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How Music Works Hardcover – 13 Sep 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (13 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857862502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857862501
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 3.6 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 163,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

It was wildly ambitious to try and turn this galaxy of theory into a readable work of scholarship but Byrne has done it, and done it with style. Brian Eno might as well cancel that book deal now Mark Ellen, The Observer

A very involving read - Byrne is good company - he has a gift for a telling analogy that makes complex points easily grasped Keith Bruce The Herald

Incisive and intriguing Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard

As well as being an investigation into the context in which music is made, How Music Works is an accomplished celebration of an ever-evolving art form that can alter how we look at ourselves and the world Fiona Sturges, Independent

How Music Works is a melange of bookish musings on how music is shaped by the places it is played and the technology used to create and disseminate it Danny Eccleston, MOJO

David Byrne deserves great praise for How Music Works. It is as accessible as pop yet able to posit deep and startlingly original thoughts and discoveries in almost every paragraph. Not unlike getting your ears syringed, this book will make you hear music in a different way... Every form of music, from birdsong onwards, is considered and elegantly related to form, debunking romantic conceits about music and presenting a far more beautiful rationality. In the process, Byrne shows not just how music works, but how music publishing should work too Oliver Keens, The Sunday Telegraph

An entertaining and erudite book ... this is a serious, straight-forward account of an art from that also manages to be inspiring Peter Aspden, Financial Times

How Music Works is not just a noticeably handsome book but a beguiling and hugely perceptive one too Jonathan O'Brien, Sunday Business Post

A big beautiful work of art... As you might expect from someone as intelligent and open-minded as Byrne, How Music Works is a far ranging and astute look at all the facets of music Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

Creators of all stripes will find much to inspire them in Mr Byrne's erudite musings on the biological and mathematical underpinnings of sound... His observations on the nature of pattern and repetition, and on people's neurological response to aesthetic experience, apply to all creative fields The Economist

Given the vastness of the subject, calling a treatise How Music Works seems intellectually arrogant, but it could also be seen as disarmingly frank, a fresh perspective from a down-to-earth mind. David Byrne's book, although a self-conscious art object (backwards pagination, upholstered cover and so on) contains plenty of plain-spoken, sensible observations: a dichotomy typical of the man Guardian

It's a great book to pick up and start at any chapter, a hugely rewarding and enriching read. A fascinating look at music from many angles, I would receommend it to anyone who plays or simply has an interest in the history and evolution of the musical form, the culture of music, both as a well of inspiration and as a simple commodity Irish Times

An ambitious attempt at understanding a phenomenon to which the former Talking Head has dedicated his life's work John Doran, Quietus

By investigating how music works, Byrne shows us how best it can be used. We are all the richer for his effort Yo Zushi, New Statesman

Disarmingly frank, a fresh perspective from a down-to-earth mind Michel Faber, The Guardian

How Music Works is a big, beautiful work of art ... a far-ranging and astute look at all facets of music ... This is a really rather remarkable book The Big Issue --The Big Issue

The finest music book of the year ... Handsomely bound, beautifully printed, wittily illustrated, it would make a beautiful collector's item but there is much more going on between the covers ... bursting with a sense of free-flowing curiosity Neil McCormick, The Daily Telegraph

Fascinating look at music's power to move Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

Unique among a deluge of music biographies and autobiographies coming out this Christmas, this wildly ambitious book breaks the mould Arthur House, The Sunday Telegraph

Byrne is a crisp and enthusiastic guide Rob Fitzpatrick, The Sunday Times

Creators of all stripes will find much to inspire them in Mr Byrne's erudite musings on the biological and mathematical underpinnings of sound, from Plato to Copernicus and from John Cage to Tantric Buddhists. How Music Works should be required reading for all writers and publishers The Economist

As accessible as pop yet able to posit deep and startlingly original thoughts and discoveries in almost every paragraph ... this book will make you hear music in a different way Oliver Keens, The Sunday Telegraph

How Music Works in as entertaining and erudite book ... The chapter on the economics of music should be required reading for all 16-year-olds tinkering with their GarageBand software and dreaming of dollar signs Peter Aspden, Financial Times

[A] wide-ranging tome Geeta Daval, Wired Magazine

Not just a noticeably handsome book ... but a beguiling and hugely perceptive one too Jonathan O'brien Sunday Business Post

