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Instrumental: Memórias de música, medicina e loucura

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James Rhodes' passion for music has been his absolute lifeline. It has been the thread that has held him together through a life that has encompassed abuse, breakdown and addiction. Listening to Rachmaninov on a loop as a traumatised teenager or discovering an Adagio by Bach while in a psychiatric ward - such exquisite miracles of musical genius have helped him survive his James Rhodes' passion for music has been his absolute lifeline. It has been the thread that has held him together through a life that has encompassed abuse, breakdown and addiction. Listening to Rachmaninov on a loop as a traumatised teenager or discovering an Adagio by Bach while in a psychiatric ward - such exquisite miracles of musical genius have helped him survive his demons, and, along with a chance encounter with a stranger, inspired him to become the renowned concert pianist he is today. This is a memoir like no other: unapologetically candid, boldly outspoken and surprisingly funny - James' prose is shot through with an unexpectedly mordant wit, even at the darkest of moments. An impassioned tribute to the therapeutic powers of music, Instrumental also weaves in fascinating facts about how classical music actually works and about the extraordinary lives of some of the great composers. It explains why and how music has the potential to transform all of our lives.


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James Rhodes' passion for music has been his absolute lifeline. It has been the thread that has held him together through a life that has encompassed abuse, breakdown and addiction. Listening to Rachmaninov on a loop as a traumatised teenager or discovering an Adagio by Bach while in a psychiatric ward - such exquisite miracles of musical genius have helped him survive his James Rhodes' passion for music has been his absolute lifeline. It has been the thread that has held him together through a life that has encompassed abuse, breakdown and addiction. Listening to Rachmaninov on a loop as a traumatised teenager or discovering an Adagio by Bach while in a psychiatric ward - such exquisite miracles of musical genius have helped him survive his demons, and, along with a chance encounter with a stranger, inspired him to become the renowned concert pianist he is today. This is a memoir like no other: unapologetically candid, boldly outspoken and surprisingly funny - James' prose is shot through with an unexpectedly mordant wit, even at the darkest of moments. An impassioned tribute to the therapeutic powers of music, Instrumental also weaves in fascinating facts about how classical music actually works and about the extraordinary lives of some of the great composers. It explains why and how music has the potential to transform all of our lives.

30 review for Instrumental: Memórias de música, medicina e loucura

  1. 4 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    This is a shocking memoir about the horrific sexual abuse that James suffered as a child and how music saved him. It is raw, ragged and real. The author is frank about describing what happened, how his life fell apart, and how he was able to finally begin putting it back together. Not a book for the faint of heart, Instrumental makes the reader wonder why we're all here and what might the purpose of suffering serve in the grand scheme of things. I don't pretend to know the answers to these quest This is a shocking memoir about the horrific sexual abuse that James suffered as a child and how music saved him. It is raw, ragged and real. The author is frank about describing what happened, how his life fell apart, and how he was able to finally begin putting it back together. Not a book for the faint of heart, Instrumental makes the reader wonder why we're all here and what might the purpose of suffering serve in the grand scheme of things. I don't pretend to know the answers to these questions, but James has given us a powerhouse of a book and a place to start. I am also a classically trained pianist but you don't have to be one to appreciate Instrumental: "... the unassailable fact is that music has, quite literally, saved my life and, I believe, the lives of countless others. It provides company when there is none, understanding where there is confusion, comfort where there is distress, and sheer, unpolluted energy where there is a hollow shell of brokenness and fatigue." loc 51, ebook. James gives a poignant warning to readers: "...this book is likely to trigger you hugely if you've experienced sexual abuse, self-harm, psychiatric institutionalisation, getting high or suicidal ideation." loc 112. So, friends, be aware before you pick this one up. James has a child with his first wife and he adores the boy, only asking him to do what makes him happy. Though James thinks he's a poor father, he's offering the child more than some people are able to manage, even coming from a stable and emotionally healthy place: "I want him to know the secret of happiness. It is so simple that it seems to have eluded many people. The trick is to do whatever you want to do that makes you happy, as long as you're not hurting those around you. Not to do what you think you should be doing. Nor what you think other people believe you should be doing. But simply to act in a way that brings you immense joy." loc 986. How wise is that. James introduces each chapter with a suggested classical music track to listen to as you read as well as some juicy tidbits about the musicians who wrote the pieces: "Beethoven... was clumsy, badly coordinated, couldn't dance, cut himself while shaving. ... Schubert, nicknamed 'Little Mushroom' on account of his being 5 foot nothing and violently ugly, was spectacularly unsuccessful with girls and, on one of the very rare occasions he did manage to score, he caught syphilis. ... From Schumann (who died alone and miserable in a mental asylum) to Ravel (whose experiences driving trucks and ambulances in the First World War changed him forever), the great composers were basket-case geniuses..." locs 2040-2058, ebook. He reminds us that these men we've set on a pedestal because of the art they produced were nothing but human with all of the failings that people have today. James makes classical music and musicians interesting to the average person. It's a gift and one that the genre really needed to bring a new generation into the fold. This book really made me wish that I could see James Rhodes in concert. I think I would love it. Recommended for the music enthusiast and survivors of childhood abuse, anxiety, addictions, and cutting. Some similar reads: I'm Just a Person, My Booky Wook, or Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for a free digital copy of this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    María

