PERFORMING ARTS

How Music Works

. September 2012. 352p. 978-1-93636-553-1. 32.
COPY ISBN
As this book’s title suggests, musician and Talking Heads cofounder Byrne (Bicycle Diaries) brings the same ambition and wide-ranging focus to his writing that has always been present in his music and visual art. In chapters that function as distinct essays, he explores several hows of music: how technology has shaped its history, how artists can make money from it, and how our culture and surroundings affect our reactions to it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this broad approach results in shallow spots, with underdeveloped lines of thought and interesting topics that vanish too quickly. Yet despite the lapses in rigor, Byrne has a knack for presenting ideas and theories from music scholarship—notably, the still-emerging field of sound culture—in an accessible manner.
VERDICT While he avoids focusing on his musical career, Byrne’s ability to draw upon his experiences with Talking Heads and as a solo artist to illustrate his points is a clear strength. Music fans of all stripes will find engaging material in this book.

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