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Time’s Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance by Jeremy Eichler

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When it comes to how societies remember these increasingly distant dreams and catastrophes, we often think of history books, archives, documentaries, or memorials carved from stone. But in Time’s Echo, the award-winning critic and cultural historian Jeremy Eichler makes a passionate and revelatory case for the power of music as culture’s memory, an art form uniquely capable of carrying forward meaning from the past.

With a critic’s ear, a scholar’s erudition, and a novelist’s eye for detail, Eichler shows how four towering composers—Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Benjamin Britten—lived through the era of the Second World War and the Holocaust and later transformed their experiences into deeply moving, transcendent works of music, scores that echo lost time.

Summoning the supporting testimony of writers, poets, philosophers, musicians, and everyday citizens, Eichler reveals how the essence of an entire epoch has been inscribed in these sounds and stories. Along the way, he visits key locations central to the music’s creation, from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral to the site of the Babi Yar ravine in Kyiv.  

Time’s Echo is not just a book about music; it’s a call to reevaluate how we perceive and remember history. Eichler challenges readers to listen deeply, to uncover the layers of meaning within the notes, and to recognize the profound resonances of an era inscribed in the melodies and harmonies. As the collective memory of the Second World War fades, this book emerges as a poignant reminder of the enduring promise of art and how it enriches our understanding of the past. It is a compelling and compassionate exploration that invites readers to embrace the echoes of history embedded in the timeless strains of music.

“We were stunned by [Time’s Echo’s] profundity, its masterful structure, its beautiful shimmering sentences. It is evidently a life’s work, a labor of love, and a testimony to the pain of war. It has an utterly unique voice, and it warrants being classed as a masterpiece of nonfiction writing.”—Shortlist citation, Jury of the Baillie Gifford Prize

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