    JO-DER.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sally Green

    I love this book - this reading experience (heck I'm sounding hippie). The book is shockingly honest and open, but there's much more than that - it's well written (very well written) and funny and sad and heroic and even innovative (there's music to go with each chapter). As I read I sought out the relevant pieces of Bach, Chopin etc on YouTube at the beginning of each chapter, not always finding the recommended pianist and yes, I began to notice that the pianist did make a difference by the end I love this book - this reading experience (heck I'm sounding hippie). The book is shockingly honest and open, but there's much more than that - it's well written (very well written) and funny and sad and heroic and even innovative (there's music to go with each chapter). As I read I sought out the relevant pieces of Bach, Chopin etc on YouTube at the beginning of each chapter, not always finding the recommended pianist and yes, I began to notice that the pianist did make a difference by the end of the book (I'm no musician). I will listen and buy more classical music because of this book - this reading experience. I am more convinced than ever that we don't treat mental illness well, properly or indeed hardly at all. I am convinced that we as a society have got a long long way to go to sort our mixed up attitudes to sex and sexual offences and providing therapy for victims and perpetrators. At one point reading Instrumental I was reminded of Steinbeck's story about Ed Ricketts (which I've just had to look up to see what the music was) - Ricketts used music, playing records through the night (plainsong, then Bach and finally Mozart) to help Steinbeck recover from an 'overwhelming emotional upset'. Steinbeck said, 'I think it was as careful and loving medication as has ever been administered'.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-jane Kynes

    "So I looked for distractions.  I looked for a way out that didn't involve homicide or suicide.  And all roads led to music.  They always do." Two years ago, just a couple of months after being discharged from a mental health unit, I sat in front of the TV and watched a man take a Steinway into a psychiatric hospital.  I listened as he talked about his own experiences of mental illness, about how classical music saved his life and then he played a piece by Rachmaninov (his Prelude in c sharp mino "So I looked for distractions.  I looked for a way out that didn't involve homicide or suicide.  And all roads led to music.  They always do." Two years ago, just a couple of months after being discharged from a mental health unit, I sat in front of the TV and watched a man take a Steinway into a psychiatric hospital.  I listened as he talked about his own experiences of mental illness, about how classical music saved his life and then he played a piece by Rachmaninov (his Prelude in c sharp minor, if you are interested) and my brain stopped for the first time  in months.  I had been unable to read a book or follow a TV show, I couldn't breathe without an overwhelming sense of anxiety and then suddenly I experienced this moment of peace and that's when I fell into the world of classical music. Here's the thing about classical music though, it can feel complicated and, at the beginning, difficult to relate to and the thing that I found so wonderful about James Rhodes is that he can take a huge piece of music, something complex and filled with emotion and history, and take it apart from the inside and, using his own experiences, explain it in such a way that the pieces all fall back into place and suddenly you get it.  When I was reading Instrumental this is how I felt again; he took his own life, some experiences that I could relate to and some that I would never have been able to comprehend before, and lay it all out, only this time he uses Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and their works to help us understand him instead of the other way around. This book fell through my letterbox on Saturday afternoon and I had finished it that evening but it was not easy going, it is the story of child rape, drug addiction and mental illness, and it can be brutal and heart breaking at times.  Rhodes is unflinchingly honest and this is powerful reading.  When child abuse is discussed these days it tends to be about the act itself, there seems to be mass outrage at the perpetrator and then the story is soon forgotten, which is why I think that this book is so important.  People don't discuss the effects that these things will have on someone, not only throughout their childhood but for the rest of their lives, physically, mentally and socially, and nobody wants to talk about that because we live in world that likes happy endings and that doesn't want to deal with anything that might make us feel uncomfortable.  That this book was almost banned makes it even more important, it is essential that these stories get told, that people can know that they are not alone and that they can speak out. Despite the subject matter, despite the loss of innocence and childhood and peace of mind, this story is ultimately one of hope.  It is about second chances and how, even if the future looks uncertain and even if we will never truly be OK, there is still beauty and love and music, and that is why it feels like more than a memoir; it is a love letter to classical music, it is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will also make it very hard for you not to fall a little bit in love with James Rhodes, who comes across as vulnerable, potty-mouthed, mischievous and utterly likeable. If you do read this (and I really hope that you do) I definitely recommend that you listen to the soundtrack as you read, each piece was obviously chosen with great care and it definitely made the experience.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura Bergen

