The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters

Griffin: St. Martin's. Oct. 2014. 528p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250051295. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466865211. MUSIC
Musician and writer Rachel's first book should have been called "The Art of Writing Noise," as this collection of interviews with various musicians is essentially one long communion over the practice, craftsmanship, and artifice of songwriting. Maybe people want to read about the technicalities of the art, but it seems most casual fans of musicians such as Sting don't really care about how often he plays scales or why he believes rhyming is important. They'd rather get into the musician's mind-set while he was writing "Message in a Bottle" instead of reading about the tune's chord structures. Still, using Sting as an example, Rachel does explore the life context and idea genesis of songs, however, those human moments are minor compared to the academic discussions of the craft. It's too bad because the author has a knack for making his interview subjects feel comfortable enough to open up and talk beyond the banal. Because of that, reading through this title almost feels like a giant tease as Rachel gives us rare time with musical stars, including Damon Albarn, Mick Jones, and Jimmy Page as they talk about—ugh—the technical nuances of composing songs.
VERDICT For what it is, this work is a stellar collection of interviews with A- and B-list musicians. But what it isn't marks this book much more than what is on the pages.
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