Bernard van Dieren (1887 - 1936) was a Dutch composer whose life was spent mostly in England. A respected but controversial composer (his admirers included the Sitwell brothers, Peter Warlock, Cecil Gray, Constant Lambert and Kaikhosru Sorabji) his music was little performed in his lifetime and after his death soon fell into obscurity.
He was a man of many intellectual gifts and an accomplished writer. This book, Down Among the Dead Men consists of five long essays: an explanatory introduction; two on composers who were neglected at the time of the book's first publication in 1933 - Busoni ("the best thing on Busoni in the English language" according to the composer Ronald Stevenson), and Meyerbeer; Music and Wit; and Sine Nomine, a plea for a reform of the ways in which music is written, written about, and programmed.
In a preface to the book van Dieren writes that "The reader may often wonder where he will be dragged next. One moment he will feel that he is being held up intolerably long in obscure corners, the next that he is being rushed past an imposing edifice which he would wish to explore... I hope no more than that on the circuit I may be able to show some unfamliar mews, alleys, and subways... I do not pretend to take the reader straight from the station to the hotel; I have tried to be a companion, not a guide. I believe I have shown him some queer customers in the bus and the Underground, and loafing at odd corners. Principal buildings and monuments are always in the same places and may be inspected at any time."