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How Music Works

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How Music Works is David Byrne’s remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Acting as historian an How Music Works is David Byrne’s remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Acting as historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, he searches for patterns—and shows how those patterns have affected his own work over the years with Talking Heads and his many collaborators, from Brian Eno to Caetano Veloso. Byrne sees music as part of a larger, almost Darwinian pattern of adaptations and responses to its cultural and physical context. His range is panoptic, taking us from Wagnerian opera houses to African villages, from his earliest high school reel-to-reel recordings to his latest work in a home music studio (and all the big studios in between). Touching on the joy, the physics, and even the business of making music, How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.


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How Music Works is David Byrne’s remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Acting as historian an How Music Works is David Byrne’s remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Acting as historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, he searches for patterns—and shows how those patterns have affected his own work over the years with Talking Heads and his many collaborators, from Brian Eno to Caetano Veloso. Byrne sees music as part of a larger, almost Darwinian pattern of adaptations and responses to its cultural and physical context. His range is panoptic, taking us from Wagnerian opera houses to African villages, from his earliest high school reel-to-reel recordings to his latest work in a home music studio (and all the big studios in between). Touching on the joy, the physics, and even the business of making music, How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.

30 review for How Music Works

  1. 3 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “But at times words can be a dangerous addition to music — they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more... ― David Byrne, How Music Works ...If done poorly, they can destroy the pleasant ambiguity that constitutes much of the reason we love music. That ambiguity allows listeners to psychologically tailor a song to suit their needs, sensibilities, and situations, but words can limit that, too. There are plenty of beautiful tracks that I “But at times words can be a dangerous addition to music — they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more... ― David Byrne, How Music Works ...If done poorly, they can destroy the pleasant ambiguity that constitutes much of the reason we love music. That ambiguity allows listeners to psychologically tailor a song to suit their needs, sensibilities, and situations, but words can limit that, too. There are plenty of beautiful tracks that I can’t listen to because they’ve been “ruined” by bad words — my own and others. In Beyonce's song "Irreplaceable," she rhymes "minute" with "minute," and I cringe every time I hear it (partly because by that point I'm singing along). On my own song "Astronaut," I wrap up with the line "feel like I'm an astronaut," which seems like the dumbest metaphor for alienation ever. Ugh.” ― David Byrne, How Music Works Like several nonfiction books I've read lately, my big complaint is I wish he just gave us more, dug a bit deeper, and perhaps hired a better editor. I like that the book was infused with his own populist, funky, musical biases. It seemed casual. Like talking to a really open person who isn't trying to hide or pull the shades on his own past. He didn't shy away from his own mistakes and his own life. He used Talking Heads and his own albums as examples of the different ways music can be done and sold. His interests allow this book to move from punk to African music to soundtracks, etc. One of my favorite themes of Byrne's reminded me of the last book I read (The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction). David Byrne seemed passionate about not just music alone, but music's place in our social networks. How music is both a communication with others and reflective of our community. In his more zen moments he even rambles on about the music of the Universe, etc. Byrne's biases were occasionally annoying. He did seem to carry a pretty large dark spot right on-top of classic music's basic repertoire. His politics, or musical reactions to politics, also seems a bit naïve. But all is forgiven, in the end. This is a guy who is not afraid to put himself WAY out there, describe the scene as he sees it, and figure out a way to make the people around him want to dance. And THAT I guess says a lot and hides a multitude of minor sins as we dance into the darkness.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Loring Wirbel

    I approached Byrne's latest with a little trepidation, due to a less than stellar NY Times review, and due to the number of people in the music industry (notably his own former bandmates in Talking Heads) who feel somewhat mistreated by Byrne. I was ready to read something that might be a bit arrogant, but was pleasantly surprised to read a folksy, fun, and exuberantly-written series of essays about how the 21st-century music industry operates, how the disappearance of the physical artifact (CD I approached Byrne's latest with a little trepidation, due to a less than stellar NY Times review, and due to the number of people in the music industry (notably his own former bandmates in Talking Heads) who feel somewhat mistreated by Byrne. I was ready to read something that might be a bit arrogant, but was pleasantly surprised to read a folksy, fun, and exuberantly-written series of essays about how the 21st-century music industry operates, how the disappearance of the physical artifact (CD or LP) will affect that industry, and how the arguments over how live and recorded music should be presented, processed, and marketed have antecedents stretching back into the 19th century. There are aspects of arrangement of the book's material, and how certain material is presented, that would be less than optimal from my own point of view, but Byrne scores enough grand-slam home runs to merit this book an easy five-star ranking. He approaches some topics with a detached and Zen air that will drive some passionate music lovers crazy, but that is sort of Byrne's point. And his conclusions are usually ones I agree with. Byrne really is trying to write two books, interspersing dual narratives. He is writing about the history of live performance and the advent of music recording a century ago, and he also wants to provide a partial memoir of his own work with Talking Heads, and as a solo artist. For the latter task, he elected to break the story up into live-performance history, recording-studio history, and scene-making (CBGBs, primarily) history. This may be a little maddening for those who want to sort out a linear history of Talking Heads, but it allows his memoir material to dovetail with his analytical material more effectively. (It also makes it easier for him to avoid talking frankly about how his collaborations with others sometimes dissolved in anger and recrimination - I will give Byrne points for quoting Pitchfork that "Byrne will collaborate with a bag of Doritos," and for titling a subsection "Plays Well with Others" - but he doesn't speak frankly enough about why he sometimes flunked the plays-well-with-others report card). When talking about the Edison/Victrola recorded device wars of the early 20th century, he shows that the dispute between CD and LP fans over which medium sounds "warmer" is nothing new at all, but decades old. In analyzing the sound qualities of the cathedral and the juke joint, he shows how decisions about the musical instruments to use, the timbre, volume, and pitch, had everything to do with the performance space. In so doing, Byrne utterly rejects the idea that there is a "high art" (symphony hall, opera theater) vs. "low art" (barn dance or Irish pub) distinction to be made - in fact, he rejects the concept that there is "evolution" in music at all (except for the addition of electronic representation), insisting instead that there is only an ebb and flow. The African drum circle is as advanced as Stockhausen, in Byrne's eyes. This struggle for egalitarian ears and a sense that "it's all good" may outrage some musical purists. Byrne admits that lossy compression such as MP3 has made consumers "crappier listeners," but then goes on to say that the result certainly isn't as bad as the 1960s transitor-radio sound, and that many people may make emotional attachments to music they hear in MP3 format. Similarly, he says that the tendency to initially sample musical phrases and later sample entire musical instrument sound libraries, may lead to vast archives of electronic music made entirely from a laptop, with no "real" musical instrument present. This can outrage traditional musicians, he says, but also allows a flexibility in the portfolios of Girl Talk, DangerMau5, etc. (though it may make it harder for the latter breed of musician to perform in a "live" concert). What Byrne most adamantly rejects is the notion that a musician or a recording is more "authentic" because it was a scratchy field recording of the Alan Lomax variety, a lo-fi recording of the Pavement/GbV variety, or a live recording of real instruments in an Irish pub. A new kind of authentic behavior is built from inauthenticity, Byrne says, so we should be careful about rejecting anything. (A folkie musician at a live show in my home town had to put up with a woman in the audience constantly putting down hip-hop, and he finally said, "Maybe you just need to grow a new pair of ears.") Byrne provides technology chapters to explain how music itself, and the task of recording it, was digitized and formatted in a way that was bound to eliminate the archival devices, just as the online world is slowly making the printed book fade from memory. He makes few technical mistakes in describing this, and scores wonderful observations regarding how technology changes both the emotional response to music, and the sense of music's texture and layering. He also provides an extended chapter on the business of being a musician in an era where the record label is disappearing. In the process of discussing six contractual business models, he is remarkably frank about the costs he entailed in making some of his own recent recordings, and which business methods proved profitable. He holds up Aimee Mann as an example of someone willing to try unusual business models for marketing and distribution, though he warns that an extreme DIY (do-it-yourself) model can be very expensive for the emerging musician, particularly if the musician is a business neophyte. The chapters following the hard-headed 21st-century business analysis were a bit of a letdown. I loved the intent of his chapter on amateur music-festival presentations and funding models for getting amateur music underwritten, but the examples he chose seemed scattershot. What made the 'Amateurs!' chapter such a pleasure to read, even if only a partial success as a guide, was its denunciation of the arts-council aristocracy that only wants to legitimize the "high art" of concert hall. (Byrne loves to point out that the original Italian and German opera audiences were comprised of a bunch of uncouth loudmouths, often less polite than the moshers in the worst punk clubs.) The final chapter, 'Harmonia Mundi,' had a great intent in pulling together global music trends, but I think he could have opted for a more analytical study of cross-cultural resonances. The analysis of Kepler's "music of the spheres" seemed a bit dated and almost alchemical, if not hippie-dippie. But he included a section on mirror-neurons and the rise of the empathic consciousness, so the book does not conclude in a full fizzle. The most satisfying aspect of the book was not merely that Byrne likes all kinds of music from all kinds of cultures. Many writers on music agree with that. Byrne goes a step farther by discussing all aspects of music presentation, music recording, and the false claims of authenticity raised by many curators. The penniless blues musician sought by Lomax in the Mississippi Delta, and the billion-selling dancey-pop artist relying on all-electronic music libraries, both display different forms of authenticity in Byrne's eyes (and ears). This will be the aspect of the book that drives music purists mad. Maybe they just need to grow a new pair of ears.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    There is a lot of information about musical roots and how musicians worked to perfect their sound according to what worked best with their style. I was fascinated by the facts about the designs of opera houses, concert halls and clubs. There are some entertaining tidbits in this book which covers not only the history but the decisions on Byrne's bands, music, and even clothing choices. It was an enjoyable read and I was provided this paperback copy by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest There is a lot of information about musical roots and how musicians worked to perfect their sound according to what worked best with their style. I was fascinated by the facts about the designs of opera houses, concert halls and clubs. There are some entertaining tidbits in this book which covers not only the history but the decisions on Byrne's bands, music, and even clothing choices. It was an enjoyable read and I was provided this paperback copy by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. One bonus was a massive amount of personal and informational pictures. All in all I enjoyed this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    yh

