The thing with autobiographies is they can go totally wrong, trying to convince the reader what a perfect, clever, self-confident and of course perfect looking human being the writer is – and leaving you as the reader either laughing or sick because you can’t cope with a super man (of course there are super woman around, too).
James Rhodes’ “Instrumental”, that is finally available, isn’t that sort of book at all. It is funny, it is shocking, it leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and it touches you deeply. That is because – and for me the most important thing – James writes about his life, his experiences and the things that matter most to him in such an open, honest way as if he is talking to you as a very close friend. Being able to literally write about grief, sorrow, shame, feeling insecure and simply not fit for the world outside is a kind of getting rid of it. No matter how people will react.
“I started writing this at 3.47 am. There is something wrong with me.”
And people will react, they always do. Especially in a time when they can throw their rubbish onto the internet and straight into James’ Twitter and Facebook (He’s on Google+, too but unfortunately doesn’t keep that account alive). And especially when it comes to abusing children or as James names it: rape. The fact that he was raped, humiliated and tormented by a school teacher when he was a boy, is not only disgusting, may turn your stomach and makes you cry when reading about it (so this book is not a book for children or people unable to cope with violence). It is also unbelievable for people who never experienced violence in their lives. But this is the truth and it is a miracle that this boy now a man of 38 hasn’t committed suicide, is able to speak out – not only with this book but also in various articles and on Twitter – and is desperately trying to bring classical music to a broader audience. From the moment a friend gave him an iPod, smuggled into the hospital James was living because he had tried to kill himself frequently – together with his destroyed self confidence, the feeling that everything that has happened was his fault was result of the raping experienced as a boy – James knew and still knows that classical music can make a difference: “Anything changed.” The Bach-Marcello Adagio “took me to a place of such magnificience, such surrender, hope, beauty, infinite space, it was like touching God’s face.”
“I would not exist (…) without music.”
And because music is so important to him and because he is as different from a “normal” pianist – sitting in tee, jeans and trainers at the piano – as you possibly can imagine, it’s thrilling to listen to his work, to his explanations about the composer or watching him on telly or on Youtube. Or simply finding out that classical music isn’t something for an elite audience but for normal people who are not able to remember the name of the composer but just like or dislike a special piece of music. No wonder that he tries to catch people whereever he can, engaging with his fans on Twitter and on Facebook, offering free music on his soundcloud and promoting his book. A book that is worth every hour reading it.
Every chapter has an introduction about a special piece of music. There is a play list on Spotify
James Rhodes: Instrumental, Canongate, £16,99.
As ebook on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play Books.
And interview with James Rhodes can be found here.