Posts Tagged ‘Frankfurt Book Fair’

Frankfurt Book Fair 2011, Part 1

The Frankfurt Book Fair 2011 took place October 12-16 and was more than usually full of events – conferences, workshops, forums, presentations, talks, and of course exhibition stands. Approximately 3200 events in five days, 7384 exhibitors from 106 countries… that isn’t something a single person can reasonably follow in any sense of the word. And I wasn’t even there for the full five days: so my impressions are just that, impressions from a very partial sample of this complex world. (If you want to know more, you can browse the Fair’s site, in English, in German, or, the site of the international online publishing newsletter; and you can still download also a free app for iPhone and Android with all the information about the Fair.)

Wandering around the aisles of the Halls, you can only feel that something is changing: e-books are not easy to show up, as the traditional printed books are, so you can see the usual long lines of paper covers, and the electronic books are more a topic of conversation than an actual object to be seen and appreciated. Something should change in the future, unless the all-digital turn will completely wipe out this kind of events. E-books of course are there, and you can find them; but for now they are less visible than the conventional books, that’s all.

Overview from outside

One of the aspects that struck me is linked to the organization: the growing number of specialized «islands», stands regrouping based on the subject area, in particular in the Halls of the German publishers: Tourism, Comics, Children Books, and this year also a Music island and an Audio books island, among the others. It seems to simplify your task, if you are specifically interested in one of this areas, but of course in these groups you can find only the specialized publishers (Schott, for example), and if you are not a little more adventurous, there is a clear risk of missing something, among the not-so-specialized publishers. And then, that’s true only of the German Halls (that are, anyway, a substantial fraction of the whole), and not of the other Halls, still arranged mostly by country. Anyway, this is an interesting aspect, that seems to point towards a growing specialization (or at least, to a growing awareness of it).

Cover of book on Bach hörenThe Music island wasn’t particularly attracting, for me at least: many scores, learning handbooks of any level and for any musical genre – from primary school to college level, from classical to pop, rock, folk, jazz. That’s not my field of expertise, so I can tell you only that the offer is really very rich, but I can tell nothing about the actual quality of those products.

In general, however, many are of course the new publications you can see in the stands: but the feeling is that the efforts are now mostly focused on fiction (and in particular on «category fiction» –  mistery or thrillers, historical novels, fantasy and so on) and general traee books; essays seem to be a shrinking fraction of the whole production – or maybe they are more quickly migrating to other formats. I have no hard data on which to ground a solid statement, but the feeling was very clear.

Cover of the book JohannespassionNot many titles struck me as interesting or really new. I will just mention a German publisher, Reclam, based in Stuttgart (, which publishes many low-price, small trim size books (most of them, traditionally with a simple, yellow cover – but that is changing, too). Reclam just published two «introductions to listening», dedicated to J. S. Bach in general and to his Johannes Passion: the authors are ichael Wersin (Bach hören, 176 pages), and Meinrad Walter (Johann Sebastian Bach. Johannespassion, 280 pages, with an interesting subtitle: «Eine musikalisch-theologische Einführung», a musical-theological introduction). Just published also a collection of Texts to musical Aesthetics (Texte zur Musikästhetik, edited by E. Böhm and F. von Ammon, 360 pages), spanning 2000 years, from Plato to Pierre Boulez.

Worth mentioning also, although in another field, a book published by a Swiss publisher, Christoph Merian Verlag ( : Kultur digital. Begriffe, Hintergründe, Beispiele, edited by Hedy Graber, Dominik Landwehr, Veronika Sellier (for Migros-Kulturprozent), peter Haber and Claudia Rosiny, with essays by Aleida Assmann, Peter Haber, Knut Hickethier, Verena Kuni, Georg Christoph Tholen and others (more info at in German).


Last day in Frankfurt: at the MMK

by Virginio Sala

Last day in Frankfurt was a wonderful, sunny autumn day, perfect for a long walk in the city – just a short visit to the fair, where the doors were open for the general public, and the stands were, as usual the weekend, too busy for a fruitful visit. The amusing part was the long trail of young people coming out of the trains in costume: cosplay at the book fair.

Frankfurt is a city of some appeal, mostly modern with high-rise glass-covered buildings, but with traces of its old history coming, sometimes unexpectedly, in sight. The Zeil, the commercial avenue, was full of people strolling along the stores, but just a block away there is a small, quiet park I didn’t know of – and very few people enjoying the peace and the sun: really refreshing and relaxing, after three days in the crowd.

