Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Contents of Around Music and Mi contra fa

This page lists the detailed contents, with inclusive page numbers, of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s two collections of essays:

It also gives full bibliographic citations for preliminary versions, reprints, and translations. Various images of covers, jackets, and sample pages are provided on a separate page. See also three images of the jacket of Mi contra fa on Wikipedia.

The last column gives the number of pages for the essays themselves, and sorting by this column makes it possible to see which are the longest and which are the shortest. A bullet () in the second column indicates previous publication, details of which are given in the third column. The same symbol after a page number in the fourth and fifth columns indicates drop folios (i.e., page numbers that have been omitted but are nevertheless part of the page count).

Chapter numbers are given as they appear in the published books: roman numerals between brackets for Around Music, and roman numerals for Mi contra fa. The titles for Around Music, set full caps in the publication, are given here with the proper title capitalization; those of Mi contra fa are reproduced in the somewhat odd and inconsistent format used in the source. Section titles (e.g., half-title, title page, etc.) are enclosed in brackets where they do not appear as such in the sources.

Of Sorabji’s two collections of essays, only Around Music contains an index, compiled by Bernard Bromage (1899-1957), the writer on the occult whom the author thanks in the “Praeludium”. The index is far from accurate, to say the least, and Sorabji expressed strong dissatisfaction with his friend’s work on the book in handwritten notes found in the copies owned by Reginald Norman Best, his companion in later years, and Alistair Hinton. Indeed, he withdrew or transferred the dedications of three works after breaking off relations with Bromage in 1942.

The proper names and the titles of musical and literary works as well as the names of corporate bodies and places mentioned are indexed in Marc-André Roberge, Annotated Indexes to “Around Music” (1932) and “Mi contra fa: The Immoralisings of a Machiavellian Musician” (1947) (Bath: The Sorabji Music Archive, 1992), xv, 47 pp.

Around Music

Publication data: London: The Unicorn Press, 1932; reprint, Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1979. 250 pp. A liquidator was appointed on 9 December 1938 according to the London Gazette fpr 9 December 1938; the name was removed from the Register on 18 July 1969, again according to the London Gazette for 18 July 1969. In the (now unavailable) reprint (published during the composer’s lifetime but without his permission or even knowledge), p. 85 is reproduced on the verso of p. 86, and p. 86 is missing. Hyperion Press no longer exists, and Hyperion Books (New York) is a different publisher, founded in 1991.

Dimensions: 250 × 163 mm (9 7/8″ × 6 13/32″) for the original edition; 217 × 143 mm (8 1/2″ × 5 5/8″) for the reprint.

Pagination: The first page with print on it (half-title) is p. [i] and the first page with a folio is p. vii (“Order of Contents”). The roman numerals presumably continue until the beginning of the first essay (p. 17), where the numbering changes to arabic.

Binding and spine: The original edition is bound in coarse-grained beige cloth with a gold-stamped Unicorn in the lower-right corner. The upper part of the spine has a darker brown vertical suedette rectangle surrounded by a gold rule with “AROUND MUSIC / [dash] / SORABJI / [star] / UNICORN PRESS” written across in gold letters. The reprint is bound in golden brown varnished cloth, with black lettering on the spine, reading vertically “[lyre] / AROUND MUSIC / Sorabji / [Hyperion Press logo]”. At the bottom of the title page there is another logo, showing the Titan in a chariot drawn by four horses.

Dust jacket: There is no dust jacket.

Annotated copies: The Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection at McMaster University has a photocopy of the published book in brown paper wrapper with an inscription to the author by Alistair Hinton, dated [21 August] 1972, containing handwritten corrections and additions by the author. Hinton’s note reads: “Copy to KSS on that date, but the author’s handwritten corrections come not from it but from 2 originals — one presented by K to RNB [Reginald Norman Best] on 18 January 1964, the other acquired by K since I presented him with the photocopy and which K presented to me ‘As a commemoration of that supermemorable day[,] March 23, 1976’” (both copies now in the Archive).

Layout: The following table shows the detailed layout of the pages. Under “Initial Page”, the page number after the comma applies to the reprint.

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Refresh the page to revert to the initial order.