    I've loved the music of Talking Heads for a long time, so when I first heard about this book, I made sure to file it away so that I could read it. I finally did, and I'm really glad that David Byrne wrote this book. This isn't really a memoir, nor is it a scientific treatise. Rather, Byrne simply goes through the music creation process (ideation, performance, recording, manufacturing, promotion, etc.) piece by piece and explains them to the best of his ability. Of course, as a musician, his own e I've loved the music of Talking Heads for a long time, so when I first heard about this book, I made sure to file it away so that I could read it. I finally did, and I'm really glad that David Byrne wrote this book. This isn't really a memoir, nor is it a scientific treatise. Rather, Byrne simply goes through the music creation process (ideation, performance, recording, manufacturing, promotion, etc.) piece by piece and explains them to the best of his ability. Of course, as a musician, his own experiences do come up frequently, and for fans of Byrne or Talking Heads, it's a real treat to get an insight into the process behind making those records, especially in the early-to-mid Talking Heads era. Byrne often goes on tangents, elaborating upon many different concepts and thoughts which are seemingly only tangentially related to the topic at hand. However, all of these distractions are as enlightening as the main points of the book, and didn't detract from it at all. Byrne's takes on these issues are well thought out and elucidated, and while he is often quite opinionated, he seems to give a fair shake to opposing viewpoints as well. I learned a lot about listening to music from this book, and it gave me lots of food for thought about what music means to me, what it can mean to me, and how it can enhance my life. I often take music for granted, and as a result I often wish I connected to it in a deeper way, as Byrne seems to do. This book represented a first step of sorts to me in trying to rid myself of that perception. Ultimately, music should be a personal thing, whether one is creating it, consuming it, or experiencing it. I plan on buying the expanded paperback edition of this book, so that I can keep it in my own bookshelf and refer to it periodically. There was almost too much in there for me to process this time around, and I look forward to next time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jud Barry

    Byrne gives us his take on music in a style that is very pleasant, straightforward, and conversational. He comes across as someone whose wide-ranging, collaborative experience and creative intelligence combine with an everyday kind of modesty in a way that allows you to imagine you could run into him in a club somewhere (he tries to take in at least one live performance a week) and have a good conversation, provided the music lets you (one of his criteria for a good music scene). The title is a l Byrne gives us his take on music in a style that is very pleasant, straightforward, and conversational. He comes across as someone whose wide-ranging, collaborative experience and creative intelligence combine with an everyday kind of modesty in a way that allows you to imagine you could run into him in a club somewhere (he tries to take in at least one live performance a week) and have a good conversation, provided the music lets you (one of his criteria for a good music scene). The title is a little bit of a misnomer--I wanted to see a parenthetical addendum, country-music-song-style, something along the lines of (And How It Doesn't) to indicate that some of the best parts of the book are those where Byrne looks askance at certain musical phenomena, e.g. the current state of elitist classical musical establishments (symphonies) or Muzak. The book would be a great gift or recommendation for someone--especially a young person--who's passionate about listening to music but who hasn't really thought about it in any structured way, or alternatively for someone who has *only* had formal instruction. I did have a few quibbles--"Technology Shapes Music" starts with sound recording, which is strange, considering that elsewhere in the book Byrne mentions the Neanderthal stone flute, surely a form of technology. It seems even stranger when, within the technology chapter, there's a section on "instrument technology and its influence on music" that starts with the theremin and implies that it's the first instrument to give Westerners "less culturally-specific options" allowing, for example, for non-Western bending of notes. This segues into a section on the electric guitar, which culminates in the story of its sound in the hands of Jimi Hendrix: "That unwritten law of staying true to the sound of a traditional instrument had been violently broken. ... As with Theremin and his instrument, the electric guitars were breaking free of history." There is a lot to argue with here, but I don't want to insult this excellent book by belaboring it; suffice it to say that whatever unwritten law there may have been in Western music, the first ones to break it were African-Americans "jazzing" the sound of trumpets, trombones, and saxophones. But overall this is a fine and a fun book, and Byrne's perspective is admirably holistic: "I welcome the liberation of music from the prison of melody, rigid structure, and harmony. Why not? But I also listen to music that does adhere to those guidelines. Listening to the Music of the Spheres might be glorious, but I crave a concise song now and then, a narrative or a snapshot more than a whole universe."