Anyway, my destination was the MMK, the Museum für moderne Kunst (Museum for modern Art), just near the cathedral. The building itself is fascinating: opened in 1991 (yes, another anniversary for 2011: MMK’s first 20 years), it was designed by the Austrian architect Hans Hollein, and its unusual triangle form (that earned it the “Tortenstück” [pie slice] nickname) enables a very peculiar layout of the internal spaces, whith a central room spannig the three levels and multiple flights of stairs that open surprising perspectives – from certain rooms you can suddenly catch a glimpse of part of another room, at the same or at a different level. The geometry of the place creates unsuspected and gratifying contaminations.

The MMK offers now two exhibitions, both opened the 25th of September: The Lucid Evidence (an impressive show of a small part of the over 2600 photographic works featured by the museum, one of the largest collections of international contemporary photography), and Not in Fashion (an exhibition about fashion and photography in the Nineties) – totalling almost one thousand of black and white and color photos. The MMK’s web site provides much information about the exhibitions, and the catalogs are commercially available, so I’ll not try to duplicate it here; I’ll offer just a few personal impressions.

The image (Elisabeth Berkley stuck in bamboo bushes) that was used by the organizers for the cover of the presentation flyer was shot by Bettina Rheims, a French artist born in 1952, and is for sure one of the more remarkable images of the show, as in general the complete series of photographs in the room dedicated to this artist: all female portraits, in color, full of sensuality, with a glossy beauty that borders on fashion photography but at the same time with a sort of restrained quality.

The first thing that the visitor can see, in the central room, is a wall covered by photos of the Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki – an impressive and somehow disturbing collection of women and nude works from the series Tokyo Comedy; but what impressed me most was the photojournalism section, in particular the works of Anja Niedringhaus (born 1965), who from 1993 to 2000 was in the war zones of the Balkans and shot a stunning series of images, amidst many difficulties as a woman in an exclusively male domain. A few paragraphs from the Jean-Christophe Ammann’s presentation are worth mentioning:

It is a true rarity that this type of photographer even continues to exist. I mean those photographers who have a “view of the world”, which is not subject to the cynicism of the “sensationalist image” as part of the race in the print media to achieve the sales figures. The “view of the world” presumes less a moral than an ethical stance, curiosity, and an understanding of what is happening, a lack of prejudice in encountering what humans do even if their actions are strange and incomprehensible, a intuitive feel for the fact that each event is a special case.

Photojournalism always has to do with people. It is always following people. To summarize: photojournalists with a “view of the world” create pictures that always contain a document. However, a document alone never ever contains a picture. By “picture” I refer to the composing eye which,as If shooting from the hips: recognizes. I am of the opinion that something like that cannot be taught It is a talent that you either have or you don’t. Without a “view of the world” the composing eye loses its way in the coincidental nature of every moment and can likewise only capture an extreme situation as a document. The composing eye of the photographer is the eye of an artist. Even if the person does not see him- or herself as an artist. The composing eye presumes a vantage point with an inherent “view of the world”.

It’s very hard to think that what Anja Niedringhaus shows us happened just around the corner. These photographs seem to costantly raise the unanswered question: why? Just yesterday, four Italian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan … Why?

I’ll not leave you with this sad note: I’ll mention the Jeff Wall’s fascinating Odradek, Taboritskà 8, Prag, 18. July, 1994 – an image showing a complex geometrical composition and suggesting a light suspension, with the movement of the girl on the stairs, the strong contrast between her fresh look and the rusty and ageing look of the ambient, an ageing without nobility, but somehow balanced by the contrast between the diagonal lines of the stairs and the vertical lines of the pillar.

“Odradek” comes from a short story by Franz Kafka (Die Sorge des Hausvaters, from the collection Ein Landarzt) – and Kafka’s text is duly reproduced near the big photo. The beginning:

Die einen sagen, das Wort Odradek stamme aus dem Slawischen und sie suchen auf Grund dessen die Bildung des Wortes nachzuweisen. Andere wieder meinen, es stamme aus dem Deutschen, vom Slawischen sei es nur beeinflusst. Die Unsicherheit beider Deutungen aber lässt wohl mit Recht darauf schliessen, dass keine zutrifft, zumal man auch mit keiner von ihnen einen Sinn des Wortes finden kann.

(I do not have here an English translation… and I will spare Kafka an awkward attempt of mine at translating this passage – I’m confident that someone will provide a quotation from a valid source.)

I’m sure that it would be possible to write a full book about this (enigmatic?) image.

