Philip Aaberg, Jimi Hendrix, and Earth Abides: The First Review of The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart

Here’s the link to Philip Aaberg’s review of the GRS biography, Bonds of Literature and Music Run Deep. 

One of the greatest joys from researching and writing a book comes from the remarkable encounters along the way of the work.  In the case of the Stewart biography, one of the most enriching encounters was with Grammy-nominated composer and musician Philip Aaberg and his family.

The credit for that meeting goes to Richard Brong, a fine science teacher in the Reno, Nevada, area  After I’d done a NASA presentation for his students, which included some references to Earth Abides, Richard asked if I knew the music of Philip Aaberg.  I did not, so he recommended that I look up a piece written and recorded by Aaberg, “Earth Abides.”

Later, working in Missoula, Montana, I went to the local Hastings Book and Music store (one of a fine small chain of bookstores usually found in small college towns) to look for Aaberg’s recording.  One of the bookfolks directed me to Napoleon (whose last name I have forgotten), their music & jazz expert.  Napoleon quickly found a recording which included Aaberg’s composition — but Hastings did not have a copy.  So Napoleon called Rockin Rudy’s, discovered  they had a copy, and sent me to that store.

Later that day, for the first time,  I heard Phil Aaberg’s musical response to the book.  The music was so rich and inspiring that it went on the desktop, to be played whenever there was a need for inspiration, or the calming that precedes inspiration.

After a little research, I found Philip Aaberg’s business phone number on the web.  I called.  His wife, who manages Sweetgrass Music, answered the phone.  I explained to Patty why I was calling.  She suggested that I call Phil at a pre-arranged time, and interview him.

Not long after, I talked with Phil at length about his interest in Stewart.  That first conversation would lead to visits with Phil, Patty, and Jake at their home in Chester, Montana, Phil’s participation in the first George R. Stewart Symposium at CONTACT, and wonderful stories for the Stewart Biography.

Now, Phil has written the first review of the book that’s been published.  And well-published, too, in The Great Falls Tribune, which is part of the Gannett chain.  Phil’s review of the book takes a Stewart-like approach; it’s interdisciplinary, weaving music and literature together, showing the effect each has on the other.  He includes a reference to Jimi Hendrix, another musician inspired by Earth Abides (said to be Hendrix’s favorite book), making the point that the same work of literature can influence composers with two very different styles to create their own responses to it.

George R. Stewart would be very happy with this review.  As am I, and grateful to Phil for taking the time to write it.