  6. 3 out of 5

    julieta

    Una maravilla de libro. De verdad, me gusta mucho más que el anterior, diarios de Bicicleta, me parece que se llamaba. Este es David con todo, y eso que no puedo decir que he seguido su carrera, aunque siempre he admirado su capacidad para hacer tantas cosas distintas, arte, performance, talking heads! Me encanta, es una celebración de la música, es inspirador, desde tips musicales, hasta de la industria. Me deja muy inspirada para salirme de la caja, para inventar, intentar, y seguir haciendo m Una maravilla de libro. De verdad, me gusta mucho más que el anterior, diarios de Bicicleta, me parece que se llamaba. Este es David con todo, y eso que no puedo decir que he seguido su carrera, aunque siempre he admirado su capacidad para hacer tantas cosas distintas, arte, performance, talking heads! Me encanta, es una celebración de la música, es inspirador, desde tips musicales, hasta de la industria. Me deja muy inspirada para salirme de la caja, para inventar, intentar, y seguir haciendo música. Muy recomendado.

  7. 3 out of 5

    Charles

    I have been a Talking Heads listener for 30 years. For some reason that escapes me now I began to read How Music Works. To my delight I found it compelling. While much of the text is almost a autobiographical narrative of the creating of Byrne's musical corpus, the role of that narrative is quite different than one might expect. I take the book to be a discussion, a philosophical discussion in the best sense, of the creative process. I am reminded of Wittgenstein's metaphor of coming to understan I have been a Talking Heads listener for 30 years. For some reason that escapes me now I began to read How Music Works. To my delight I found it compelling. While much of the text is almost a autobiographical narrative of the creating of Byrne's musical corpus, the role of that narrative is quite different than one might expect. I take the book to be a discussion, a philosophical discussion in the best sense, of the creative process. I am reminded of Wittgenstein's metaphor of coming to understand a concept by a detailed exploration of its neighborhood, approaching from every direction. Byrne builds a case against the picture of the creative process as a kind of spasm of a tortured soul. While there are likely examples of that genesis of creativity, Byrne instead examines how all the different, divergent factors that impinge on music serve to constrain, enable, and shape the creation that flows from the artist's interests and desires, including extended discussions of venue, the activity of performance, the evolving economics of the music industry, transformative technology, the social scene, collaboration. The discussion is concrete, grounded in his personal narrative but also abstracted from it, distilled. I might add that it is fascinating to watch Stop Making Sense in conjunction with the book's tale. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the creative process, from music to poetry to painting. It is a wise book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tomas Ramanauskas

    David Byrne, a legend, becomes your professor for duration of this book and delivers a fascinating deep dive into the world of music, its hows and whys. He scatters autobiographical experiences amid broadly scoped lecture on the sounds, the formats, the shapes, the evolution, even the numbers behind the recordings. It is a multi-faceted account of near child like astonishment on how this bloody thing really works.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Patrick

    An uneven, often enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing read. My disappointment stems–as, I'm sure, will most readers' interest in the first place (mine included)–from my deep admiration and subsequent expectations of David Byrne. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, Byrne writes that he didn't set out to write an aging rocker bio, nor a set of "think pieces," but a bit of both. The book is most interesting and successful in the biographical chapters: reading David Byrne's anecdotes a An uneven, often enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing read. My disappointment stems–as, I'm sure, will most readers' interest in the first place (mine included)–from my deep admiration and subsequent expectations of David Byrne. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, Byrne writes that he didn't set out to write an aging rocker bio, nor a set of "think pieces," but a bit of both. The book is most interesting and successful in the biographical chapters: reading David Byrne's anecdotes and insights on the making of all those great Talking Heads records, et al., is immensely satisfying. But his philosophizing on broader musical issues is considerably less fulfilling (especially so, admittedly, for the reader who spends much of his personal and professional life immersed in the same issues; perhaps more interesting as entree to those concepts for the lay reader?). And I didn't appreciate the repudiation of classical music culture in the "Amateurs" chapter. It was a little hard to read, from Byrne's perspective, about how well funded classical music is, while dealing bitterly with my own orchestra's financial crisis; and it was disheartening to learn that one of my musical heroes doesn't particularly care for Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven. But what the book lacks, in places, in depth and substance, it partly makes up for in Byrne's beguiling sincerity–the same quality that, for me, renders his music (there too, even when flawed) irresistible. Which reinforces my ultimate conclusion about this book: that I didn't get much from it as a treatise on how music works, but enjoyed it as a lens on David Byrne. That–plus the conviction that it was certainly a better read than "The Baseball Codes"–saves this book from a 2-star rating.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    David Byrne's How Music Works was a perfect book for me to take traveling—dense with information, observations and concrete advice, all organized in manageable sections and copioiusly illustrated. Byrne delivers most handsomely on his title's promise: these essays are nothing less than the collected ruminations of a multi-talented musician on his long-practiced and still vibrant craft. Byrne is also (and not coincidentally, I'm sure) a lifelong neophile, whose mind has remained supple over the pa David Byrne's How Music Works was a perfect book for me to take traveling—dense with information, observations and concrete advice, all organized in manageable sections and copioiusly illustrated. Byrne delivers most handsomely on his title's promise: these essays are nothing less than the collected ruminations of a multi-talented musician on his long-practiced and still vibrant craft. Byrne is also (and not coincidentally, I'm sure) a lifelong neophile, whose mind has remained supple over the passage of decades.There are no hard and fast rules as far as I'm concerned. —p.106I was impressed by how many times throughout the book Byrne says something like 'that project didn't work out, but this is what I learned from it, and this is where we went from there...' He never comments directly on his adaptability, but it's a constant and reassuring backbeat nonetheless. I learned a lot from How Music Works, in fact. The unlikely history of audio tape recording, for just one example, a story I'd never seen elsewhere that involves both strangely-timed Nazi radio transmissions and Bing Crosby's passion for golf... as Byrne notes,The sequence of events that led to the adoption of tape is so accidental and convoluted that its invention and adoption were far from inevitable. —p.103 Or, say, the way your choice of software both fosters and limits creative options:With the Microsoft presentation software PowerPoint, for example, you have to simplify your presentations so much that subtle nuances in the subject being discussed often get edited out. These nuances are not forbidden, they're not blocked, but including them tends to make for a less successful presentation. Likewise, that which is easy to bullet-point and simply visualize works better. That doesn't mean it actually is better; it means working in certain ways is simply easier than working in others. Music software is no different. —p.132 I also received reinforcement for some things that I already knew:The mixtapes we made for ourselves were musical mirrors. The sadness, anger, or frustration you might be feeling at a given time could be encapsulated in the song selection. You made mixtapes that corresponded to emotional states, and they'd be available to pop into the deck when each feeling needed reinforcing or soothing. The mixtape was your friend, your psychiatrist, and your solace. —p.115 I've got to admit, this observation struck a chord (heh) with me:I chatted with Cory Doctorow, an author and activist who prioritizes Internet freedom over the rights of musicians and artists, sometimes to their financial detriment. —p.275And from my (very) limited experience of the Twin Cities, this seemed plausible too:I remember coming up with the words for the song "(Nothing but) Flowers" while driving around suburban Minneapolis. —p.184About the only nit I could find to pick is a really tiny one: Byrne uses the word "provenance" several times (shades of Ann Leckie and her eponymous novel, which I just read, which is probably why this stood out for me)—and he doesn't always use it correctly. Aside from that, though... * Like transmissions from a desperate planet. —p.170The filthy spectre of politics does occasionally, inescapably, creep into Byrne's discourse. Byrne was a major instigator and one of dozens of co-signers on a full-page ad (reproduced on p.195) against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, for example. But then it's difficult (if not impossible) to be a creative person in the U.S. without objecting to at least some of the backward steps this country's taken since the turn of the century...And, unlike religion, no one has ever gone to war over music. —p.329Yet, anyway—although TV's Murphy Brown did once say that "I'd like to think that one day people won't be judged by their color or their gender, but by the things that really matter—their taste in music." Byrne also expresses scorn for rich folks who engage in "reputation laundering" (see p.313)—expiating their rapacious misdeeds by funding so-called "high" art—although he acknowledges that The 1 percent are certainly entitled to their tasteful shrines—it's their money after all, and they do invite us to the party sometimes. —p.327 * In his Acknowledgements for How Music Works, David Byrne concedes that "—the 'aging rocker bio' is a crowded shelf—" (p.369). Now, I have read some very fine examples from that shelf—including Keith Richards' Life, Crazy Enough by Portland's own Storm Large, and I'll Sleep When I'm Dead by Crystal Zevon—but this is not that kind of work. Byrne does provide some biographical material—a couple of mentions of his daughter, for example, though not her name or her mother's name—but the focus here is on his professional life, as a musician who has remained relevant, both in and out of Talking Heads, for more than forty years. After all,Music isn't fragile. —p.10And David Byrne seems pretty robust himself.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Fascinating. Even though I know nothing about music, not even to know the difference between a chord and a chorus, nor have I been able to either enjoy or appreciate Talking Heads or Byrne's other music, I thoroughly enjoyed most of this book. I do admit to feeling overwhelmed enough, or lost enough, to skim bits, but something on the next page would always draw me back in.... Most interesting stuff needs context and so is too long to share here, but I've got a few tidbits to offer: "Some argue th Fascinating. Even though I know nothing about music, not even to know the difference between a chord and a chorus, nor have I been able to either enjoy or appreciate Talking Heads or Byrne's other music, I thoroughly enjoyed most of this book. I do admit to feeling overwhelmed enough, or lost enough, to skim bits, but something on the next page would always draw me back in.... Most interesting stuff needs context and so is too long to share here, but I've got a few tidbits to offer: "Some argue that it was the homegrown Indian cinema that forced that country's citizens to learn a common language, which may have helped Indians find national identity as much as the efforts of Gandhi did. And that common language eventually enabled the unity that led to the ouster of the British Empire." (summarized from Ellen Dissanayake's Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes from and Why:) "all art forms were communally made, which had the effect of reinforcing a group's cohesion and thereby improving their chances of survival.... [and] maybe, like sports, making music can function as a game--a musical 'team' can do what an individual cannot. Music-making imparts lessons that reach well beyond songwriting and jamming." (Quoted from John Philip Sousa, who, like Byrne, believes that ppl should be encouraged to make music, not to be passive consumers of it:) "The tide of amateurism cannot but recede, until there will be left only the mechanical device and the professional executants. The what of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?"

