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Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen (Zero Books) Paperback – 24 Apr 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 135 pages
  • Publisher: O Books; 1st Thus edition (24 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846941792
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846941795
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 0.8 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 322,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

David Stubbs is a freelance British music journalist and author. Between 2004 and 2006 he was reviews editor for The Wire, the UK based magazine dedicated to avant garde and experimental music of all genres. Between 1987 and 1988 he was staff writer at Melody Maker, before going on to join the staff of the NME. As well as music, he also covers sport, film, literature and TV - his work regularly appears in The Guardian, Arena, The Wire, Uncut and When Saturday Comes.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By petemaskreplica on 13 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book has its origins in a blog post, and it shows - it really needs the hand of an editor, or at least a decent proof-reader. Nevertheless, it's a decent overview of the position avant-garde music has in contemporary culture, and if it doesn't quite manage to pull its threads together into a sustained argument, there are plenty of ideas and opinions to chew on.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Turner on 2 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a pretty slim volume and was apparently assembled from an original series of blog posts. There are several typo errors, and according to some reviewers, the odd factual inaccuracy. The book certainly is no academic thesis, it meanders around the author's interests at will, resulting in some facets of the subject matter being ignored, and others being given much more attention. But isn't it ever so? On the plus side, this means we get passionate musings on his chosen subjects. Stubbs charts the parallel histories of avant-garde art and music throughout the 20th Century and having been interested in both subjects for many years, I still felt I learned much from it. The detail on the Futurist movement seemed particularly to come alive.

The basic question in the book's subtitle is rarely addressed specifically, and the answer isn't that clear. Stubbs cites the massive popularity of the Tate Modern in contrast to a lack of a comparative equivalent in music. Well, yes, the Tate Modern does have a lot of visitors. But still, the vast majority of Britain's populace never step foot inside it? However, modern art is more ubiquitous than it's equivalent music. For example, Rothko calenders appear in card shops, but you're not likely to hear Stockhausen on their stereo.

Personally, I think the answer is to do with the senses. Seeing for example, Dali's 'Autumnal Cannibalism' or Botticelli's 'Venus' or (to keep with the book, some of Rothko's work) in the flesh is quite an experience. But on the whole, when you view visual art, you do so at your own will, and for as long or as little as you like. If you find something dull or disturbing, you can shut your eyes, look away, and move on to the next piece.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. J. Lawrence on 13 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
Zero Books say this about themselves:
"Zer0 is committed to the idea of publishing as a making public of the intellectual. It is convinced that in the unthinking, blandly consensual culture in which we live, critical and engaged theoretical reflection is more important than ever before."

Subsequently several things immediately grab me about this book but it's difficult to know whether they are faults or not, so I'll just report them and you can decide if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Firstly, there are several irritating editorial mistakes which leave you wondering if the proofreader read it very carefully at all. It doesn't get in the way of the arguments, but it is irritating.

Secondly despite quoting from many books and summarizing others, there is neither a bibliography, nor a list of references anywhere in the book. Presumably putting a bibliography in the back of the book would have been far too blandly consentual for Zero Book's switched on readers.

Thirdly, and more importantly, this book is very interesting in its description of the thread of music that it follows through the 20th Century, but it does seem to be quite a personal journey taken by Stubbs. He leaps from Schoenberg to Stockhausen, from the Futurists to the Musique Concret-ists, then suddenly hits what appears to be his favourite subject, free improvisation and obscure arthouse bands from the 70s and 80s. I didn't know a lot about these artists, so it was an interesting read, as were Stubbs' conclusions about them, but it doesn't take into account the majority of 20th Century music. At one point he mentions Wire magazine and you get the feeling that much of his musical tastes have been lead by that publication.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Composer on 3 July 2010
Format: Paperback
The subtitle is "Why people get Rothko but don't get Stockhausen".

So you'd expect that most of the book would be concerned with that question.

Of the seven chapters, the first explores the question interestingly. For example, people pay huge sums for paintings and sculptures, and millions of people have flocked to the Tate Modern art gallery, but these same people recoil in horror when they hear non-commercial music - whether you want to call it "art music" or "contemporary music" or "experimental music" or whatever.

The seventh chapter looks for an answer to the question. (Ideas considered include: the cachet of owning a unique original; the consequent possibility of financial gain; the ease with which one can walk away from a painting after a few seconds; people's willingness to "put up with far more crap visually"; corporations' desire to sanitise their image by owning visual art; etc.)

But the bulk of the book, the middle five chapters, are basically the author's views on various artists and (mostly pop) musicians of the last 50 years. He likes Sun Ra and Jimi Hendrix and post-punk, and dislikes the Beatles and Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin ... but what does this have to do with the book's title and subtitle? Nothing. The author is simply telling us what he likes and dislikes, and trying to pass it off as a history lesson, just like several other authors of bad books about music recently.

Great title and subtitle. Shame about the contents.
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