    James Rhodes, I admire you. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for sharing your story so that other people can start to get better, or maybe just to make us know what it's like to suffer the worst and still go on. Thank you for breaking me, for healing me, for awakening the unbreakable bond I have with music. Thank you, thank you, thank you. -- Llevaba meses y meses buscando un libro que me cambiase. No un libro bueno, o un libro emotivo, o un libro bonito. Esperaba James Rhodes, I admire you. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for sharing your story so that other people can start to get better, or maybe just to make us know what it's like to suffer the worst and still go on. Thank you for breaking me, for healing me, for awakening the unbreakable bond I have with music. Thank you, thank you, thank you. -- Llevaba meses y meses buscando un libro que me cambiase. No un libro bueno, o un libro emotivo, o un libro bonito. Esperaba un libro desgarrador, magnífico, chocante, brillante, que me rompiera y me conmoviera, que me hiciera reír, que me hiciera llorar. Y por fin lo he encontrado. Es Instrumental. Instrumental es ese libro que cambia tu percepción del mundo. Que cuenta lo que muchos otros no se atreven a contar, o no quieren, o no pueden; que te hace querer cerrar los ojos porque al abrirlos te puede cegar unos instantes. Duele, duele mucho. La vida de James Rhodes no es un paseo por el parque. Y él no ahorra detalles. Si lo paráis a pensar, todo lo que ha vivido (trastornos de estrés postraumático, trastornos alimenticios, drogadicción, alcoholismo, autolesiones, intentos de suicidio, internación en psiquiátricos...), todo, es una consecuencia de las violaciones que sufrió de pequeño. Vamos a dejar de pintar la realidad. Vamos a dejar de restarle importancia. Vamos a parar esto, por favor, vamos a mejorar el mundo y no a destruirlo, porque James ha sobrevivido, pero cientos, miles de niños no. No han podido. Sin embargo, este libro no va de dolor. Como el mismo James dice, es un libro de música. De cómo la música salva vidas. De cómo la música cura. De cómo el arte puede calar tanto en una persona que se convierte en un pilar, en los cimientos, en un bote salvavidas. Y, por supuesto, trata del amor. Del amor a uno mismo, para empezar, que es el amor más difícil para una víctima de abuso sexual; sin él, no se puede amar a los demás. Trata del amor a la música. Y trata del amor a su hijo, un amor sin barreras, un amor inexplicable. Puede que sea zafio en su lenguaje. Puede que sea duro de leer. Sí; pero se lo debemos. A él, a nosotros mismos y al mundo. Instrumental ha llegado a una parte de mí que estaba dormida; ha avivado mi unión con la música, mi irrompible unión con la música. Y también me ha desgarrado con su historia, me ha conmovido su lenguaje (que llega a tener un tono poético a veces), me ha abrumado su sinceridad, me han dolido sus caídas. Gracias, James Rhodes. Necesitaba leer algo así. Necesitaba conocer una historia como la tuya. Todos lo necesitamos. Gracias por ser tan valiente y contarla. Gracias por compartir tu amor por los tuyos, gracias por contagiar tu pasión. Gracias por todo. PD: Si veo que no me gusta esta reseña, la editaré. Sé que me quedo con muchas más cosas que decir. PD2: La edición de Blackie Books es buena, tanto la traducción como la maquetación y encuadernación.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tess Burton

    "My very own personal fight club. As Tyler Durden has taught us, the first rule of fight club is we never talk about fight club. And I didn't. For almost thirty years. And now I am. Because fuck you if you're one of the people who think I shouldn't." James Rhodes is not particularly famous, and as a classical pianist in this day and age I doubt he ever will be. It's a sad truth that a lot of us these days believe that classic music is outdated, irrelevant, they just "don't get it" or "it's just "My very own personal fight club. As Tyler Durden has taught us, the first rule of fight club is we never talk about fight club. And I didn't. For almost thirty years. And now I am. Because fuck you if you're one of the people who think I shouldn't." James Rhodes is not particularly famous, and as a classical pianist in this day and age I doubt he ever will be. It's a sad truth that a lot of us these days believe that classic music is outdated, irrelevant, they just "don't get it" or "it's just what people had to listen to before The Beatles came along and actually invented music". I don't blame them for their opinions in the slightest. After all, that was my stance on the genre too, until James Rhodes. I went to one of his small, intimate concerts last year for my 24th, my two "bitches" by my side, dolled up with matching red lipstick, front row table and a bottle of wine to make a point. Obligatory selfie done, Facebook updated because pretension, we settled in for an evening of being grown-ups, sophisticated ones, because we have degrees thank you very much. I'll admit, I'd only ever listened to the one James Rhodes CD I owned for a bit of background music now and then. I liked him, I liked the songs, but I went to his concert out of 60% pretension, 30% trying something new and adult and 10% I like this guy. At the end of the day he was just a pianist to me. Talented as hell, to be sure, but it's not like he had composed all these pieces. If I close my eyes a Nickelback concert I'll know if Chad Kroeger isn't singing, but the hell if I'll ever recognize the difference between two equally skilled classical pianists. "There will never, can never, be two identical performances of the same piece of music, even when you're playing it twice yourself. There is an infinite choice of interpretation, and everyone had different opinions as to what is the 'right way', what is respectful/disrespectful of the composer, what is valid, what is exciting, what is dull, what is profound. It's entirely subjective." Yeah, I was wrong of course. Rhodes put on a fabulous show, not just in how he played but in how he talked to the audience as well. it wasn't just a recital, it was funny and emotional, it was time we shared. Everyone in that room, which was about 40 of us, got lost in the pieces. Emotions couldn't help but become evoked, memories suddenly sprang up from hidden depths, we all just went to different places in our minds when he played. And afterwards me and my friends were able to discuss what we felt with each piece, we shared memories and feelings. It was such a wonderful evening, and I urge anyone who hasn't to try a similar experience. I know I'll never be able to love classical music with the passion that James Rhodes writes about in this autobiography, but it is because of him that I now appreciate the genre. All he needs to do next is convince me of Shakespeare's merits and I'd call the man a wizard. So when I found out that he had an autobiography out that his ex-wife had previously filed an injunction against in order to protect their son from the shocking realities of Rhodes' life, I knew I had to check it out. I only enjoy autobiographies when they are a) the story of someone I am interested in and b) it's about a life so foreign to my own it's practically fiction. And, come on, the story of a tortured artist/genius is always one that gets you going. Rhodes doesn't go easy on you. His story is messed up, it's heart-wrenching, it's powerful, and he goes into enough brutal detail to make his point. He wrote his memoirs to potentially help others struggling with the same things he's been through, and unfortunately those things include sexual abuse, mental illness, drugs and suicidal intent. Have no doubts, this book is seriously triggering. But it's so good. I loved how he wrote, it was frank and to-the-point while still being eloquent. His honesty astounded me, and what he spoke about made me ache. It was one of the most eye-opening accounts of both a survivor of rape and a sufferer of mental illness that I have ever read. It's such an odd feeling I have towards him; I don't love the guy, though I respect him I don't particularly admire him as a person or a musician, yet I feel like I owe him a lot. He opened my ears to classical music and how he's really opened by eyes to some really deep complexities of the human condition. It made me think about people, think about myself. Though most of my reading experience involved whizzing through the pages thinking "shit, what's going to happen to this poor guy next?", part of it involved me wanting to learn from him. Because I truly believe that man is fucking brave . Despite everything, he's still fighting against his myriad of mental health problems, he's fighting against himself every single day, and he's creating a life for himself. A really good one if he keeps going. And though, comparatively, this doesn't seem as hard, but to be it felt really, really brave to be so upfront about his mistakes, about his stupidity, about bad attitudes. Sure, mental health can play a part, but Rhodes continuously confirms that he made bad choices, over and over. I don't blame him for making them, and I respect him for talking about them. "In front of me are two doors. One clearly labelled 'Good Life', the other 'Hell'. And not only did I walk into the dark one, but I did so whistling, all nonchalant, rolling my sleeves up purposefully. I strutted like the biggest cock in the world into Arma-fucking-geddon." But this isn't just a story, it's an interactive experience. I'm not just talking about the little bit introspective work I totally undertook after reading it, but also the soundtrack Rhodes provides. There is a Spotify playlist (link in the prologue of the book) with a track for every chapter. Similarly each chapter begins with a few paragraphs about the chosen piece and its composer, and Rhodes shares his thoughts on each. It was enjoyable to listen to each track and have a think about why each piece related to each specific chapter, but in the end I couldn't follow through with the practice as I just have to read in silence. It's a cool little extra though, and I enjoyed his paragraphs on the composers. They were funny and educational. "It is the best thing ever, like having a four-handed, naked, hot stone Bach massage." I really was hooked by Instrumental, it was an emotional but brilliant read. Even if you don't know anything about James Rhodes, even if you couldn't care less about classical music, this is still the kind of book you'd want to pick up to expand your horizons, just like I did when I went to his concert in the first place. If you think you're up for the challenge, you'll come out the other side of this story with a greater understanding of and compassion for mental illness, and maybe even an urge to put on some Bach and see where it takes you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Lost Dreamer