  12. 3 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    This is great. Good. Okay. All of the above. It’s unique (so far as I know): its closest relative is probably Miles Davis’s autobiography, or Byrne-friend Brian Eno’s Year With Swollen Appendices. It’s autobiographical, in a strictly professional/artistic sense – that is, concerned with music over personal experience – and I applaud that. Early on, when I was still in the “dipping-into” phase (something I do with all rock music books) I wondered, against my better judgement, if it was some kind This is great. Good. Okay. All of the above. It’s unique (so far as I know): its closest relative is probably Miles Davis’s autobiography, or Byrne-friend Brian Eno’s Year With Swollen Appendices. It’s autobiographical, in a strictly professional/artistic sense – that is, concerned with music over personal experience – and I applaud that. Early on, when I was still in the “dipping-into” phase (something I do with all rock music books) I wondered, against my better judgement, if it was some kind of masterpiece. It seemed to come at music from all sides: composing, performing, producing; the use and manifestation of music in various times and cultures; the way a venue or a studio or (and I loved this bit) a technology (eg Pro Tools) affects/shapes what’s performed or recorded; even the dissemination and/or sale of music via old school music industry channels as opposed to the internet, including a pie-chart breakdown of Byrne’s income and expenditure on various projects both self-funded and label-released. What scope! For a musician, it seemed something like a map through the labyrinth. On second glance, having read it cover to cover, it ain’t all that. As usual when musicians discuss recording, there’s too little nuts and bolts. And, while Byrne’s knowledge is broad, he explores many topics shallowly rather than a few in depth. Maybe the lavish book design (by Mc Sweeney’s) led me to expect more – it certainly is pretty. But deep down it’s just a bunch of articles that half cohere, some of which happen to be great.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pustulio

    Si fuera por el contenido este libro tendría sus cinco estrellas. La estrella que le falta es culpa del editor. Byrne lo dice al principio que él no es escritor y que no sabe como acomodar un libro. Pero pues para eso tienes un editor, la única falla que le veo al libro es orden. Brinca de capítulo en capítulo en temas muy diferentes. Y me parece que pudiera tener un mejor orden si el editor hubiera hecho su trabajo. Dicho esto: El libro está super bueno. Ya sea que sabes mucho de música o si es Si fuera por el contenido este libro tendría sus cinco estrellas. La estrella que le falta es culpa del editor. Byrne lo dice al principio que él no es escritor y que no sabe como acomodar un libro. Pero pues para eso tienes un editor, la única falla que le veo al libro es orden. Brinca de capítulo en capítulo en temas muy diferentes. Y me parece que pudiera tener un mejor orden si el editor hubiera hecho su trabajo. Dicho esto: El libro está super bueno. Ya sea que sabes mucho de música o si estás empezando este libro te puede enseñar chingo de cosas del tema. Nunca creí que podría admirar más a Byrne, pero después de leer este libro de verdad creo que es infravalorado en el mundo de la música. Sé que es de culto pero de verdad debería tener más atención. La cosa es que va desde teoría musical hasta anécdotas con los talking heads y con todos los que ha hecho colaboraciones, que son muchos. Te guste o no Byrne el libro esta muy interesante. Da un panorama muy amplio de como funciona la música en todos los aspectos. Desde cifras duras hasta metáforas complejas. Y ahora un gif de Byrne bailando

  14. 3 out of 5

    Neal

    My review for Amazon's Best Books of the Month: It's no surprise that David Byrne knows his music. As the creative force behind Talking Heads and many solo and collaborative ventures, he's been writing, playing, and recording music for decades. What is surprising is how well his voice translates to the page. In this wide-ranging, occasionally autobiographical analysis of the evolution and inner workings of the music industry, Byrne explores his own deep curiosity about the "patterns in how music My review for Amazon's Best Books of the Month: It's no surprise that David Byrne knows his music. As the creative force behind Talking Heads and many solo and collaborative ventures, he's been writing, playing, and recording music for decades. What is surprising is how well his voice translates to the page. In this wide-ranging, occasionally autobiographical analysis of the evolution and inner workings of the music industry, Byrne explores his own deep curiosity about the "patterns in how music is written, recorded, distributed, and received." He is an opinionated and well-educated tour guide, and the resulting essays--on topics from rockers' clothes to the role of the turntable, concert stages to recording studios--will give you an entirely new perspective on the complex journey a song takes from conception to your iPod. --Neal Thompson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anetq

