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Fifteen years in the making, the definitive Ran Blake biography is finally here! Taking its departure point from hundreds of hours of interviews between Blake and his one-time student, Leo McFadden, Shimmering Shadows paints a detailed portrait of this iconoclast pianist, composer, and pedagogue. Author Janet McFadden weaves the conversations into a coherent narrative that is supplemented by meticulous research, drawing upon a vast array of primary sources. Included also are a selection of rare photographs, dating back to Blake's early childhood, which have been beautifully restored for this publication. The book is complimented by seven appendices, including a comprehensive discography. One hundred pages of endnotes and an index follow, making the volume an excellent resource for future researchers in the field. 632 pages.

For musicians, Storyboarding Noir demonstrates a method for creating original and distinctive work.

For moviegoers, it offers a new perspective on the rich and varied history of film noir. And for those who’ve followed Ran Blake’s remarkable career, it provides a glimpse into the mind of this indispensable artist. Woven throughout is a discussion of the creative process that is relevant to artistic endeavors in general.


I’ve been storyboarding all my life, without knowing the term until I read Truffaut’s book on Hitchcock. Growing up, we had three pianos in the house. I was rather good, not great. Scales not too bad, never did too many arpeggios, can’t stand them. Sight reading hopeless. My teacher would play a little bit. I could retain some by ear. But left alone I improvised dreams, ghosts. Images would come to my mind, and I’d make up a story or something in response to what I was seeing.


I’m not good at drawing, so I don’t make cartoons like Hitchcock, but I often make some kind of a messy sketch as a film director would. Perhaps I’ll put a musical theme next to a picture for clarity. Of course, when I’m playing, I forget about Ran Blake in Brookline. Something suddenly hits you and you just go with it. When that happens, I feel almost in a trance. I’m actually seeing images of what I’m playing. The other night I was doing some free stuff, and suddenly I found myself taking a walk in a street near Place Monge with an old friend of mine, Jean-Jacques Pussiau who ran Owl Records, and we were walking down these little side streets. Then something happened and I stopped.


Storyboarding Noir can be ordered here for $30.00. It is also available on Amazon.

Shimmering Shadows: The Music and Life of Ran Blake

SKU: Shimmering
  • Janet McFadden

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