    Foolish of me, I expected this book to be about music. Instead, it's about an egocentric maniac whose only purpose seems to be the exhibition of all the horrible experiences that have, under his perspective, lead him to be the way he is. As if he was entitled to behave however he wants, just because he's earned it. Because he's got so many good reasons for it. I had to read this book for a work research and it has been, ultimately, a pain in the ass. I'm simply not interested in how great it feel Foolish of me, I expected this book to be about music. Instead, it's about an egocentric maniac whose only purpose seems to be the exhibition of all the horrible experiences that have, under his perspective, lead him to be the way he is. As if he was entitled to behave however he wants, just because he's earned it. Because he's got so many good reasons for it. I had to read this book for a work research and it has been, ultimately, a pain in the ass. I'm simply not interested in how great it feels to cut one's skin with a razor, and certainly I understood the the concept of "being raped for years as a child" the first ten times I read it, so I really don't see the point in him telling me about it, over and over again, for 15 or 20 times. Also, I'm already familiar with classical music, so I don't see the point of being patronized about how great it is. In general, I felt like the author believes himself much more intelligent than I am, and I didn't enjoy being constantly treated as an inferior in any way. I enjoyed the moments when he talks about music. His descriptions are vivid and powerful. His love for the pieces he talks about is truly contagious. But this parts are in minority in a book that, for me, felt too long. Also, I expeted to find a clear relationship between his mental health and the consumption of music but, most of the time, I see that both things are clearly disconnected. If the author evolves and manages to develop himself as a functional human being, it looks like it's because he has truly amazing people supporting him, more than thanks to Bach's healing powers. So I can say this book is not exactly what I expected. I wasn't interested neither in the details of his career, al his relationships with record producers and tour management. That's not talking about music, but about industry. The last 60 pages are centered in these things, and they were dramatically boring for me. In the end, I can see why this book has become such a success, mostly among people who's not familiar with classical music. But I wouldn't recommend it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    I raced through the book. It is not an easy book to read, it is shocking in what it has to describe but there are moments of humour and the writing is always engaging. I had heard little snippets and enjoyed identifying these throughout the book. The list of things that remind him of the abuse is ingenious as it is not in itself explicit but if you think about it, it really is. It gives you an insight into what he experienced without him having to say it explicitly and is also a massive insight I raced through the book. It is not an easy book to read, it is shocking in what it has to describe but there are moments of humour and the writing is always engaging. I had heard little snippets and enjoyed identifying these throughout the book. The list of things that remind him of the abuse is ingenious as it is not in itself explicit but if you think about it, it really is. It gives you an insight into what he experienced without him having to say it explicitly and is also a massive insight into how much it affects his life. I think this is a really important book because it shows how abuse affects people not just at the time but throughout their lives and by showing that it lets people know that it is ok to still be affected by these things. So often when people tell their story they are at pains to say how they have overcome it, how they are fine now (not just about abuse, about any mental health issue) this is probably not true but it is the message the media sends people. What James has bravely done by being so honest is show people (as Jessie J would say) that "it's ok not to be ok". It's ok to have been emotionally crippled by this and for it to have affected the rest of your life and it's still ok to talk about it if that is the case. That is such an important message. So people don't feel they have to have "got themselves together" or got all the answers before they can tell their story. It's ok to tell their story now and maybe that will help them and others. I didn't think I would be able to relate to anything in the book, I thought it would just be an insight into something I could never imagine but as James quote says at the beginning of the book "it isn't comforting to say to someone 'I can never imagine what you went through' it is comforting to say 'tell me about it and I will try'". The truth is we don't want to imagine it (understandably enough) but as he described the kind child be was before this happened (happy, shy, nervous) I was struck by how easily this could have been me. Or anyone. His description of the affect it had on him "from happy child to automaton" I found that whole description particularly beautiful and it really resonated with me. The structuring is very good, and diverse and interesting. The use of the police statement to cover the time of the abuse and the little play at the beginning. I find it hard to reconcile the description of James' inner voice and thoughts with the bright, happy, engaging man we see talking and doing readings from the book. It is just hard to imagine that voice in that person or anyone. I found myself hoping he is feeling better now and in a different frame of mind. Although I could also relate to the dark, negative thoughts. I'm going to come back to how I read the book. I raced through it that first night, the horror of it all. I do think it's nice James is honest that he is still angry with the teacher who didn't report the abuse at the time. I really wanted to get to a point where I felt James had turned a corner before I stopped reading. Just as I reached exhaustion point I got to Track Twelve (Chapter Twelve) and felt I could see light at the end of the tunnel. James went through many institutions that he didn't feel helped him and this is the point where he finds one that does. So I stopped reading and collapsed for the night to try to snatch 4 hours sleep before I had to get up again (I meant to stop earlier but couldn't put the book down). On very little sleep the next day I found my reading of the book levelled out as the events of the book itself did. I read for a couple of hours each evening over the next two nights to finish it. James' troubles were by no means over but there was hope. What is so inspiring and important is that he talks about how things fall apart in his head even when outwardly they are going well; with TV work, after filming his "Notes From The Inside" programme for example. It is hard to read about some of the things James went through and the thoughts and feelings it has left him with. I can only imagine how difficult it was to write and he should be applauded for having done so. At the same time his personality leaps off the page and brings joy and humour to the whole thing. His notes on the composers for example which start each chapter are delightful and what I imagine it is like to be at one of his concerts(I can only imagine as I haven't been to one, though I would like to!). I think he looks for the madness in them that he sees in himself. It certainly makes for a more interesting view of them! (I think my brother would find this really interesting!) Somehow our view of them has become stuffy like the classical music scene (as James describes it) his wild enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air! As someone who loves stories it is all the back-story that he gives about each composer, song and composition that helps me engage with the music. The book also includes three articles he has written (one about how much free time we have within which to be creative and encouraging people to write - look James, I did it!) I had read them before but this one was particularly inspiring. The other two are about the Classical Music Awards and his disdain for them. The section of advice about love he read out at Hay comes at the very end of the book. It is lovely to see how he finally comes to terms with stuff (I'll have to try it!) and walks alongside someone in love. It is so sad there was such an effort to stop this book as it is beautifully written about a subject that desperately needs to be spoken about more not less. It is only once you have read the book that you can understand the truly crushing effect this must have had on James. I hope everything around the publication can have a restorative effect on him. The most shocking aspect of it was the sheer volume of things he would not be allowed to talk about had he lost. That really beggars belief! I'm so glad he won, it would have been such an infringement of his rights if he hadn't and I wouldn't have got to read such a wonderful book! It made me think about how I would write the story of my own life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    RedSaab

