Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey, Scribner (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Audubon, Sports Illustrated, Condé Nast Traveler, and Outside.
Writer Perri Knize's first book deals with her lifelong dedication to the piano. "The daughter of a professional clarinetist, Knize grew up in a musical household, learning to listen—to really hear what's happening in a piece of music," Bernadette Murphy wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "When she was old enough to study her own instrument and asked for piano lessons, her father suggested she learn an orchestral instrument instead, since such lessons would be offered free at school." After she became an adult with a career of her own, however, Knize turned again to the instrument that fascinated her as a child. "She resumes her lessons and sets out to buy a piano of her own; alas, her discerning ear creates problems," Murphy continued. She finds the piano of her dreams—a 2000 Grotrian-Steinweg costing thirty-two thousand dollars—and refinances and remodels her house to accommodate her ideal instrument, but the Grotrian-Steinweg sounds different after it arrives in her Montana home; the sound is not as pure as it was in the showroom. As a result, Knize goes on a pilgrimage to recapture the lost sound.
Knize's journey, as related in her memoir, Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey, describes her trips all over the world to understand the arcane art and science of piano tuning. "Characters she meets introduce her to anthroposophy and Sufism," related Barry Zaslow in his Library Journal review, "along with technical physics terminology about tuning and voicing." "Her adventures reach far beyond the scope of the average piano buyer," wrote Frank Baxter in Piano World. "In fact, she goes places even those of us ‘in the business’ have never been. Luckily for all of us, she takes us along for the ride … from the Pacific Northwest to Piano Row in New York, from basement workshops to the Alps of Austria." "If you didn't know pianos had voices—well, they do, and their owners go mad to maintain them," stated New York Times Book Review contributor Emma Brockes. "Knize was 42 when she took up piano lessons for the first time in 15 years, and her experiences speak to the sneaking hope we all have of possessing a secret genius, ‘an innate, neglected talent that will surge to prominence, overcome all odds … and surprise everyone by achieving greatness.’"
Critics celebrated Knize's description of her journey in search of the perfect piano voice. Grand Obsession was "the most captivating book I've read in a long time," wrote Richard A. Crosby in the American Music Teacher. "Any listener who has ever been transfixed by the otherworldly sound of a truly magnificent piano will find an articulate kindred spirit" in Knize. She "writes in a wonderfully evocative, lushly romantic style," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "and music lovers will resonate to her mad pursuit of a gorgeous sound." "Both Knize and the reader are ecstatic," Booklist contributor Alan Hirsch declared, "when Marlene, as Knize dubbed her Grotrian, is reborn."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Music Teacher, June 1, 2008, Richard A. Crosby, review of Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey.
Booklist, January 1, 2008, Alan Hirsch, review of Grand Obsession, p. 31.
Library Journal, December 1, 2007, Barry Zaslow, review of Grand Obsession, p. 120.
Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2008, Bernadette Murphy, "Finding and Restoring the Right Piano Becomes a Love Story."
New York Times Book Review, January 20, 2008, Emma Brockes, "Play It Again."
Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2007, review of Grand Obsession, p. 49.
Perri Knize Home Page,http://www.grandobsession.com (August 14, 2008).
Piano World,http://www.pianoworld.com/ (August 14, 2008), Frank Baxter, review of Grand Obsession, p. 49.