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The Wellspring

Barney Norris
Publication Date: 
Monday, June 4, 2018
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‘A rare duet, in which father and son rediscover a whole world through the redeeming power of art.’
– Declan Kiberd

In The Wellspring acclaimed novelist and dramatist Barney Norris conducts a conversation with his even more acclaimed father, the pianist and composer David Owen Norris, on creativity, cultural identity, and how the two intertwine. In addition be being called ‘quite possibly the most interesting pianist in the world’ (Toronto Globe and Mail) and ‘a famous thinker/philosopher of the keyboard’ (Seattle Times), Norris senior is a respected and longstanding television and radio presenter who has worked with a huge range of musicians, conductors and composers in the concert hall and on the airwaves.

Barney Norris sets out to explore the personal world of his father, and the way it has interacted with the wider world during his life. The first book on David Owen Norris, The Wellspring is divided into three parts, ‘Listening’, ‘Playing’ and ‘Writing’, to interrogate Norris’s fifty-year career and discover how his background (non-metropolitan, C of E, literary) influenced his choices and his music. In doing so the book becomes a study of the relationship between his Englishness and his work, of his inheritance and how he takes that forward into new compositions and new performance. In the process the book illuminates a criss-crossing world of concerts, prizes, collaborations, and inspirations, from Parry and Elgar to video-accompanied compositions; from the sedate world of the square piano to the intensity of contemporary competitions.

In addition to exploring the career of this respected musician, their father-son conversation also reflects on Barney Norris’s own experience of working in English theatre over the last ten years and of his practice as a novelist with a growing reputation. Their combined experience, in two fields, in two different generations, provides a thought-provoking discussion of how a place and a culture inform the work of artists, and how England and Englishness have changed over the past half century. Informative, entertaining, at times provocative, always fluent, The Wellspring is set to become a classic investigation of creativity, of Englishness and of the changing world.

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