There was no literary accompaniment to the series of portraits by Thomas Ruff, a German artist living in Düsseldorf (you can see an interesting article about him on the Tate Magazine, but somehow, I don’t know why, they reminded me of the very first page of A. S. Byatt’s The Virgin in the Garden (1978), where Alexander, entering the London National Portrait Gallery, reflects on the words “national” and “portrait”:

They were both to do with identity: the identity of a culture (place, language and history), the identity of an individual human being as an object for mimetic representation.

Focusing in this case on the notion of portrait: I’m convinced that the portrait has to do with identity, but not only on the person “as an object for mimetic representation”. There is something more in it: the relationship between the person and her/his (in this case photographic) portrait seems to me more complex than that. As soon as Ruff shots a portrait of Petra Lappat (you can see the image here), the portrait becomes for us part of her identity. And seeing it exhibited ant the MMK in Frankfurt adds something to her identity… I don’t know where this could take me. But it’s intriguing that Ruff’s portraits, and not other images in the same exhibition should evoke this idea.

Let’s close with An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, a series of photographs by Taryn Simon that is also a book published by Steidl in 2007 – there were thirteen to see. Some depict not easily seen conditions or places (as the Olympic National Park, Washington), some border on the disturbing (Standard Patient, University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Westwood: the standard patient is a professional actress who is trained to simulate a real patient for testing the diagnostic competence of the students; or the Imperial Office of the World Knights of the Ku-Klux-Klan), but at the end there is also a little humor, with a photo of the Braille Edition of Playboy (realized by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped).

I can tell you less about the Not in Fashion exhibition, because I visited it last and I was running out of time (planes do not wait), so my concentration was fading. But that’s a pity, the subject would deserve some attention. For those who will be able to visit Frankfurt in the near future (this exhibition will close January 9, 2011; The Lucid Evidence will be open until April 25), a few words from the official presentation, just as an appetizer:

In the 1990s, the fashion scene was fundamentally reinvented specifically by the medium of photography. The decade gave rise to a new generation for whom personal identity, individualism and a self-defined style were of crucial importance. Back then, the joie de vivre of the generation of 20-30 year old creative minds thrived on music, subculture, intimacy and fashion. […]

The exhibion at the MMK demonstrates just how radical and innovative this new generation was and highlights the strong impact it has had on the visual arts to this very day.


Frankfurt Book Fair, Day 3

by Virginio Sala

My third day in Frankfurt was long and tiring – public transportation problems made the usual trip to the hotel in the outskirts of the city a smal nightmare: it took two hours more than usual, so now my concentration is faltering.

So, a short account of the day – an extended evaluation will be postponed to another day, after some rest.

Focal Press, an imprint of Elsevier, has a fair numberr of new titles in the media field. The most exciting is the third edition of Writing for Visual Media by Anthony Friedman, a book whrth looking at in detail in the future. Mix Smart: professional techniques fo the home studio is been published this month. Just published is the fourth edition of James Alburger’s The Art of Voice Acting: the art and business of performing for voice over. On the motion picture front: a new edition of Sheila Curran Bernard’s Documentary Storytelling and the fourth edition of David Lewis Yewdall’s Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound; a completely new entry is The Filmmaker’s Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition by Gustavo Mercado. I do not even try to list the many books about Photoshop and other graphics software (Focal Press offers good books, but the competition is tough).

Back to the German Hall and to classical music: DTV offers a new book about Gustav Mahler, written by Jens Malte Fischer – to be evaluated.

There were no more discoveries in this area – I was hoping for something more. I hope I missed something – otherwise, the report would be a little disappointing.

Although in a completely different field, it’s worth mentioning a really big book published by Taschen: 75 Years od DC Comics by Paul Levitz: 720 pages in 29 x 39,5 centimeters format, all in 4 colors, almost impossible to lift. Just for fun.

The interesting part of the afternoon was in the academical and technical publications hall, where I had a chance to see a presentation of the SMART technology on the whiteboard – the applications already available are really amazing. Martin Caren, Product Manager of Young Digital Planet, the Polish company that provided the demonstration, tld me that there are mostly products in the scientific area, for this tool. But I was wandering what could be done in the humanities, or in the music education…


Frankfurt Book Fair, Day 2

by Virginio Sala

I expected a few books about Franz Liszt, pending the 2011 anniversary, but I was in for a surprise: up to now, I found only one, not too surprisingly published by Schott, but surprisingly dedicated to the Italian years of his life: Franz Liszt. Die Jahre in Rom und Tivoli was written (in German) by Ernst Burger, pianist and writer based in Munich (and author of Robert Schumann. Eine Lebenschronik in Bildern und Documenten, published at the beginning of 2010). It is a large fomat book, lavishly illustrated (around 400 color and b/w illustrations) with a foreword and a CD of Sir Alfred Brendel, for a cover price of 49,95 Euros (in Germany). Anyway, Liszt was in Italy from 1861 to 1886, 25 years, so the book covers a good part of his life, and virtually all of his late works. The publisher emphasizes also the fact that the book gives an extended portrait of Rom in the nineteenth century, probably hoping to lure in not only the lovers of Liszt but also the lovers of Italy and of the Italian capital city. As an Italian, the idea can flatten me but I’m a little skeptical about the double target.