Chapter Number Previous
Title or Section Initial Page Final Page Pages (N)
Chapter Number Previous
Title or Section Initial Page Final Page Pages (N)
  [Half-title] i• i•  
  [Blank page] ii• ii•  
  [Title page]

iii• iii•  
  [Copyright page] iv• iv•  
  [Dedication] {In the reprint, the dedication is reproduced on the new copyright page.}

To my Friend / ROBERT LORENZ
v• v•  
  [Blank page] vi• vi•  
  Order of Contents vii viii• 2
  Foreword by A. R. Orage ix• xii• 3

Acknowledgements by the author, signed “Kaikhosru Sorabji”, who writes: “I desire to express my indebtedness to my very dear friend Bernard Bromage for his kindness in seeing this book through the press in my unavoidable absence.”
xiii• xiii•  
  [Blank page] xiv• xiv•  
  Around Music

Followed by a quotation of the passage “And what the people but a herd confused” ... “Of whom to be dispraised were no small praise” from chapter 3 of Paradise Regained (1671) by John Milton (1608-74)
xv• xv•  
  [Blank page] xvi• xvi•  
I   Composers and the Recognition of Contemporaries 17 20 4
II Busoni

Originally published as “The Death of Busoni”, The New Age 35, no. 16 (14 August 1924): 189.

Italian translation by Mara Luzzatto in Ferruccio Busoni e il pianoforte del Novecento: convegno internazionale di studi (Centro Studi Musicali Ferruccio Busoni, Empoli, Convento degli Agostiniani, 12-14 novembre 1999; Quaderni di Music/Realtà, no. 30), ed. Marco Vincenzi (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2001), 321-28. The section discussing the Fantasia contrappuntistica is quoted in Marco Vincenzi, “Fantasia contrappuntistica: Höhepunkt und Modell der polyphonen Klaviermusik vor und nach Busoni”, in Albrecht Riethmüller and Hyesu Shin, eds., Busoni in Berlin: Facetten eines kosmopolitischen Komponisten (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004), 89-106; 101-2.
21 30 10
III Opera in the Vernacular

Preliminary version published in The New Age 35, no. 12 (17 July 1924): 140-41.
31 37 7
IV Animadversions on Singing in General, with Remarks on the Misuse of the Term ‘Coloratura’

1. Singing in General [pp. 38-46]. Originally published as “Some Animadversions on Singing in General and Operatic Singing in Particular”, MILO [Magazine of the Imperial League of Opera] 1, no. 1 (October 1929): 19-23.
2. On the Misuse of the Term ‘Coloratura’ [pp. 47-51]. For an earlier treatment of the topic of the second part, see “Music”, The New Age 36, no. 13 (22 January 1925): 150.
38 51 14
V   The Modern Piano Sonata 52 65 14
VI The Modern Piano Concerto Preliminary version as “The Piano Concerto in Contemporary Music”, Musical News and Herald 48, no. 1733 (13 June 1925): 562-64. 66 77 12
VII The Decline of the Public Concert with Some Reflections on the Concert Problem

Preliminary version as “The Decline of the Public Concert”, The New Age 39, no. 10 (8 July 1926): 110; no. 11 (15 July 1926): 121-22.
78 91 14
VIII   The Voice in Contemporary Composition 92 98 7
IX On Neglected Works

Originally published in The Musical Times 65, no. 972 (1 February 1924): 127-29.
99 106 8
X   Attitudes of Mind Towards Music 107 111 5
XI   Musical Appreciation 112 114 2
XII Of Simplicity

Originally published as “Simplicity from Around Music: XII. — Of Simplicity”, The Scottish Musical Magazine 12, no. 2 (December 1930): 28-29 (in the same issue as Erik Chisholm’s programme notes for the first performance of Opus clavicembalisticum)
115 119 5
XIII   Towards an Ideal Opera House with Some Remarks on Opera 120 126 7
XIV   The Judgment of Posterity 127 128 2
XV   Fashions in Piano ‘Methods’ with Animadversions on ‘the beautiful tone’ Fetish 129 131 3
XVI Medtner

Reprinted as “The Greatness of Medtner”, in Nicolas Medtner (1879 [i.e. 1880]-1951): A Tribute to His Art and Personality, ed. Richard Holt (London: Dennis Dobson, 1955), 122-32.
132 137 7
XVII   Against Women Instrumentalists 138 141 4
XVIII   ‘Although no longer in the fashion’, with Some Reflections on Modern French Music 142 146 5
XIX   Oriental Atmosphere 147 151 5
XX   An Enquiry into the Claim That the Public Taste in Music Has Improved 152 158 7
XXI   The Singing and Playing of Bach 159 163 5
XXII   The Contralto, the Gallon-Jug and Other Like Matters 164 166 3
XXIII   On the Value of Professional Criticism 167 171 6
XXIV   Gesture and Action in the Wagner Music Dramas 172 175 4
XXV   Pachmann and Chopin 176 177 2
XXVI Notes of the Symphonies of Mahler