    For anyone uncertain as to why child sexual abuse might have shattering lifelong ramifications for its survivors, concert pianist James Rhodes' uncompromising autobiography will set them utterly straight. Rhodes effs and blinds his unstable and angry way through 250 pages of memoir, counterpointing each chapter of in-yer-face uncensored confessional with listening recommendations for pieces of sublime classical music - by composers who were often as tortured, abused and driven to near-madness as For anyone uncertain as to why child sexual abuse might have shattering lifelong ramifications for its survivors, concert pianist James Rhodes' uncompromising autobiography will set them utterly straight. Rhodes effs and blinds his unstable and angry way through 250 pages of memoir, counterpointing each chapter of in-yer-face uncensored confessional with listening recommendations for pieces of sublime classical music - by composers who were often as tortured, abused and driven to near-madness as he (although not for the same reasons). In the first half of the book his style is so angsty, teenage-sweary and even glib that I began to wish he'd kept his therapy diaries to himself. However as his story of brittle recovery progresses his tone gradually moderates and the redemptive value of this writing stemmed my irritation. Rhodes clearly doesn't want the reader's sympathy, but having laboriously laid some of his demons to rest he emerges as a sympathetic and highly articulate character, finally able to channel his creativity into piano playing, and his anger through a mission to challenge the way classical music is misperceived and mis-marketed. By the end I couldn't help but admire him and wish him every success. Nicest of of all is his obviously heartfelt gratitude to all those who supported him through the darkest and wobbliest of times. Even if you don't care for the autobiography (but you should), his book is worth seeking out just for the accompanying playlist and musical commentary. James Rhodes is like the proverbial cracked vase, flawed and thereby illuminating. Also, a refreshing musical ambassador.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Vale

