Ways of the Hand: A Rewritten Account

Overview

Ways of the Hand tells the story of how David Sudnow learned to improvise jazz on the piano. Because he had been trained as an ethnographer and social psychologist, Sudnow was attentive to what he experienced in ways that other novice pianists are not. The result, first published in1978 and now considered by many to be a classic, was arguably the finest and most detailed account of skill development ever published.Looking back after more than twenty years, Sudnow was struck by the extent to which he had allowed ...

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Overview

Ways of the Hand tells the story of how David Sudnow learned to improvise jazz on the piano. Because he had been trained as an ethnographer and social psychologist, Sudnow was attentive to what he experienced in ways that other novice pianists are not. The result, first published in1978 and now considered by many to be a classic, was arguably the finest and most detailed account of skill development ever published.Looking back after more than twenty years, Sudnow was struck by the extent to which he had allowed his academic background to shape the book's language. He realized that he could now do a much better job of describing his experiences in a way that would not require facility with formal social science and philosophical discourse. The result is a revised version of the book that carries the same intellectual energy as the original but is accessible to a much wider audience.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Sudnow is a trained ethnographer and social psychologist who gave up teaching in his fields to study piano and write exclusively about music. In 1978, he published the first edition of this work, a skill-development classic that documents how he taught himself to play jazz piano. The premise of that edition, as well as this update, is that the author's hands, apart from his conscious direction, learned to improvise jazz: "I sing with my fingers, so to speak, and only so to speak, for there's a new being, my body, and it is this being (here too, so to speak) that sings." This new version represents Sudnow's attempt to reach a broader, less academic audience with his findings. Although it features less scholarly diction, the text is still painstakingly detailed, which will limit the book's appeal. For academic and larger public libraries. Cleo Pappas, Lisle Lib. Dist., IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262194679
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2001
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 163
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

David Sudnow is the author of Passing On, on the sociology of medical care;Talk's Body, on language and music; and Pilgrim in the MicroWorld, on the nature of the body-computer interface. Over the past two decades, he has developed a widely used piano teaching method on the basis of experiences first described in this book.

Hubert L. Dreyfus is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California atBerkeley.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2003

    Interesting premise, horrible execution

    It speaks volumes that David Sudnow found it necessary to completely rewrite his treatise on his experience learning jazz improvisation at the piano. According to Sudnow's introduction, upon reading it again not even he, the author, could penetrate the murky, turgid prose that cluttered his first edition to get any meaning out of it. However, Mr. Sudnow has blown away the first edition's clouds only to replace them with a thick fog in a tome just as impenetrable as the original. Occasional moments of clarity notwithstanding, Sudnow's book reads like a manual of how to convolute language beyond its capacity to render meaning. That this occurs in a book about music-arguably the most emotionally expressive of the arts-makes Sudnow's literary idiosyncrasies unforgivable. Other reviewers on this site have pulled out but a few confusing gems from Sudnow's book, but I won't bother to provide more. I will simply state that such examples are sadly the rule, and not the exception, in Sudnow's book. It is a sad example of a fascinating idea, buried in meaningless language.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2002

    classic

    David Sudnow's phenomenological study, as Hubert Dreyfus states in his introduction to The Rewritten Account, is an altogether unique piece of work. As a (former) piano player, it inspired me to learn a piece of Bach again just so I could rediscover, for myself, some of the phenomena Sudnow describes, with such depth. As a casual reader of some of the major existential and phenemonological writers, it strikes me that Sudnow, more than anyone, shows us the phenomenological perspective at work. I never read the earlier Harvard edition,which I've heard was very difficult, but this version certainly isn't. It's a flowing account, told beautifully, and I am sure that it will become classic. I hope Sudnow comes through on his promise and offers us a description of learning a second language. If he makes anything like the contribution to language studies that Ways of the Hand makes to the study of handicraft, that would be extraordinary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2002

    Masterful.

    I had struggled through David Sudnow's early edition of this book and, while it was quite rewarding, for the detailed descriptions it provided, it was also immensely difficult reading. His 'Rewritten Account' is an extraordinary writing achievement. There are now only a couple of brief places where one, with or without a musical background, might have to slow down just a bit. All in all, it's a classic that's been made much classier. Bravo to David Sudnow. I hope everyone interested in human behavior reads this book. It was always a great book. Now it's a masterpiece.

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