Preliminary version as “Mahler and English Audiences”, Musical Mirror and Fanfare 12, no. 5 (May-June 1932): 124-25.
178 193 16
XXVII   The Opera Fantasies of Liszt 194 197 4
XXVIII   ‘Performance’ versus ‘Celebration’ 198 200 3
XXIX   Against Italian Opera Singers 201 205 5
XXX Towards a New Keyboard Instrument of the Piano Type

Preliminary version as “Towards a New Piano”, Musical News and Herald 47, no. 1694 (13 September 1924): 216-17.

Reprinted as “Towards a New Piano” as part of Douglas R. Carrington, “The Klavins Piano”, The Organ 70, no. 278 (Autumn 1991): 199-204; 200-203.
206 212 7
XXXI   Charles Henri Victorin Morhange (Alkan) [recte Charles Valentin Alkan]

Translated into French by François Luguenot, with an introduction and notes, in Bulletin de la Société Alkan, no. 44 (March 1999): 7-11.

Reprinted in Alkan Society Bulletin, no. 87 (August 2012): 5-8.
213 219 7
XXXII   The Organ Works of Reger 220 226 7
XXXIII Music and Sex

Technically not previously published, but based on “A Short Paper on Music and Sex”, in The Fruits of Misanthropy, being The Animadversions of a Machiavellian, item no. 111 (orig. no. CXII); annotated edition by Marc-André Roberge of the manuscript in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection, McMaster University (forthcoming).

Sorabji also wrote an unpublished and undated essay entitled “Addition to the Chapter ‘Music and Sex’”, written after 1945, and most probably between 1953 and 1957; annotated edition by Marc-André Roberge of the manuscript in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection, McMaster University (forthcoming).
227 231 5
XXXIV The Operatic Situation

Previously published in The New English Weekly 1, no. 4 (12 May 1932): 91-92; no. 5 (19 May 1932): 118-19.
232 242 11
  Postludium[:] ‘The Good, the Beautiful, the True’ 243 244 2
  Index [half-title and blank verso] 245• 246•  
  Index 247 250  

Mi contra fa: The Immoralisings of a Machiavellian Musician

Publication data: London: Porcupine Press, 1947; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1986. 247 pp. The original publisher’s address is given on p. [6] as well as on the back flap of the dust jacket, where it also reads: “Trade Distributors: Paul Elek Publishers Ltd / 38 Hatton Garden, E.C.1 / (Catalogue No. 500/9)”. A liquidator was appointed on 14 January 1953 according to the London Gazette of 27 January 1953. The address of the publisher of the reprint is given on the copyright page: Da Capo Press, Inc. [sold in 1999 to the Perseus Books Group, part of the Hachette Book Group since 2016], 233 Spring Street, New York, N.Y. 10013. This reprint is no longer available.

Dimensions: 224 × 147 mm (8 1/2″ × 5 1/2″), for both the original edition and the reprint.

Proof copy: A proof copy, now in a private collection, comes with light brown plain wrappers, of which the cover has a pasted whitish rectangle reading “MI CONTRA FA [horizontal line] THE PORCUPINE PRESS”. There are some corrections by the proofreader as well as vignettes loosely cut out and pasted at the end of the chapters (often not the same as those found in the published edition).

Binding and spine: The original edition is bound in pale green cloth, with “MI contra FA [horizontal gruppetto] Sorabji [horizontal gruppetto]” written horizontally in gold letters on the spine. The reprint is bound is navy blue cloth, with the title and author’s in gold letters as they appear on the title page. The text on the spine, written horizontally, reads “Sorabji / MI CONTRA FA / Da Capo” (the surrounding sections are written across).

Dust jacket: The dust jacket, which is light brown, green, and beige colours on the front side, shows a small circular pavilion with an onion-shaped dome inside which sits on a large chair an Indian man with a black beard wearing a thimble-shaped hat (partly black) and smoking a water pipe. On the floor, to the left, is an almost naked boy-servant offering food from a plate, and to the right, a woman with black hair playing a musical instrument with plucked strings. Birds, animals, and floral forms surround the pavilion. Above the dome is a banner with the main title of the book; on each side of the banner is a putto wearing an Indian headdress. The subtitle (in title capitalization) appears below the pavilion, followed by the author’s name in full caps (K. S. SORABJI). The publisher’s name (in full caps) appears at the bottom, under a row of grass, between two black porcupines facing each other. The artist’s signature, hardly decipherable (Brary?), appears in the lower-right corner.