A fluid, intelligent analysis' --Patrick Freyne, The Irish Times

Book Description

David Byrne's internationally bestselling magnum opus on the subject of music --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jaqui Askew on 8 Nov. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Highly enjoyable, well-informed and fluently written account of how music works on us and through us. Byrne considers the history, reception, and making of music from his perspective as a practicing musician. Whether you like his music or not (and I do), this book will increase your knowledge and awareness of what music does and how it achieves its effects. Byrne is thoughtful and scholarly in his approach without being obscure or needlessly lofty. I listen better now and enjoy music, any kind of music, more thoroughly.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By marcus_cheshire on 29 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
...the title flatters to deceive. "How Music Works for Me" would have been a more accurate description. This is really no more than a loose collection of David Byrne's musings on the music biz with a little bit of pseudo-science thrown into the mix.

As it is, it is an entertaining, but sometimes loose-knit and rambly selection that could have done with some serious editing. Unfortunately, Byrne draws no distinction between drawing on his own experiences (which is interesting), and drawing on accepted knowledge (which is infuriating). For example, admitting that he has next to no knowledge of Western Classical music does not stop him from comparing its performing tradition unfavourably with his own brand of "music for the people" based purely on the (supposed) demographic of its audience.

I have always enjoyed David Byrne and Talking Heads' recorded music and rate "Stop Making Sense" as one of the very best music films ever made - but he is less than honest about his aims in this book - which makes it a frustrating read. Had he done a bit more research, and relied less on received opinions in some areas, it could have been a much more interesting read.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lee TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What exactly is this book trying to be? In places it seems to be an autobiography of David Byrne's recording career both with Talking Heads and as a solo artist, but then it is an analysis of the record industry in general plus an essay on different types of concert venue and the structure of classical music. It is almost always interesting but not being a musician I did struggle with some of the technical bits on musical constructs, and found some sections a little heavy going, but the parts about Talking Heads made me want to watch "Stop Making Sense" again. Did it tell me how music worked? Not really, but it was for the most part an enjoyable read.

Incidentally, a few irritations for Kindle readers: The book is fairly heavily illustrated, but the illustrations (in the text rather than a separate section) often appear a fair way on from their mentions rather than after the paragraph concerned, and there are numerous typos where words run together.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve D on 6 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So, bearing in mind David Byrne's "Psycho Egghead" reputation, should we be surprised that this is a well thought-out and put together piece of work, with a somewhat of centre perspective? Not at all; however, there was always the possibility that this might be too intellectual an exercise; thankfully, Byrne avoids trying to be too bookish and instead adopts more of a personal approach that largely takes in his own experience. Nevertheless, this is not to such an extent that people who aren't fans of his music will automatically dislike the book. He tends to be quite objective about his past and never adopts an authoritarian approach of "I've done all this so I know what I'm saying"; in fact, his personal references are quite understated.

Well worth a read.
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Format: Paperback
Quite a remarkable achievement which is a very satisfying mixture of reflections on the nature of music and why it is the way it is; and reflections on David Byrne's own life in music.

So the first chapter, which sets out Byrne's view that the context of music, ie the context in which it would be performed, determines a great deal about what will be created (so you would not find music rich in African drumming being suited to the acoustics of a cathedral say) is followed by a chapter on the various tours that David Byrne has organised with Talking Heads and as a solo artist and the concepts he's followed on different occasions. Then a couple of chapters on recording music (discussing how technology also influences what music is created (so did 45s and 78s make it seem natural for songs to last 3-4 minutes?) is followed by a discussion of David Byrne's work in the studio.

There follow equally fascinating chapters on the nature of musical collaboration (whether as between band members on as Byrne might mostly work these days swapping material over the internet), on what can create a musical 'scene' (as at CBGBs in Byrne's youth) and on the ways in which it's possible to make money out of being a rock musician. (Byrne is very open about the sales and finances of his two most recent albums.)

The last two chapters are rather less persuasive and conclusive - in 'amateurs' Byrne is very strong in combatting the idea that music should be uplifting and that this is a reason for subsidy of particular kinds of music, the strongest argument he has for any form of subsidy seems to derive from experiments in Venezuela (El Sistema for classical music) and Brazil - where the music isn't always great, but perhaps the social impact of investment has been.
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