The University of Wisconsin Press

Music / Biography


Grace Notes for a Year
Stories of Hope, Humor and Hubris from the World of Classical Music
Norman Gilliland

"The book is instructive, to be sure, but it is also as much fun as a barrel of organ-grinders."
—Peter Schickele

This irresistible collection of stories is perfect for anyone interested in a fresh perspective on what it means to be a human being who creates art. Grace Notes for a Year sheds light on the fragile and perilous process of inspiration, composition, and performance required to create classical music, whether the final product is a masterpiece or a mess. Each page of the book corresponds to a different day of the year and features a true story about a famous figure in musical history. These delightful anecdotes—inspirational, informative, and often hilarious—disprove the myth of the artist as untouchable. Instead, Norman Gilliland exposes in them human vulnerability we can all relate to. From Beethoven to Wagner, these artists suffered from poverty, spent lazy days in bed, had scandalous love affairs, and often failed in their creative endeavors as often as they succeeded.

"This is a moving and revelatory portrait of 'ordinary' working people's quest for beauty, and, in this case, classical music and musicians who find themselves worthy of it."—Studs Terkel

"Grace Notes for a Year is a delightful collection of musical trivia, except that it really isn't so trivial. Recounted in a lively fashion by Norman Gilliland, the vignettes provide fascinating glimpses behind the façade of official music history; they show composers and performers, sometimes thought of as cardboard heroes, to be flesh-and-blood human beings with everyday concerns." —Peter Schickele

Norman Gilliland has hosted weekday classical music broadcasts since 1977, beginning in Florida and continuing in Wisconsin. He is the creator of Grace Notes, which has become a daily feature on a number of public radio stations nationwide, and is the author of Midnight Catch, and an historical novel, Sand Mansions, also distributed by the University of Wisconsin Press. He lives in Madison, WI.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

cover of Grace Notes is graced with four bars of a muscal staff.

November 2003
LC: 2001119571 ML
408 pp.  6 x 9

Book icon
Paper $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-9715093-0-6
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout

Distributed for NEMO Productions, Madison, Wisconsin

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated May 22, 2012

© 2012, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System