    Det er præcis det titlen siger: En minutiøs gennemgang af 'hvordan musik virker' og dermed mener han det hele: hvordan lyd påvirker os, hvor meget kontekst spiller ind, hvordan teknologiudviklingen former musikken, hvordan man skaber musik, samarbejder kreativt, performance, optagelser og ikke mindst businesssiden: hvordan tjener artisterne penge, hvad gør pladeselskaberne osv. (og vi får hans egne regnskaber for et par plader for at anskueliggøre forskellige forretningsmodeller). Der er også en Det er præcis det titlen siger: En minutiøs gennemgang af 'hvordan musik virker' og dermed mener han det hele: hvordan lyd påvirker os, hvor meget kontekst spiller ind, hvordan teknologiudviklingen former musikken, hvordan man skaber musik, samarbejder kreativt, performance, optagelser og ikke mindst businesssiden: hvordan tjener artisterne penge, hvad gør pladeselskaberne osv. (og vi får hans egne regnskaber for et par plader for at anskueliggøre forskellige forretningsmodeller). Der er også en handy opskrift på at skabe en kreativ musik scene a la CBGBs. Men vi kommer også omkring vigtigheden af amatørerne og at lære at lave musik selv - og dermed musikundervisning (eller manglen på samme nu om dage) og sidst men ikke mindst den spirituelle side af musik og universets og menneskekroppens lyde - og sådan lærte jeg at universet spiller blues!! David Byrne kommer rundt om de fleste processer og kontekster for det han elsker: musikken - og han slipper godt fra at bruge sine egne erfaringer som eksempler på sine mere generelle pointer, for dette er ikke en rockstjernes memoirer, det er en seriøs bog om hvordan musik skabes og hvad det er. Det er en super nørdet bog, men tilgængelig - selv om vi kommer langt ned i detaljerne er de enkelte kapitler ikke så lange at det bliver for meget - og det slog mig hvor modulær bogen er. Som kultur-, business- eller musikunderviser kan man let tage et enkelt kapitel ud af sammenhængen og få en fin gennemgang af fx klubscener, deals med og uden pladeselskaber eller musikalske skalaer på tværs af kulturer. Og det er forfriskende for en amerikansk musiker, hvor internationalt et blik han også har på musikken.

  16. 3 out of 5

    Christopher

    As much as I am a fan of Talking Heads and David Byrne, when he wrote a book about bicycling a couple of years ago, I picked it up but I didn't get very far. Not a big fan of bicycles. But I am a big fan of music. So when David Byrne writes a book explaining music, I AM THERE. This should be required reading for anyone who has even a sliver of desire for making music for a living. You don't need to be a fan of Byrne's music to appreciate the fruits of his experience, talent and insight. This is a As much as I am a fan of Talking Heads and David Byrne, when he wrote a book about bicycling a couple of years ago, I picked it up but I didn't get very far. Not a big fan of bicycles. But I am a big fan of music. So when David Byrne writes a book explaining music, I AM THERE. This should be required reading for anyone who has even a sliver of desire for making music for a living. You don't need to be a fan of Byrne's music to appreciate the fruits of his experience, talent and insight. This is a man who knows what he's talking about with music, and he wants you to understand all that he's learned. Even readers whose passion for music begins and ends at the record store will learn tons from Byrne's music history lessons and his recollections from decades of studio recording and touring. At times his book flirts with autobiography, yet falls short of telling juicy tales out of class. Byrne's writing is personable yet at all times scholarly. But not stuffy. This is the hip old music professor who you wished you could have a beer with after class. Byrne's writing style is witty and glib throughout, which is especially useful as he trods through some of the drier territories of music theory and the economics of the record industry. He is great at keeping the reader awake and engaged through some pretty heady stuff. I found myself riveted to this book from beginning to end, and I was a little bummed when I got to the acknowledgments page. If you love music, there's plenty in this book to educate and entertain you.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Ik heb getwijfeld over 5 sterren. Dit boek was een uiterst aangename verrassing. Het stond al jaren op mijn leeslijst, maar telkens als ik het vastnam in de boekhandel, had ik het gevoel dat het misschien toch niet veel meer dan een veredelde autobiografie zou zijn. Ik zat er compleet naast, met mijn gevoel. Wellicht omdat ik een beetje vergeten was wat voor een veelzijdig en intelligent mens, muzikant en kunstenaar David Byrne wel is. Frontman van Talking Heads (één van de favoriete groepen uit Ik heb getwijfeld over 5 sterren. Dit boek was een uiterst aangename verrassing. Het stond al jaren op mijn leeslijst, maar telkens als ik het vastnam in de boekhandel, had ik het gevoel dat het misschien toch niet veel meer dan een veredelde autobiografie zou zijn. Ik zat er compleet naast, met mijn gevoel. Wellicht omdat ik een beetje vergeten was wat voor een veelzijdig en intelligent mens, muzikant en kunstenaar David Byrne wel is. Frontman van Talking Heads (één van de favoriete groepen uit mijn jeugd), fotograaf, beeldend kunstenaar, filmmaker, wereldreiziger en niet te vergeten: overtuigend en breeddenkend schrijver. Vooral dat laatste maakte van 'Hoe muziek werkt' één van de meest veelzijdige en spannendste boeken over muziek die ik ooit las. Het is alvast geen vlot weglezende autobiografie, hoewel net de autobiografische ervaringen van Byrne, zijn grote nieuwsgierigheid naar en betrokkenheid met vrijwel alles wat met muziek te maken heeft, het optillen boven een doorsnee boek over dit onderwerp. 'Vogels fluiten niet alleen om een partner aan te trekken of hun territorium af te bakenen, soms fluiten ze puur voor het genoegen van het fluiten,' citeert hij ergens in het begin evolutionair bioloog Richard Prum, om er meteen aan toe te voegen: 'Ik heb net als de vogels die prettige ervaring en ik zoek naar gelegeneheden om dat te doen.' Zo'n link is typerend voor dit boek. Het begint nochtans wel autobiografisch, met een overzicht van de carrière van Byrne, maar meteen raakt hij daarin ook alle snaartjes aan die het vervolg van zijn boek zo rijk laten klinken. Een groot deel van het boek gaat over het creatieve ontstaansproces van muziek: voor David Byrne zijn invloeden, onbevangenheid en gevoel dé ingrediënten die aan de basis liggen van zijn composities. Die worden vervolgens door samenspelen en/of samenwerken met andere muzikanten en producers in hun (nooit) definitieve vorm gegoten tijdens repetities en in opnamestudio's. De auteur biedt vervolgens een heerlijk historisch overzicht van afspeel- en opname-apparaten en technieken: een lang 'analoog'-hoofdstuk dat hij met een heerlijk laconieke nostalgie behandelt en daarna een korter' digitaal' hoofdstuk, waarin duidelijk wordt dat Byrne altijd met zijn tijd is meegegroeid. Meer zelfs: zijn artistieke nieuwsgierigheid en creatieve intuïtie (dat laatste zou hij als ons zesde zintuig willen zien) hebben hem zoveel verschillende kruisbestuivende paadjes doen bewandelen, dat ik me geen andere popmuzikant kan voorstellen die er zo ervaringsdeskundig over zou kunnen schrijven. En schrijven kan Byrne dus. Zelfs het hoofdstuk waar ik het minst naar uitkeek - 'Zaken en financiën' - werkte hij uit tot een erg interessant, duidelijk gestructureerd en met enkele van zijn eigen projecten tot leven gewekt, wezenlijk onderdeel van het muziekproces. Hij laat concreet zien hoe tijden veranderen en welke opties er bestaan voor beginnende muzikanten, nu de grote opnamestudios aan het verdwijnen zijn en iedereen thuis met een minimum aan digitaal materiaal een kwalitatieve opname kan afleveren. David Byrne, intussen 66, is een gedreven artiest die met dit boek enerzijds toont welk creatief parcours hij zelf heeft bewandeld (waarbij de klemtoon vaak ligt op samenwerkingen met andere muzikanten, dansers, beeldend kunstenaars, filmmakers ...). Anderzijds laat hij zonder enig spoor van bitterheid, maar integendeel met een niet-aflatende positieve toekomstvisie zien hoe het proces van muziek maken de afgelopen decennia is geëvolueerd. Hij sluit zijn geweldige boek af met 'Harmonia Mundi', een hoofdstuk over wat muziek voor ons als mensheid doorheen de geschiedenis heeft betekend en hoe we haar in onze tijd zijn gaan beschouwen. Behalve zijn grote belezenheid en de vele gesprekken die hij met mensen uit een heleboel wetenschappelijke disciplines heeft gevoerd, laat Byrne daar zijn eigen, menselijke verwondering doorschemeren, ongetwijfeld de katalysator voor zijn eigen, niet aflatende muzikale creativiteit. Hij eindigt met Pinker die zegt: 'Het specifieke gen voor muziek is een illusie, maar onze liefde ervoor is echt.' 4,5 sterren dus. Ik heb alleen spijt dat ik het boek niet in de Engelstalige versie las, want de vertaling deed (bij momenten) de literaire kwaliteiten van de auteur niet echt eer aan.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Debben