    This was an ok memoir in my opinion. In it, Rhodes, a classical pianist, discusses his childhood abuse and how it has made him the person he is today. He often refers to himself as an ass-hole and a loser, and he does come across as a very unlikable person at times. For that reason, I felt it was difficult for me to connect with him and to really connect to the book. He comes across as very angry, understandably, but this made me feel as uncomfortable, as if he really didn't want to share his st This was an ok memoir in my opinion. In it, Rhodes, a classical pianist, discusses his childhood abuse and how it has made him the person he is today. He often refers to himself as an ass-hole and a loser, and he does come across as a very unlikable person at times. For that reason, I felt it was difficult for me to connect with him and to really connect to the book. He comes across as very angry, understandably, but this made me feel as uncomfortable, as if he really didn't want to share his story. Not bad by any means but not one I will remember.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    I don't know how to write this review. Normally, some idea will fly into my head, but not this time, so I'll just write something down and see where this goes. James Rhodes is a pianist with a passion for classical music. He also hates that classical music has for some/too many become synonymous with pompous, elitist, and stand-offish. It should be for everyone regardless of age and background. It should be about the music, not the concert hall, the pianist etc. James lifestory almost reads like i I don't know how to write this review. Normally, some idea will fly into my head, but not this time, so I'll just write something down and see where this goes. James Rhodes is a pianist with a passion for classical music. He also hates that classical music has for some/too many become synonymous with pompous, elitist, and stand-offish. It should be for everyone regardless of age and background. It should be about the music, not the concert hall, the pianist etc. James lifestory almost reads like it's fiction. He was raped by his PE teacher for years, starting when little James was only six, and the horror of that is incomprehensible. This is not a book about that act as such, but about the consequences. It shattered James in so many ways - physically (he had to undergo operations), but it also lead to PTSD, schizophrenia, OCD, anxiety, depression, memory loss, suicidal ideation, cutting, alcoholism, drugs, etc., and the list of things that remind him of the rapes is astounding. 30 years later he is still reminded of it on a daily basis. He dropped out of Edinburgh University (he was off his head on drugs), and went to Paris instead. Then he read psychology in London, worked in the city, got married, had a son, was locked in a mental hospital, went to Italy to study piano, was sent to a highly specialised metal institution in the US, got divorced, became a pianist, is friends with Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch and Derren Brown... The "plot" of his life, the shell is so absurd it seems too good (bad) to be true. James writes as he talks, and if the F-word scares you more than anything, you probably shouldn't read this. Which would be a mistake and such a shame. James comes across as vulnerable, broken and angry, but he is also trying his best to better himself in every aspect of his life, he is full of love and gratitude to his friends and son, he is humble and cocky, and though he says he is an ass-hole, you can't help but like him. He is so effing likable. And funny, in that British black humour way. I feel like quoting Sirius' words to Harry here: "You are not a bad person. You are a very good person, who terrible things have happened to." Like Harry, James has to decide which path he wants to follow in life, and after pursuing the one of self-hatred and self-loathing for so long, he now chooses the one of self-acceptance, love, kindness and music. Always music. Every chapter title is a piece of classical music, and the thought is that you should listen to that piece while reading. Each chapter also opens with a short introduction to a composer and their lives and troubles, and that works as a sort of introduction or foreshadowing of what's to follow in the chapter. The darker chapters of his life are accompanied by darker, more turbulent music, while the music gets more light and airy and happy and optimistic as his life does the same. The book was banned because James' ex-wife filed an injunction against it, and after having read the book I can see just how devastating that must have been for him. Luckily, the verdict was overturned. If a victim of rape can't talk about it in his own autobiography, he is made a victim twice. Also, freedom of speech gives you the right to talk about your own life. The book shows how devastating and long-lasting the effects of child rape are - why on earth should that be banned? Ultimately, this autobiography is about James' life intermixed with the lives of the composers he loves so much. It's a big, scathing F-you to paedophiles, and to a society that encourages sexy clothes to children, and "dirty school" pub nights. But it is also a big love letter to music and its restoring powers. It's a big love letter to his wife and son and friends. And it's a brutally honest book by a man who, after years and years of hell, is finally on a more beautiful road. It's a great and compelling autobiography and I can only encourage you to read it. Even if you are not into classical music or stories about child rape, self-harm and mental hospitals, this is worth reading. Even if you don't know who James Rhodes is, this is worth reading. It is ultimately about the human power of survival and about finding your passion and sticking to it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    This book is straight and honest. Rhodes doesn't try to make excuses for himself, even as he talks about the awful trauma of childhood sexual abuse. He doesn't describe abuse in ways that sensationalises or titillates, but dishes it out so directly there's no hiding from the truth or pretending it's been fictionalised for a reader's pleasure or imagination. It's a great story of a struggle, and all the support, patience, kindness and love required from so many to help one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marcela Rueda

    Instrumental is a unique and moving book. James Rhodes shares many harsh difficulties he lived since childhood with great honesty and bravery. His story is creatively accompanied by music which takes the reader to share intimate feelings with the author. James Rhodes is a disruptive, non traditional, man which is revolutionizing many paradigms in the music industry. A real innovator! I was a little disappointed with the last chapter where Mr Rhodes steps into a marriage counsellor role.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Niamh

    Very brutal and shocking story with no holds barred in the telling. Written in a quite manic way, with quite a few long repetitive rants venting his frustration and anger about everything from the classical music industry to the truly awful things that happened him. He rarely alludes to his parents which I found curious. Very good read. Debated between a 3 or 4 but plumped for a 4 on the basis that it's a book that will stay with me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jane Farries

