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[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Origins of the Pianoforte in Rusch and Priceman’s “The Music Of Life”

Bartolomeo Cristofori and The Invention Of The Piano

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

My 16 year old daughter has been learning how to play the piano for four years now. I would deign to say that this title resonated with me even more because of that connection – plus, it’s perfect for our #BeautyArtMusicInBooks reading theme.


The Music Of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & The Invention Of The Piano

Written by Elizabeth Rusch Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Published by Atheneum Books For Young Readers (2017)
ISBN: 1481444840 (ISBN13: 9781481444842) Literary Award: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2018)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The story begins with Cristofori as an adult, already known and recognized as an instrument maker in Padua. He was being wooed by no less than His Highness Prince Ferdinando De Medici to join his court in Florence to become the new instrument maker of the Palace. It appeared that initially Cristofori had his apprehensions, but was made an offer that he simply could not refuse.

At the time, the musical instrument of choice was the harpsichord and the clavichord. Cristofori himself felt limited by the inability of both instruments to fully express the resounding thunder of one’s emotions or the sotto voce whisper of a secret through music.

The instrument maker yearns to create a new keyboard, one that can be played as softly as a gentle rain and as loudly as a booming thunderstorm.

But how?

Perhaps what struck me the most as I was reading this tale was how much flexibility and freedom Cristofori was afforded in doing what he did best.

He was also supported in his vision and all his endeavours and what may be construed as decidedly strange requests. Historical records of the court indicate that he requested materials such as “fish glue,” or “vulture feathers” – as found in the very detailed Teacher’s Note found in the end. All this paid off as Cristofori finally came up with the pianoforte which responds very sensitively to a musician’s touch.

I especially appreciated Rusch’s Afterword – indicating how much fun she seemed to have in researching the details of this narrative. She even came up with a selection of piano music that fully captures this “Music Of Life” that Cristofori was trying to capture in his lifetime. Naturally, I created a Spotify Playlist based on her recommended music which spans both classical and contemporary sounds.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find one of the covers that she indicated on Spotify (by Eliza De Castro and Darcie Rehbein), so I found it on Youtube instead and sharing with you here. Enjoy!


#LitWorld2018GB Update: Bartolomeo Cristofori is from Padua (Italy) and eventually moved to Florence (Italy)

0 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Origins of the Pianoforte in Rusch and Priceman’s “The Music Of Life”

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