    I felt like I learned allot about music by reading this. I knew almost nothing when I started reading, and it's nice to read a book where you feel like you have learned something from every page. It's remarkably comprehensive too, with chapters on the theory, practice, history, creation, and business of music. It's all here, and presented in a way that even a music noob like me can understand and process. There are so many thought provoking nuggets in this book, I almost feel like I want to quot I felt like I learned allot about music by reading this. I knew almost nothing when I started reading, and it's nice to read a book where you feel like you have learned something from every page. It's remarkably comprehensive too, with chapters on the theory, practice, history, creation, and business of music. It's all here, and presented in a way that even a music noob like me can understand and process. There are so many thought provoking nuggets in this book, I almost feel like I want to quote something from every chapter. It's been a while since a book has gotten me this excited. Here are some examples: "If there has been a compositional response to MP3s and the era of private listening I have yet to hear it. One would expect music that is a soothing flood of ambient moods as a way to relax and decompress, or maybe dense and complex compositions that reward repeated playing and attentive listening, maybe intimate or rudely erotic vocals that would be inappropriate to blast in public but that you could enjoy privately." Oh David. I have such sights to show you. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to music. Hopefully this book will help that. I have already learned a lot about composition and genres in these first few pages. I'm wondering if David isn't right on the money with his predictions here: "...a soothing flood of ambient moods as a way to relax and decompress": Did David predict the rise of ASMR? Also there is allot of "Music to relax and study to", basically ambient background music, on Youtube and other streaming sites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHW1o... (I like to give my sources :P) "...or maybe dense and complex compositions that reward repeated playing and attentive listening": I'm wondering if allot of what is put out as "Dubstep" and "Chip Tunes" Would qualify here. Dubstep is certainly "Dense", at least I think so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMqzV... "...maybe intimate or rudely erotic vocals that would be inappropriate to blast in public but that you could enjoy privately.": Someone in the UK attempted to play one of Ruckas songs during a garden party and police helicopters showed up. No really. That actually happened: (Link Not Safe For Work. Especially if you work at the pentagon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZYoi... Here is another example of his work: Don't look at this link. Seriously if you do it's your own fault. Not safe for work. At all. Like, ever. Your not old enough. Nobody is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tln8w... McDonald's also got in trouble for playing this particular song in their restaurant. No really. That happened too. Stay Classy internet. In the chapter "Amateurs!" he claims that the attitude that if something is popular, or populist, it is also bad, or inferior, is inherently elitist. He may have some bias being a creator of popular music, but I am inclined to agree. He also points out the gate-keeping that tends to accompany this rather bourgeois attitude.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This book fails to live up to its title, and indeed to the name of its author, who's musical career might lead you to expect that he has some interesting insight into the question of how music works. What you get instead is a cursory and unfocused ramble through recent history of music technology and theory, loosely tied together with some personal anecdotes and sophomoric pseudo-philosophy courtesy of Byrne himself. There are some interesting tidbits along the way, particularly some of the histo This book fails to live up to its title, and indeed to the name of its author, who's musical career might lead you to expect that he has some interesting insight into the question of how music works. What you get instead is a cursory and unfocused ramble through recent history of music technology and theory, loosely tied together with some personal anecdotes and sophomoric pseudo-philosophy courtesy of Byrne himself. There are some interesting tidbits along the way, particularly some of the history of music technology, and he pays lip service to interesting theorists and musicians and movements. If you went through the book with a highlighter, you'd come up with a list of fascinating topics to read about. Unfortunately, Byrne usually goes into less depth than your typical Wikipedia introductory paragraph -- Kant's treatise on the nature of beauty is both introduced and dismissed outright in a single sentence -- and one is left with the sense that he hasn't actually done much research at all. This might be forgivable if Byrne had some great insights to offer, but instead he comes off as simply naive. Quite strangely, he includes a rant against classical music, which evolves into a rant against the rich and the "elitists" who support the arts. Indeed throughout the book he champions the idea of amateurism over professionalism (which might explain his approach to writing the book itself). It should perhaps not be a surprise, then, when his final chapter veers squarely into teenager-who-just-smoked-pot-for-the-first-time territory: "Woah man, what if we don't make music... What if music makes us?"