The birthday of Liszt was the 22nd of October, so there is more than one year for celebrating the virtuoso and the composer – and my grand tour of the Buchmesse is not yet complete (and probably something I missed).

Schott is of course a specialized publisher, and its new publications flyer has got something else for us (everything in German): Musik und Rhythmus. Grundlagen – Geschichte – Analyse [Music and Rhythm. Fundamentals, History, Analysis) by Peter Petersen, formerly author of a couple of books about Werner Henze; Die Ordung der Klänge. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Hörens [The order of Sounds. A cultural History of Hearing] by R. Murray Schafer, edited by Sabine Breitsamete, professor of Sound Design and Production at the Hochschule of Darmstadt, and a few titles in the “Serie Musik”, a very good paperback serie: Bartok. Leben und Werk [Lfe and Works] by Tadeusz A. Zielinski, just published in October, and Carlos Kleiber. Eine Biografie by Alexander Werner.

Interesting also a series of books for children (of at least 4, 5 or 7 years, depending on the title), with four color illustrations, hardcover and a CD: Maximus Musikus besucht das Orchester [Maximus Musikus pays a visit to the orchestra], Schlaf gut mit dem Musikater. Geschichte, Gedichte und viel Musik [Sleep well with the Music Cat. Tales, poems and a lot of music], Robert Schumann (a portrait), and so on.

The most interesting discoveries (for me, at least) were a couple of smaller publishers in the Gerrman-speaking area. The first is Verlag Der Apfel (, based in Wien, Austria: one of the new titles is a collection of essays on Donizetti und seine Zeit in Wien [Donizetti and his years in Wien]. On their catalog also is a couple of books on Die Wiener Hofoper, both by Miichael Jahn, the first devoted to the years 1810-1836 (starting from year 1810, when was staged Spontini’s “La vestale” at the then Kärnthnerthortheater), the second to the “Balochino-Merelli era”, the years 1836 to 1848. 488 pages the first, 724 the second – wonderful sources for one of the most important historical theaters. Mister Thomas C. Cubasch, the publisher, is a wonderful man, who apparently loves his work. I’m sure we will have a chance to know him (and his other publications) better in the future.

Mister Lehmstedt, of the Lehmstedt Verlag (based in Leipzig) is the other surprise: he wrote a big book on Art Tatum, I’m sure, out of sheer passion. I hope to meet him here – or virtually on the Net.

Reclam has a long history of small paperback books, with a typical cover made of a solid background color (traditionally yellow, then also red or green, but recently they added illustrations or more complex designs) with a simple lettering. I’m a little biased, I love these books. They recently published Bach hören by Michael Wersin, a short intoduction to Bach’s music; at the beginning of the year, they published Robert Schumann by Dagma Hoffmann-Axthelm (a musical and psychological study). On the popular music side, next month will be available a book by Ingo Meyer, dedicated to Frank Zappa.

Of course, there are many other interesting books outside of the musical field. At least one deserves to be mentioned: Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani’s Die Stadt im 20. Jahrhundert [The city in the 20th century], published by Klaus Wagenbach ( It’s a two-volume work (912 pages, 640 color illustrations), really fascinating at first sight. 1990 to 1995 Magnago Lampugnani (an Italian, Rom-born architect based in Milano) was diector of the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt.

I spent part of the afternoon attending the Storydrive conference in the Fair’s Forum. One of the announced speakers was Dave Stewart, the musician, scheduled for a talk about “The X-Factor: remixed Marketing” and for the final round table “What’s next?”. Unfortunately, Dave Stewart wasn’t there, but I’ve got a chance to hear Mark Simmons (co-author with Stewart of The business playground, Where creativiy and commerce collide), Tendo Nagenda (Walt Disney Productions), Carl Erik Rinsch (Ridley Scott Associates), Tracey Armstrong (President & CEO of the Copyright Clearance Center) and a few other voices from the industry. Nothing was really new, but I appreciated Simmons’s presentation of the key concept in his and Stewart’s book (and in his previous book, Punk marketing) – entertaining and instructive.


