Title: Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others
Author: Stacy Horn
Publisher: Algonquin Books
From Bloggers Recommend: Stacy Horn is not a wonderful singer, yet each week she heads to her community choir in New York to harmonize with others and center herself. In Imperfect Harmony, Horn reflects on her 30 years with the Choral Society of Grace Church. This meandering memoir blends history and science to explore why we love to sing with other people.
Review: In general, I think I have a pretty good grasp of who the big nonfiction writers of the last, say, 10 years are. I haven’t read all of them — not even close — but I usually recognize their names and can often come up with a title they’ve published. That said, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I come across a new nonfiction writer with an extensive backlist to peruse.
That was the case with Stacy Horn and her new book, Imperfect Harmony, which moved to the top of my reading list after Citizen Reader mentioned Horn as a nonfiction author you should know. Horn has written a variety of books in her long career — memoir, investigative journalism, and true crime. In Imperfect Harmony she blends memoir, history and science to write about why humans love to write, learn and perform choral music.
Horn comes at the book from the lens of her own experience as a member of the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York City. Although she’s not a particularly good singer, Horn writes about the kinds of moving, transcendent, community experiences she’s had while singing. Along the way, she looks at how the brain responds to music, the history of ensemble singing, the stories of composers known for their choral music and the story of how a community choir survives in the world today.
Part of what I responded to in this book was how wide-ranging it was. Horn uses the thread of her time in the choir to anchor a story that meanders in several different directions at once but never feel disjointed because of how deeply enmeshed the author is with the subject. Additionally, Horn is a lovely writer. Citizen Reader called her “sincere,” which I think is apt. It’s clear how much the subject means to her and you can’t help getting pulled in.
I thought Imperfect Harmony was lovely, and I absolutely recommend it if you have any interest in a story about singing. I’ve already got another one of Horn’s books on my shelf (The Restless Sleep, a look at New York City’s cold case squad) and can’t wait to get to know her writing further.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!