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I LOVED this. Devoured it. Byrne is incisive and articulate and offers new way of seeing (and hearing) music. I do a good deal of business writing and no longer often find myself on fire to get something written down, but from the start of this book I was itching to tie Byrne's ideas on music as "content" to my own work. As so many of my Goodreads connections are in L&D I especially recommend it to them, as I'm sure the parallels will be inescapable to them as well. Music lovers, too, should I LOVED this. Devoured it. Byrne is incisive and articulate and offers new way of seeing (and hearing) music. I do a good deal of business writing and no longer often find myself on fire to get something written down, but from the start of this book I was itching to tie Byrne's ideas on music as "content" to my own work. As so many of my Goodreads connections are in L&D I especially recommend it to them, as I'm sure the parallels will be inescapable to them as well. Music lovers, too, should enjoy Byrne's tour through the history of music, its social roots, the reality of the music business, and much more. The e-version includes links to music samples. The piece I was on fire to write is now available at this link. It's the first time I've ever cited my own Kindle highlights as reference material: href="http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/a..."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This really was a joy to read. Touching on all aspects (and genres) of music, from how technology shapes our perceptions of what music should be, to what to expect from a recording contract, this book really does cover it all. David Byrne (frontman from Talking Heads), is engaging, funny, insightful, immensely knowledgeable and more importantly, enthusiastic about a subject he has dedicated his life too. The one thing that stopped this book rating higher for me is that it sometimes reads slightly This really was a joy to read. Touching on all aspects (and genres) of music, from how technology shapes our perceptions of what music should be, to what to expect from a recording contract, this book really does cover it all. David Byrne (frontman from Talking Heads), is engaging, funny, insightful, immensely knowledgeable and more importantly, enthusiastic about a subject he has dedicated his life too. The one thing that stopped this book rating higher for me is that it sometimes reads slightly more like an autobiography than a celebration of music. Byrne obviously uses his own experience in the music business but, just occasionally, he seems to lose the subject. Full review here

  22. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    This was good! David Byrne takes a comprehensive, largely pragmatic survey of all aspects of music. He spends a lot of time refuting musical/artistic myths. For example, he definitely doesn't think music is made by inspired geniuses. It comes from hard work and practice. And more boringly, is usually steered by format--of venue, medium, larger cultural contexts, record company obligations--as much as creative whim. He also talks about the recording process, how technology has changed it, and wha This was good! David Byrne takes a comprehensive, largely pragmatic survey of all aspects of music. He spends a lot of time refuting musical/artistic myths. For example, he definitely doesn't think music is made by inspired geniuses. It comes from hard work and practice. And more boringly, is usually steered by format--of venue, medium, larger cultural contexts, record company obligations--as much as creative whim. He also talks about the recording process, how technology has changed it, and what life is like as a working musician. For an established artist like himself, he knows he's got it easy--his name recognition gives him some freedom to work on whatever he likes. But new musicians have to work pretty hard to make any kind of living. One takeaway for me is that I'm going to make an effort to support working artists more by buying their music or merchandise, and not just listen on Spotify, which makes money for labels but is lousy for artists. And further, try to buy directly from them rather than through Apple, which is likewise great for Apple but only OK for artists. In practice Byrne is an enjoyable writer, he's very frank and not the least bit pretentious. He's just as likely to say how much he likes an obscure African performance artist as he is to compliment Justin Beiber's latest single. I especially enjoyed his recollections of his early days performing, when he still wasn't that good at it. He didn't consider himself the least bit cool, so he felt like he probably didn't have any business dancing or singing in front of an audience, and had no idea what he'd even wear. (n.b. I read another book last year that was also called How Music Works , which was all about the physics of music.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bohli

    Musik ist immer etwas magisches, unerklärliches. Egal wie tief man sich mit Künstlerinnen und Künstlern, sowie deren Liedern auseinandersetzt, die Emotionen und Wirkungen bleiben mystisch. Mit "How Music Works" versucht der Gründer von Talking Heads, David Byrne, die Mechaniken zu ergründen und einige Punkte zur Geschichte und der aktuellen, musikalischen Weltlage zu erörtern. Aufgeteilt in lose zusammenhängenden Kapiteln wird schnell klar, dass Byrne auf keinen Fall einen wissenschaftlichen Ber Musik ist immer etwas magisches, unerklärliches. Egal wie tief man sich mit Künstlerinnen und Künstlern, sowie deren Liedern auseinandersetzt, die Emotionen und Wirkungen bleiben mystisch. Mit "How Music Works" versucht der Gründer von Talking Heads, David Byrne, die Mechaniken zu ergründen und einige Punkte zur Geschichte und der aktuellen, musikalischen Weltlage zu erörtern. Aufgeteilt in lose zusammenhängenden Kapiteln wird schnell klar, dass Byrne auf keinen Fall einen wissenschaftlichen Bericht abliefern möchte, sondern mit Lebenslust und viel Humor sein liebstes Thema auf Erden teilen will. Das macht aus "How Music Works" ein vielseitiges und erfrischendes Lesevergnügen, dass nicht nur spannende Einblicke in das Leben eines Musikers ermöglicht (Tourleben, Studiotage, Probleme mit den Kosten und Labels), sondern auch kulturhistorische Aspekte aufgreift. Und auch wenn David Byrne die Musik schlussendlich nicht wirklich erklären kann, etwas besser versteht man gewisse Mechaniken danach auf jeden Fall. Oder wieso man vielleicht doch besser für Musik bezahlen, als diese Streamen sollte. Oder was die grossen Labels wirklich anstellen.

  24. 4 out of 5

    jordan

    Overlooking the occasional grammatical or spelling error (aHEM, editing is always a good idea, y’know...) and the seemingly random, long-winded tangents that strained my patience, this did really open my eyes to different aspects of music, and change the way I look at (or rather, listen to) music.

