How Music Works

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How Music Works is David Byrne’s buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. Drawing on his work over the years with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and myriad collaboratorsalong with journeys to Wagnerian opera houses, African villages, and anywhere music existsByrne shows how music emerges from cultural circumstance as much as individual creativity. It is his magnum opus, and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.

Product Details

  • Publisher: McSweeney’s; REV UPD edition (2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1938073533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1938073533
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

Customer Reviews

Musical Musings: A Hodge-Podge

184 people found this helpful.
 on September 6, 2012
By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel
Byrne begins his wide-ranging historical, technological, psychological and sociological examination of music with a novel insight: architecture of musical venues shape composition and instrumental arrangements. Regarding huge gothic cathedrals, intimate nightclubs, and jungle camp sites, room reverberation, volume of space, and audience vocal ambience dictate modal versus scale works, instrument development, and performance dynamics. The great revolutionary divide was recording technology, and musicians discovered that what works live does not necesarily achieve the same result on vinyl, tape, CD, or .mp3, and vice versa. Expectations often lead to disappointment and the performance and performer suffers. With such an interesting introduction, the book offers much promise. It almost fulfills expectations with both personal and general tidbits and theses that reward the reader, though for myself his personal examples are somewhat weaker.

Terrific book for music lovers and content creators alike

50 people found this helpful.
 on September 27, 2012
By David Meerman Scott
This is David Byrne week for me. On Sunday, I caught the sensational David Byrne and St. Vincent show at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. The last time I saw Byrne live was when I caught the Talking Heads on August 19, 1983 at the old Forrest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York City. So, clearly I was already a Byrne fan.

For music geeks by a music geek

29 people found this helpful.
 on September 27, 2012
By stutron
Let me begin by saying I wouldn’t consider myself a David Byrne/Talking Heads fan. I deeply admire and respect Mr. Byrne as an artist and he would be the kind of person I could listen to ramble on hours about music. Well, this is the closest I’ll ever get to that conversation. Be forewarned, those looking for a tell-all about his time with Talking Heads or as a solo musician will be generally disappointed, I found his personal anecdotes generally the weakest part of the book. This did not make me want to rediscover his works the way Keith Richards’ Life had me digging through every Rolling Stones record ever made.

My Favorite Book of 2012

6 people found this helpful.
 on December 24, 2012
By Michael P. McCullough
It would be difficult to praise this book too much.

Best gift ever

9 people found this helpful.
 on September 26, 2012
By Bridgitte Bardot
I bought 3 copies. One for myself and 2 others for my friends who have everything(difficult to buy a gift for)If you like his music, you will love this book. If you don’t like his music and you are a lover of books, you will appreciate the book’s unique style.Easy read. Coolest cover ever.

Kindle version

4 people found this helpful.
 on December 10, 2012
By Em
The book is very good, and the graphics are great in the printed version, but are not so great in the Kindle as low resolution makes it hard to read some of the graphics. Even with reading it on the Kindle, I really enjoyed this book and felt I didn’t miss much. You can always visit a bookstore to check out the graphics in better detail 😉 His thoughts on performance really made me reconsider how I present my work as a dancer, and on pop music and amateur performance are really refreshing and encouraging in a world where classical music and ballet are considered gods.

Insightful, entertaining & highly recommended for anyone making music

3 people found this helpful.
 on October 8, 2012
By Kat In The Hat
This is a masterwork – David Byrne has really outdone himself with this erudite, well-thought-out & insightful book that is part auto-biography, but is mostly him sharing the wisdom from his long eclectic music career.

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