical music. An alternative to the hyper-intellectualism of so much modern aesthetic theory, Westney’s message is as transparent, clear, and refreshing as water itself.
I love this book! I love that it crackles with inspiration and also offers practical, down to earth advice. I'm grateful that William Westney has found words to describe how music goes beyond words. He illuminates music's power and magic and helps us to invite those qualities into our playing, singing, and teaching.
William Westney’s astonishingly readable, practical, and inspiringly useful book reminds us all that piano playing is about love and creativity. His friendly yet scholarly style is useful for musicians of all instruments and persuasions—not just keyboardists. It will remain at my piano bench for referencing and re-nourishment. There is nothing quite like it. I want to share it with everyone!
A must-read for all musicians! This brilliantly researched book reminds us that the essence of magical performance is body/soul participation, spirituality, and surrendering to something greater than ourselves. Even more importantly, William Westney gets to the core of the most effective practice skills—a process free of ego and filled with joy.
Original, bold, and enlightening! As a musician, and music teacher, I loved this book.
William Westney’s luminous book courageously opens a mysterious realm rarely mentioned in conventional studies of piano pedagogy. With humor and wisdom, he leads the reader to explore how the life-energy of Eros can be transformative, inspiring creative practice, insightful teaching, and rewarding performance.
With insights into areas of music-making rarely discussed and pearls of wisdom on every page, William Westney empowers us to find our own voice as musicians and teachers. It’s a hugely creative and insightful exploration of the process of music making from practice room to concert stage. A must-read for all pianists!
This captivating book offers a compelling approach to finding deeper meaning as we make music. Westney seamlessly weaves together literature, philosophy, and his own experiences in an exploration of the multifaceted concept of Eros and how it can help us to develop a healthier technique, tap into our individual creativity, and create a stronger musical connection with others. A fascinating read!
I know of few musicians who possess not only a deep understanding of what is arguably the highest form of human expression but also a distinctive gift for storytelling. Westney’s latest offering is a masterclass in how a consummate artist and skillful teacher can provide great insight into what music is really about.
Eros at the Piano, by pianist and pedagogue William Westney, is a goldmine of wisdom. This book is a witty, articulate, and conversational style tome about life with the mighty beast – the grand piano. Applying the word “Eros” here may initially suggest something on the secular side, but the 250+ pages actually give the reader a downright sacred screed (without the yawn factor) that reveals the lovely secret recipe for becoming an accomplished performer of classical music – or any music for that matter.
Westney examines how music goes right to the heart of what it means to be human. Drawing from the disciplines of philosophy and embodied cognition, Westney skillfully grapples with questions that seek to deepen our understanding of art and the meaning of music. The chapter on Eros and practicing is a transformational reframing for most musicians. Those in search of meaning, connection and artistic transformation will be inspired by Westney’s revelatory new book.