Contrary Motion: a novel

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I’m not much of a reader, but for some reason I thoroughly enjoy browsing the bookstore and thumbing through the stacks of best-sellers and new releases. This bright yellow book with a concert pedal harp centered on the cover caught my eye.

Contrary Motion by Andy Mozina is about a middle-aged, divorced man named Matthew living in Chicago as a harpist. Matthew is invited to audition for the St. Louis Symphony but is caught up in the recent death of his father, struggles with his six-year-old daughter, and with his highly successful girlfriend. I can’t relate to Matthew’s reality of being a divorced parent, but I can relate to his unique challenges of being a freelance harpist. These harp-induced lifestyle changes are subtly woven into the narrative, as if the author is a harpist himself who understands what we go through!

Maybe you can empathize: Matthew warns his upstairs neighbor that he’ll be ramping up the practice for this audition. He explains that a shining resume of experience in music festivals and orchestra sub positions means nothing when a rent check is due. In one scene, Matthew is late to his weekend brunch gig at a hotel. Mozina describes Matthew’s furious efforts to get there on time in great detail: the coiled up extra strings, the big black binders of gig music, propping the door open to wheel out the harp, loading it into an ancient Volvo, the gut-wrenching feeling when Matthew drops his harp, navigating the streets of Chicago to the loading dock of the hotel, and even that glorious moment when you sit down to a beautiful plate of brunch food in the manager’s office, in isolation away from the hotel guests. Later in the book when Mozina describes, in detail, the challenges of Symphonie fantastique and the method in which Matthew practices to get it right, I start to get curious. Someone is giving this guy insider information.

It didn’t take long to find that Mozina’s wife is Lorraine Alberts, a harpist in Kalamazoo, MI. I knew it! In my google search for Mozina’s source of harp knowledge, I found mixed reviews about the book. I’ll warn you that the beginning is depressing! I’m not even halfway through, maybe Matthew’s career and family life with take a turn for the better.

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About Author

I am a recent Temple graduate with my masters in Harp Performance. I grew up in Findlay, Ohio and currently teach and freelance in the Philadelphia area.

9 Comments

  1. marguerite-lynn-williams on

    Hi Dani,
    If you read the acknowledgements you would also find that Andy interviewed David Ice for the freelancing details and myself for the orchestral audition details. He’s been working on this quite a long time, the interviews took place 12 years ago!
    -Lynn

  2. Hey Lynn,

    You’re right! The acknowledgements are in the back, so I didn’t even notice! Other harpists include Barb Semmann, Saul Davis, A.W., Elizabeth Volpe-Bligh, Walt Krasicki, Pat Dougal, and Rip Pretat. He noted Sarah Bullen’s excerpt book as a resource too. Since the character is preparing for the St. Louis Symphony audition, I thought it was more recent and ironically based on true events!

    Thanks for pointing that out – I would have totally missed it 🙂 Very cool.

  3. I can’t thank you enough for this one, Dani! As someone who is constantly on the hunt for novels about classical music and musicians, your recommendation is a godsend. 🙂

  4. The harp elements were compelling, especially the slightly-name-changed reference to Ed Druzinsky, who I was lucky enough to study with for a while during the 60s. The novel itself – meh.

  5. barbara-kraichy--2 on

    Hello fellow harpists,

    I just bought the “Contrary Motion” Book at Barnes and Noble and am enjoying every moment of reading it. I, too, found it compelling of the slightly-name-change of Eddie Druzinsky to Eddie Pinowski. I happen to hear about Ed Druzinsky through his nephew Dickie Fleisher, who is a colleague of mine in the Naples Harp Ensemble as well as principal harp in the Naples Philharmonic and we’ve been using several of Ed Druzinsky’s Harp Orchestra parts. We also played Symphonie Fantastique as a harp ensemble piece arranged by Ron Erickson with Dickie Fleisher and Elizabeth Hainen playing the First and Second Harp Parts. The harp world is definitely a small world. I recommend the book for any harpist, especially those planning to audition for an orchestra.

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