The back of the dust jacket, which has a predominantly beige background, shows green leaves and brown flowers, and a brown bird on the left and a beige one on the right. Within an oval formed by stems is an Indian deity with four arms, in brown, blowing into a set of three ivory horns held by three hands, with the fourth one holding a flower.

The spine shows (1) a rectangular cartouche containing the title (in full caps) with the subtitle (in title capitalization) below, an ornament, and the author’s name as “ K. S. SORABJI”, (2) a flower, and (3) a black porcupine facing left below which one reads the publisher’s name (in full caps).

Contents of the dust jacket (publisher’s blurb on the front and back flaps):

The Immoralisings of a Machiavellian


Not many, even among the musical cognoscenti, know of Kaikhosru Sorabji’s numerous musical compositions, though they are numerous, on the grand scale and of great technical virtuosity. Although he has lived and worked in England most of his life, Sorabji follows no school or contemporary fashion; and his music may be said to exhibit an essentially Oriental mind expressing itself in modern European musical technique. In putting forth this point of view, one discerning critic added that probably few minds, as yet, in either East or West were prepared for such a synthesis. Nevertheless, among the great musicians who have expressed themselves in superlative terms on Sorabji’s creative work are Busoni, Delius, Heseltine and Bernard van Dieren.

As a writer of acute musical appreciation and criticism, Sorabji has long held a unique position. In the New English Weekly, and before that in the New Age, his contributions have established a reputation for authoritative scholarship, integrity of purpose and a style at once vigorous, incisive and colourful. His first book, “Around Music,” appeared 14 years ago.

[Continued on back flap

Writing of Sorabji in his autobiography, Hugh MacDiarmid, the Scottish poet and littérat[e]ur, associates his name with Professor Denis Saurat, Francis George Scott and Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty, and says : “I question if any other four men in Europe to-day are equally rich in intellectual and artistic gifts.” Of himself, Mr. Sorabji says that he combines in his person (“as Macaulay might have said”) by an ingenious device all the qualities perfectly calculated to make him persona ingratissima in all the “correct” musical circles.

{The quoted passage by Hugh MacDiarmid comes from his “Author’s Note”, in Lucky Poet: A Self-Study in Literature and Political Ideas, Being the Autobiography of Hugh MacDiarmid (Christopher Murray Grieve) (London: Methuen, 1943), ix. The reference to Sorabji is taken from the chapter “Portmanteau Words: or Those “British” Composers” in Mi contra fa (p. 78): “[...] having no official status at any institution, combining, as he is wont to say himself, by a quaint device every quality most perfectly calcultated to make him persona ingratissima with any musical circle [...]”. Macaulay is the British historian and Whig politician Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), to whom Sorabji refers in his essay “The Physiognomy of Musicians; or, Composers out of Countenance” when describing music critics: “[...] some of them whose hypertrophic globular bulk by an ingenious device, as Lord Macaulay would have said, indicated the immensity of the vacuity of their minds” (p. 245).}

Believing that both these statements may have some justification, the publishers present this new book of essays on a wide diversity of topics linking music and society, to interest and perhaps provoke all those who compose, perform or listen to music.

Capitalization: It is strongly recommended that the title be written “Mi contra fa” rather than “Mi contra Fa” or “Mi Contra Fa”.

Layout: The following table shows the detailed layout of the pages. Under “Initial Page”, the entries up to (but not including) “[Flyleaf]” apply to the reprint.

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Refresh the page to revert to the initial order.

Chapter Number Previous
Title or Section Initial Page Final Page Pages (N)
Chapter Number Previous
Title or Section Initial Page Final Page Pages (N)
  Reprint only


  Reprint only

Da Capo Press Music Reprint Series
  Reprint only

[Title page with black cartouche]

MI CONTRA FA / The Immoralisings of a / Machiavellian Musician / by Kaikhosru Shapurji / Sorabji / Da Capo Press [bullet] New York [bullet] 1986
  Reprint only

[Copyright page]
  Reprint only

Introduction [3 unnumbered pages]

Signed Donald Garvelmann, New York City, January 1986
  [Flyleaf, two sides]  
  [Blank page] 1-2•  