    This book made me change a habit: I no longer snap "Don't smoke" out my car window when I see people (esp. teenagers) with cigarettes/vapes. The reason: I have no idea what led them to smoke in the first place. I sent a tweet to James Rhodes about this, and he replied to it. This autobiography is understandably hard to read in places, but it is compellingly written and also gives a handy introduction to a lot of famous music. Recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ayaa Mahjoub

    3.5 * to be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting’.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Renato

    Despite the constant swearing, this book is brilliant and a must read. Stephen Fry once told Rhodes to drop the cynicism. Personally, I think he would reach so many more people if he didn't swear so much. And I really hope this book, and his wonderful music, will reach the whole world!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Juan Carlos

    Brilliant and brutally honest!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Mackinlay

    Sigh. Have been arguing with myself whether to review this at all and if so how many stars? Good for Rhodes for both declaring what happened to him as a child and for not letting it stop him using his strength and talent to become a professional pianist--and author. BUT. At some point you have to let stuff go, even the worst stuff. Or it wrecks your life. As it is wrecking Rhodes'. And I speak as someone who knows about life-shattering trauma. I felt almost as if Rhodes was wearing his trauma an Sigh. Have been arguing with myself whether to review this at all and if so how many stars? Good for Rhodes for both declaring what happened to him as a child and for not letting it stop him using his strength and talent to become a professional pianist--and author. BUT. At some point you have to let stuff go, even the worst stuff. Or it wrecks your life. As it is wrecking Rhodes'. And I speak as someone who knows about life-shattering trauma. I felt almost as if Rhodes was wearing his trauma and abuse as a kind of armour--nothing can help me beyond this point because THIS. Which then gives him permission to be a royal pain in the ass and a, if not wrecker, messer-upper of other people's lives. As well as an in-his-readers'-faces ranter and raver. No. It doesn't.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Edwards-trembath

    I wouldn’t usually read a book so quickly, but found that I just couldn’t put this book down. I also listened to the matching playlist on Spotify whilst reading. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means an easy book to read and is brutally honest, harrowing, heart breaking, gut wrenching, profoundly informative music-wise, and always thankfully with a well needed inkling of hope threaded through the background. It was to me, close to a non-fiction version of Hanya Yanagihara’s “A little life”, equa I wouldn’t usually read a book so quickly, but found that I just couldn’t put this book down. I also listened to the matching playlist on Spotify whilst reading. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means an easy book to read and is brutally honest, harrowing, heart breaking, gut wrenching, profoundly informative music-wise, and always thankfully with a well needed inkling of hope threaded through the background. It was to me, close to a non-fiction version of Hanya Yanagihara’s “A little life”, equally hard to get through, and all the more difficult due to its truth.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tara Jones

    This book is just brilliant. Haunting, harrowing, gripping, inspiring... I’m struggling to articulate what I want to say except to say to anyone and everyone that this book is is a must read. A bit like the real life version of “a little life” but perhaps with more redemption (but worse of course because it’s real and not fiction) The music recommendations in each chapter really enhance the reading experience. This is an important book which needs to be read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pepijn Mesure

    This is the best autobiography by any musician i have ever read. Incredibly strong, harsh and compelling

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    A brave and well written book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ainoa

    Utterly painful and emotional to read. Yet there is something terribly uplifting about it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Ay, Jimmy. ♥

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gemma Mulhern

    I first heard James Rhodes' story on a podcast and I was both horrified and astounded, left crying whilst driving down the motorway. It hit me hard and I knew I needed to read this. To speak and write so openly about child rape and the irreversible impact it has had on his life is beyond admirable and I am in complete awe of his strength. To think that this book was going to be sensored makes me so angry. Every word deserves to be heard. Needs to be heard. I am so glad he won to right to publish I first heard James Rhodes' story on a podcast and I was both horrified and astounded, left crying whilst driving down the motorway. It hit me hard and I knew I needed to read this. To speak and write so openly about child rape and the irreversible impact it has had on his life is beyond admirable and I am in complete awe of his strength. To think that this book was going to be sensored makes me so angry. Every word deserves to be heard. Needs to be heard. I am so glad he won to right to publish this. It is a truthful and painful read but it is also full of humour, intelligence and beauty. I loved it. I have never paid any attention to classical musc but came away from this book feeling like I'd learnt something and wanting to learn more. I drove to work listening to Rachmaninoff yesterday. Rhodes is right; forget the pomp and ceremony that surrounds classical music and just have a listen. You don't need to be a musical genius or know the lingo, if it makes you feel something then that's all that matters.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Barbra Ann

    James, a whirling dervish of thoughts and words, hit a number of powerful notes in this little book. I was alternately amazed and horrified contemplating this little child's wretched existence and how it plays out continually in his life. May James and his family's karmic debt be paid. No one should have to go through this kind of horror and fight to be heard . . . . in an attempt to prevent any more children from a similar abusive schooling. May his life be peaceful and fulfilled and may music James, a whirling dervish of thoughts and words, hit a number of powerful notes in this little book. I was alternately amazed and horrified contemplating this little child's wretched existence and how it plays out continually in his life. May James and his family's karmic debt be paid. No one should have to go through this kind of horror and fight to be heard . . . . in an attempt to prevent any more children from a similar abusive schooling. May his life be peaceful and fulfilled and may music be his comfort. ~ Sincerely, Barbara

  28. 5 out of 5

    Veronika

    A good friend recommended me this book. I was kind of skeptical about it because I haven't had good experiences with autobiographies, these seem to me boring and pretencious. This one was a real surprise, maybe because Rhodes starts talking about music and it's difficult to find someone who doesn't like music. Particularly, I love it and I have a "a soundtrack" in my life. Rhodes shares his soundtrack with us but he warns in the first page that his life was not easy at all and these music, classi A good friend recommended me this book. I was kind of skeptical about it because I haven't had good experiences with autobiographies, these seem to me boring and pretencious. This one was a real surprise, maybe because Rhodes starts talking about music and it's difficult to find someone who doesn't like music. Particularly, I love it and I have a "a soundtrack" in my life. Rhodes shares his soundtrack with us but he warns in the first page that his life was not easy at all and these music, classical music, was his "life jacket".

