On Marvellous Things Heard

On Marvellous Things Heard (nonfiction, to order click title or book cover)

Derived in form from Aristotle’s “Minor Work” of the same title, this variation of ON MARVELLOUS THINGS HEARD explores a range of literary appropriations of music, in terms of translation and metamorphosis. Part investigation, part inventory, and part invention (in the musical sense: a composition in simple counterpoint), this poetically-driven essay assays the narrating subject as she assays the subjects of literature, of music, and of silence.



A beautiful and evocative interweaving of short texts about music and language.  The unexpected juxtapositions shed surprising light on this famously tangled relationship.

~ Joseph N. Straus, Distinguished Professor of Music, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, author of Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music


…hypnotic…a sumptuous tapestry… In awareness of its form, On Marvellous Things Heard possesses a superabundant consciousness: nearly every fragment includes a footnote, which means experiencing the book sensorially, flipping forth and back, from product to originator, from expression to creator—a song-song, lilting effect akin to melody. Space and non-space, sound and silence. In that interlude of assigning a maker to the quotation is the echo of the self dismantling the self, and progressing through the work…The experience of On Marvellous Things Heard is to be an interloper between silence, and one type of silence, and our silence, expressed in a form that demands acknowledgment even as it has no choice but to do so; and so creating cohesion within and between the spaces of text and paper, reader and author, listener and hearer, eye and paper, eye and sound of words in one’s head, dancer and dance, creator and created, form and content, even as it dissolves…

~ August Evans, htmlgiant (read more here)


And G.C. Waldrep writes in his introduction to this collection:

“To prevent myself from becoming ‘earwashed,”’ Henderson writes, “I must again and again shift my listening.” Must listen to the act of listening; must, then, commit an act of the mind (volition, a choice) on the act of the mind of the body (the aural faculty) … To move through a mind thinking on this subject of silence, this subject of music, is to dance about architecture, to sing about economics—these structures of exchange, of raiment. We are not ourselves, or not only.


smart and passionate…On Marvellous Things Heard is a translation, a metamorphosis, and, in some parts, it’s just really awesome and funny and you don’t have to overanalyze it. All told, the book is one to read and re-read, a different way each time. 

~ Another Chicago Magazine


I wish there were more like it.

~ Small Press Reviews


All those who have enjoyed Gretchen E. Henderson’s collaborative Galerie de Difformité will happily feel invited to assemble in their own way the marvelous bits collected in this chrestomathy of thinking about music and language.

~ Tom La Farge, author of Administrative Assemblages and Homomorphic Converters


To read about Gretchen’s other books, visit Ugliness: A Cultural HistoryGalerie de Difformité, The House Enters the Street, or Wreckage: By Land & By Sea.