Frankfurt Book Fair, Day 1

by Virginio Sala

The first interesting news come from Italy: Rizzoli is publishing the autobiography of Riccardo Muti, the celebrated conductor; in Italian, of course, but I’m sure there will be translations in many languages. From the same publishing group, there is the new Umbeto Eco’s novel, but that is a little far from our main interests.

Phaidon Press, mostly known for its art and achitecture books, has just published a couple of interresting books in the area “Music and Peforming Arts”. One is Bojan Bujic’s Arnold Schoenberg (240 pages, 8 black and white illustrations), presented as “a sympathetic biography and critical assessment of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), a pivotal and revolutionary figure whose pioneering musical innovations are among the major landmarks of twentieth-century musical history … Traces how Schoenberg’s often controversial works were created, performed and how their influence has endured into the twenty-first century. A variety of illustrations and rarely seen extracts from contemporary documents complete a well-rounded picture of Schoenberg’s eventful life”. The autor, Bojan Bujic, studied English literature and musicology in his native city of Sarajevo, before completing his doctorate in fourteenth-century music at Oxford, where now is Fellow of Magdalen College.

With a real jump to another part of the musical universe, the second book published by Phaidon is The Beatles by Allan Kozinn (who has wrtten musical criticism for the New York Times since 1977).

On a different level, also by Phaidon, The Music of Painting by Peter Vergo: subtitled “Music, Modernism and the Visual Arts from the Romantics to John Cage”. The publisher’s presentation says that the book “explores how artists attempted to translate musical rhythms and structures into painting, and how musicans developed visual themes in their compositions. Analyses individual pieces of music and works of art, from Paul Signac’s musical seascapes and Modeste Musorgsky’s popular piano pieces to Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract paintings and John Cage’s silent works”. 320 pages, with 15 color and 150 b/w illustrations.

Gingko Press reminds us that 2011 will be the Mashall McLuhan Centennial. The Berkeley, CA company republished many of McLuhan’s works, edited and with new introductory essays; others will be reissued next year. Understanding Media was already published in a new, critical edition. The anniversary will give us a chance to reassess the thought of McLuhan.

Gingko Press has also a new book for the rock music student: Jim DeRogatis’s The Velvet Undeground. An illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side, 192 pages, with 100 color illustrations.

Laurence King publishes mostly fashion and design books, of course big and heavily illuustrated books. At least a couple deserve a mention: the second editions of History of Modern Design by David Raizman and of How to Write Art History by Anne D’Alleva (one of the few non-illustrated books). But Graphic Design for Fashion by Jay Hess and Simone Pasztorek is such a beautiful book that I cannot resist mentioning it here.

And then a book that was published in 2009, but I saw for the first time today: Erik Satie by Jean-Pierre Armengaud, published by Fayard (in French), almost 800 pages that deserve a further scrutiny.

That is, of course, a very personal choice of titles. Tomorrow I’ll explore the German Hall. For the digital books issue, well, I’ll ty to summarize my impression the last day, or maybe after my comeback to Italy.


From Frankfurt

by Virginio Sala

Here I am, in an hotel room in Roedermark, a few train stops from Frankfurt, Germany.
I arrived a few hours ago, via a Lufthansa flight from Milano. Tomorrow the International Book Fair will open. It is a traditional gathering of the people in the publishing industry, the place where you can gauge what’s happening in the field. Or, at least, so it was. Of course, most of the news travel faster today and you can have a good knowledge of who is publishing what well in advance. So you come mostly for meeting people “in person”, the whole thing is for relationships and the feeling – trying to understand what didn’t happen yet but could happen in the near future.
Anyway, I attended the Frankfurt Fair in 1980 for the first time, and then I came every year. So if I’m not miscalculating, this should be my 31-st time at the Buchmesse. A long, uninterrupted strip I wouldn’t like to disrupt for some more time.
Publishing is the field where Limenmusic is also playing, in its own way, and we need to understand what’s moving on. Or at least I have to understand it. Although I already did some work in the field in the years, it always was in Italian and for an Italian audience or, better, an Italian readership; now we are adding an international dimension, and that is a demanding endeavour. At the Frankfurt Book Fair you can meet publishers (and other people in the works) from every corner in the world, and here you can have, in a relatively short time, a very wide view of the global production. In between, I’ll try to find out the new publications, and will report about that in these pages.
And then there is the issue of digital publishing, and of the attitudes towards what seems to be an unavoidable transition. Something I’m particularly interested in.