Musicians of all kinds still esteemed Wilder his latter-day fans ranged from Tony Bennett to Gunther Schuller , and the publication in of "American Popular Song," followed the next year by an admiring New Yorker profile written by Whitney Balliett, brought him modest celebrity. But it came too late to change the warp of his character, and after his death in his music returned to the shadows: though many of his classical works were recorded, all but a few are now out of print, and even the Alec Wilder Octet 78's, admired though they are, have yet to be transferred in their entirety to compact disk.
Desmond Stone tells this sad story succinctly and straightforwardly. He is a journalist, not a musician, and "Alec Wilder in Spite of Himself" is much stronger on Wilder's life than his music. Incredibly, there is no discography or list of compositions.
Even so, Mr. Stone has given us a believable portrait of a difficult man, and he is also surprisingly effective at conveying the distinctive flavor of Wilder's intensely personal art.
Wilder was at best a minor master: much of his music was streaked with sentimentality and marred by dilettantism. But he was nevertheless unique and irreplaceable, and his finest work -- the octets, the best of the instrumental music, at least two dozen of the songs -- will be remembered, if only by connoisseurs. Stone rightly says, "the lost souls and the wounded birds will always be drawn to those bittersweet melodies that transcend time and place. Books A Compulsion for Music.
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Books By and About Wilder — Alec Wilder Music and Life
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