Mi Contra Fa
  by the same author / [star] / AROUND MUSIC 4•  
  [Title page with red cartouche featuring at the top a violin and a music score wrapped with a ribbon]

MI CONTRA FA / The Immoralisings of a Machiavellian Musician by Kaikhosru Shapurji / Sorabji / THE PORCUPINE PRESS / LONDON
  [Publication data]

First published mcmxlvii / by the Porcupine Press Limited / 26 Bloomsbury Way W.C.1 / Printed in Great Britain at / The Whitefriars Press Limited Tonbridge / All Rights Reserved

To my honoured and revered friend / PROFESSOR DENIS SAURAT
  [Blank page] 8•  

Note at the end: Title-page border adapted from an old Italian score, by courtesy of Mr Leonard Hyman. Decorations reproduced from woodcuts in William Caslon’s type book, 1793.
9• 10  

Quotation (with some modifications) of the paragraph beginning with “Consider well your neighbour” from the chapter entitled “Rome” in Alone by Norman Douglas (London: Chapman and Hall, 1921), 136-37.
11 1
  “Mi contra Fa est Diabolus in Musica” (Mediæval monastic prohibition of the use of the Tritone.) 12•  
I   Introito 13 16 4
II   When is a Concerto not a Concerto? 17 1
III   Music and Muddleheadedness

The paragraph beginning with “Out with it, Dunciad!”, from the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1734) by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), is used as epigraph.
18 40 23
IV   The Amateurs, or Thick Skins and Thicker Heads 41 46 6
V   Organic and Inorganic Form 47 52 6
VI   Sentimentality and Contemporaneity: with Especial Reference to Music 53 61 9
VII Leopold Godowsky as Creative Transcriber

Incorporates parts of “Godowsky”, The New English Weekly 17, no. 9 (20 June 1940): 109-10.

Reprinted as “A Tribute to Godowsky” in After Midnight Thoughts on Godowsky, Etc. (ed. Paul Howard), no. 2 (undated; between 1936? and 1951): 7-8.
62 70 9
VIII   Yoga and the Composer 71 75 5
IX   Portmanteau Words: or Those “British” Composers 76 79 4
X   “La Trahison des Clercs”: Music and War-Mongering 80 88 9
XI The Decline of Music and Musical Taste in England (With some Reflections upon the Future of Music)

Pages 100-103 were first published as “Music”, The New English Weekly 9, no. 15 (23 July 1936): 293-94.
89 106 18
XII   The Way of the Virtuoso 107 113 7
XIII   Cant and the Classics 114 118 5
XIV   A Note on Ernest Chausson 119 124 6
XV   Beer and British Music 125 127 3
XVI Modern Popular Music as part of a Plan of Progressive Besotment

Pages 129 (third paragraph) to 131 (first complete paragraph) were first published as “Music”, The New English Weekly 21, no. 10 (25 June 1942): 86-87.
128 132 5
XVII   Blanche Marchesi 133 140 8
XVIII   “Il Gran Rifiuto”

(i) Reasons for not going to Concerts [pp. 141-43]
(ii) Reasons for having nothing to do with Musicians [pp. 143-45]
(iii) Reasons for living in a Granite Tower [pp. 145-48]
141 148 8
XIX   Bernard van Dieren

See the obituary entitled “Bernard van Dieren”, The New English Weekly 9, no. 45 (14 May 1936): 92-93.
149 157 9
XX   The Great French Song Writers 158 167 10
XXI   Petit Dialogue Philosophique; (With apologies to Chamfort) 168 169 2
XXII   Rachmaninoff and Rabies 170 177 8
XXIII   Karol Szymanowsky [recte Szymanowski] 178 187 10
XXIV   Open Letter to a Conductor 188 192 5
XXV   Metapsychic Motivation in Music 193 216 24
XXVI The Songs of Francis George Scott

Incorporates parts of “Music”, The New English Weekly 23, no. 12 (8 July 1943): 105.

Reprinted from Scottish Arts & Letters 1 (1944): 22-23.
217 223 7
XXVII   Piano Design 224 228 5
XXVIII   Indian Music and Indian and Western Musical Criticism 229 234 6
XXIX   A Note on York Bowen

See a related article, “Music”, The New English Weekly 25, no. 14 (20 July 1944): 123, which discusses Bowen’s Twenty-Four Preludes for Piano, dedicated to Sorabji.
235 239 5
XXX   The Physiognomy of Musicians; or, Composers out of Countenance 240 247 8
Last modified: 2024-05-07
© Marc-André Roberge 2024
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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