  29. 4 out of 5

    Radha

    I have a deep respect for nature, I can sit for hours looking at a documentary about how slimes can regenerate their shells over and over again and be amazed by it everytime. Stare in awe at how fascinating and smart nature is, and have a deep respect for animals in general and their instinct to survive. Now THIS book taught me that nature, animals, bugs, crawlers, amazing, rare fascinating species have NOTHING on US human. Everyday I lose my faith in humanity little by little (of course I adore I have a deep respect for nature, I can sit for hours looking at a documentary about how slimes can regenerate their shells over and over again and be amazed by it everytime. Stare in awe at how fascinating and smart nature is, and have a deep respect for animals in general and their instinct to survive. Now THIS book taught me that nature, animals, bugs, crawlers, amazing, rare fascinating species have NOTHING on US human. Everyday I lose my faith in humanity little by little (of course I adore my family and few close friends) but I believe I needed a book like this one to restore that lost faith in humanity and the power that, us HUMANS, have to overcome trauma, frustration and the worst scenario that you can ever imagine. Having said that, you can imagine that I decided to focus on the positive side of this book (that very little glimpse at the very tiny light at the end of a very long tunnel). James Rhodes life hasn’t been an easy one (I first heard of him years ago and was instantly fascinated by his talent and became a fan of his work, and I had no idea of where that amazing talent came from) but the way he narrates how he overcame every obstacle put in front of him from a very young age is inspiring and left me absolutely speechless. Yes, this book isn’t easy to deal with, but once you finish you can’t feel anything but respect for this man, the way he sees the world after being through so much at such a young age,and also respect for people who at this moment are fighting their own battles against themselves or the world. At moments I felt like an intruder, reading such details description of very intimate thoughts and moment in his life, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t snooping around and that it was ok, because he chose to display himself and his life just as it is, even if it’s painful and humiliating. Even though the book narrates a very sad life, full of struggles, obstacles, and most of it, mental illness, it’s narrated very effortlessly, with humor, and without sounding condescending or preachy. James understand the position that he is in, how he was born privileged and how that must look from the outside to the rest of the world, and he does an excellent work at analyzing that aspect of his life and paints us a picture that allows to see beyond class or social status. I love the important place music has in his life, I completely understand his position towards it. I also loved the little snippets of the life of the most famous classical musicians, and his position and thoughts about the industry, and it can be applied in every sort of art that is supposedly to be reserved only for a certain type of people. 100% recommend this book, but be warned that is not only very sad, but it deals with very heavy subjects such as sexual abuse, suicide, self destructive OCD behaviours, depression, and so on.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I could have read Instrumental in one sitting but the subject matter is so tough you need to give your brain a chance to disengage. James writes so passionately about the things which matter to him: his son, music - specifically classical piano music, his relationship, music education in schools (or the lack of it) and child rape. I'm putting that last and I'm writing 'rape' rather than 'abuse' because that's what James calls it. And I'm putting it last because although rape fundamentally change I could have read Instrumental in one sitting but the subject matter is so tough you need to give your brain a chance to disengage. James writes so passionately about the things which matter to him: his son, music - specifically classical piano music, his relationship, music education in schools (or the lack of it) and child rape. I'm putting that last and I'm writing 'rape' rather than 'abuse' because that's what James calls it. And I'm putting it last because although rape fundamentally changed James physically/emotionally/mentally this book is about moving away from victimhood; about the strategies he has used to overcome those appalling attacks (physical, chemical and above and beyond all, musical); and how, after 30+ years he has found a way to live which works for him. It won't work for everyone. This is not a self-help book; it is an autobiography (although, dammit, I liked James's relationship advice: just be kind) and a bloody good read. In 2013 I was blown away by Notes From the Inside, the Channel 4 programme James made where he took classical music into psychiatric wards. I found him on Twitter and told him and he, being the engaged and engaging man he is, replied. He didn't need to do that but I can see, having read his book, that this is part of who he is as an artist. He believes in engaging with an audience. And I admire his balls (sheer bloodymindedness?) for speaking out about the classical music 'industry', such as it is: Classic-lite and for wanting to make classical music more accessible (although he'd probably hate that word), less elitist/classist. I have created a playlist on Spotify based on the pieces he talks about at the beginning of each chapter. Although I thought I knew many of the pieces he mentions, simply listening with no distractions is a bit of a revelation. Don't read, don't respond to e-mails, don't check your phone, just listen. It's sublime. I have seen for myself the amazing power music has as therapy. Our son is autistic and responds to music in a way he doesn't respond to people. It is a life-affirming, joy-bringing gift which means different things to different people. If only there were more opportunities (and more funding) for music therapy... His writing is straight from the heart and I love it.

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