  25. 3 out of 5

    Stevie Dunbar

    I'm writing about the book I read

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marvin

    I expected ex-Talking Heads front man and eclectic solo artist David Byrne would have some interesting things to say about music. But I was impressed by the scope and range of How Music Works. Byrne covers nearly every aspect of creating and enjoying music from the first steps of composing and to the nuances of performance to producing and promoting. Plus he puts it in sync with the world we live in never forgetting that music is a vital and ever-changing aspect of existence. Byrne approaches mu I expected ex-Talking Heads front man and eclectic solo artist David Byrne would have some interesting things to say about music. But I was impressed by the scope and range of How Music Works. Byrne covers nearly every aspect of creating and enjoying music from the first steps of composing and to the nuances of performance to producing and promoting. Plus he puts it in sync with the world we live in never forgetting that music is a vital and ever-changing aspect of existence. Byrne approaches music in what I call an ethno-centric view. Perhaps "Techno-centric" may be a better term considering how much he focuses on the modern recording aspects. Byrns uses the term "creation in reverse." He does not see music as arising from just the emotional interior of the creator's mind but through an interactive process that is affected by our surroundings; social, cultural, politically, technological, and physical. He discusses how certain types of music responds to certain surroundings. When you think of it, it makes sense. It is hard to think of punk rock rising from the symphony hall and much easier to see it coming out of dark crowded clubs such as New York's CBGB. His style of writing is fairly meandering but he structures those meanderings in chapters like Technology Shapes Music", "In the Recording Studio", "How to Make a Scene" (about performing live), and even "Business and Finances". By the end of the book you not only have a good sense what goes into that MP3 you just downloaded but how that music has changed from the day of live performance only before music could be recorded. While not an autobiography, Byrne relies strongly on his own experiences, giving the reader an intimate look at his own creative process both in and out of the studio. He uses his own story to illustrate his various ideas of creation in reverse. One of the things I found revealing is his description on how the various forms of recording affects the way we perceive music. The limits of the sound and durations of the first Edison discs gave the early 20th century listeners a different experience than the LPs, cassettes and CDs we are used to, not to mention the revolution of digital files. Byrne's assertions about our expectations of recorded music vs. live music was quite insightful. We tend to think of the recording of a song as the "real" version in that we expect the artist to recreate it in his live performances. Yet the recorded version is a frozen moment of time aided by the technical constraint of the recording studio, whether analog or digital The artist's live performance may be different but just as authentic relying on all the cultural and aural surroundings of the moment. Byrnes' impressive book is notable for the way it causes the reader to reassess modern music. He asks us to take in more than just sounds and pay attention to the way we receive the music in its social and natural settings. There's a lot to take in here yet the author manages to keep it exciting and relevant. I would recommend this book to anyone who cares about music.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    Absolutely fantastic read. Byrne has done a great service here. Whether or not you are a musician, care about David Byrne or the Talking Heads, this well researched and organized work (each chapter clearly focuses on different aspects) will enlighten you in some way or another as to understanding and appreciating music in all its forms: Why it is in the form as we know it based on its history and development; how it was influenced by architecture, and technology. How it is played live or recorde Absolutely fantastic read. Byrne has done a great service here. Whether or not you are a musician, care about David Byrne or the Talking Heads, this well researched and organized work (each chapter clearly focuses on different aspects) will enlighten you in some way or another as to understanding and appreciating music in all its forms: Why it is in the form as we know it based on its history and development; how it was influenced by architecture, and technology. How it is played live or recorded. How it is marketed. How it is as far as art-form. He describes, near the end, how he transformed an actual building as musical instrument as a public art installation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gea9S... The writing style is very conversational, yet, can get academic in some areas, but only when needed. David Byrne never ceases to impress me. Highly recommended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Three stars because i liked it. Its more of a 3.5 , but rounding down because too many issues. This book is a classic case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. Part autobiography, part pop-sci book on music, part New Yorker-style expose on the nature of the arts. You get bits of all of it, but you cant help feeling that you are missing out on a lot. Maybe thats the point - a jumping off point? Except you don't really know what you are missing. For a book that is about "how music wor Three stars because i liked it. Its more of a 3.5 , but rounding down because too many issues. This book is a classic case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. Part autobiography, part pop-sci book on music, part New Yorker-style expose on the nature of the arts. You get bits of all of it, but you cant help feeling that you are missing out on a lot. Maybe thats the point - a jumping off point? Except you don't really know what you are missing. For a book that is about "how music works" , he focuses less on the method and more on the impacts of music. I was hoping for much more detail about teh origin and history of different parts of music - beats, vocals, grooves, melodies, chords - from an international perspective. You get a little bit of that, but its just a taste. That can be frustrating. Perhaps if this book was named "David Byrne's book about of a bunch of musically related stuff" i would be complaining less. I dont feel this book is edited well at all. The beginning is part of the music history/theory background, then it jumps into a big Talking heads section, dives into complexity of music contracts, moves on to all David byrne side project references, and then settles on jamming in every pseduo-political stance and a whole bunch of music theory. It all feels very disjointed. The last bits of the book thematically belong with the first bits. if you wanted to mix it up, has to be evenly dispersed throughout. unfortunately thats not the case here. Im sure the editors did there best - probably not enough raw material for as wide of a scope envisioned. As a big Talking Heads fan, i enjoyed getting to know David through the conversational tone presented as well as the myriad anecdotes. He contradicts Jonathem Lethem multiple times in discussing Fear of Music - i enjoyed that. As a New Yorker, i enjoyed the local references and vivid depictions of bygone crime-ridden manahttan. I would have enjoyed a full on autobiography probably a lot more than this book though. I liked it - 3 stars. Will look for in-depth books on musical construction elsewhere.

  29. 3 out of 5

    Martin Hernandez

    La música de TALKING HEADS nunca me llamó mucho la atención, de hecho, no tengo uno solo de sus discos en mi colección, y tampoco sabía que David BYRNE es/era el genio creativo detrás de esa banda. Compré el libro porque me gusta la música, el título despertó mi curiosidad, y esperaba aprender algo acerca de la "tecnología" de la música. Al final, resulta un texto a medio camino entre el ensayo y la autobiografía, que puede resultar sumamente interesante para quien aprecia la música de TALKIN La música de TALKING HEADS nunca me llamó mucho la atención, de hecho, no tengo uno solo de sus discos en mi colección, y tampoco sabía que David BYRNE es/era el genio creativo detrás de esa banda. Compré el libro porque me gusta la música, el título despertó mi curiosidad, y esperaba aprender algo acerca de la "tecnología" de la música. Al final, resulta un texto a medio camino entre el ensayo y la autobiografía, que puede resultar sumamente interesante para quien aprecia la música de TALKING HEADS, no necesariamente para los demás. Reconozco que efectivamente aprendí algunas cosas (el capítulo que habla sobre cómo se dividen los ingresos de los discos y cuánto le queda al artista es particularmente revelador), pero no resultó ser exactamente el libro que yo esperaba.

  30. 4 out of 5

    JZ

    Yowza! How I loved this book! For sure, I'm going to listen to this again, very slowly, trying to find more and more of the music referenced, because there's just too much here to do this quickly. First of all, kudos to the narrator, Andrew Garman, for the natural flow. For most of it, I thought David Byrne himself was reading it, because the narration is astoundingly good. I was rapt. But, oh, all those words he spoke, tying me to my CD player for well over the 13 hours, because some sections wer Yowza! How I loved this book! For sure, I'm going to listen to this again, very slowly, trying to find more and more of the music referenced, because there's just too much here to do this quickly. First of all, kudos to the narrator, Andrew Garman, for the natural flow. For most of it, I thought David Byrne himself was reading it, because the narration is astoundingly good. I was rapt. But, oh, all those words he spoke, tying me to my CD player for well over the 13 hours, because some sections were just too interesting to pass by. Repeats of sections were inevitable for me. Personal, professional, and perfectly engaging. Other reviews have listed the great stuff David Byrne writes of, but here are some that caught my attention: museum attendance and its relationship to the architecture, the environment of sound, Pythagoras to John Cage on music theory, the cost of studio time and the emergence of home studios, Musak, (Music should be heard, but not listened to) and the problem with it. ("being force-fed tranquilizers") the acoustic world vs. the visual world, the right to silence, the politics of supporting the arts to white-wash your reputation, the songs for potty training in some cultures, ("I want to hear those") how to create a 'scene,' how Bing Crosby changed radio because he wanted more time to play golf, and the history of music, in a few chapters. This is meaty. This is delicious. Even the parts about how to make money or lose it through the contracts and legalities of making music were borderline interesting, although that ship has long ago sailed for me. This would be a great book for parents to get for their kids who want to be musicians, if only for that section. I was familiar with the more mainstream music of the Talking Heads, and of his solo Rio Momo, but I wasn't aware of all the music he had made, because I was busy with life and a different music scene for many years. There's nothing he hasn't tried in modern music, I guess, although he does admit an apathy for classical music and the culture around it. That was pretty funny. He advocates for equality of respect, which translates to funding and education, for all forms of music. Yeah, get that passed through Congress. hah Getting everyone to participate in music is a theme throughout. Who have you ever met who had more enthusiasm than this? If you have, let me know, because this is gonna be nearly impossible to beat. Bring it.

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