How Music Works

  • by David Byrne
  • Narrated by Andrew Garman
  • 13 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the iconic band Talking Heads, David Byrne has received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the insightful How Music Works, Byrne offers his unique perspective on music - including how music is shaped by time, how recording technologies transform the listening experience, the evolution of the industry, and much more.

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What the Critics Say

"Anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Listen enthralled - music to your ears!

Wonderfully stimulating musical experience! A fascinating listen at multiple levels - David Byrne himself, music and its place in our lives, and the transformation of music in contemporary times.

Byrne is simultaneously academic and accessible - quoting research while sharing stories from his own life experience, challenges, joys and relationships. An underlying theme is about creativity and how it is facilitated and stimulated. He offers examples of innovation and engagement. He shares insights from his wide-ranging collaborations, demonstrating how they have added value, sometimes unpredictably, to his own art. He describes his sources of inspiration, his values, and his interface with the music industry.

He offers perspectives on the place played by music in our lives and the lives of others: music as therapy, as expression, as mediator of community and repository of collective memory. Byrne examines the mathematics of music, its evolutionary role, and the common threads across styles of music, languages and cultures. He rails against snobbish conceptions of 'good music' and the associated dismissal of swathes of creativity.

A third dimension to this book is about how music has changed over time. He examines issues from the role of performance venues to the changing technology of recording, reproduction and dissemination of music. He discusses the role of the studio and post-studio creativity in recording and transforming sound. Particularly interesting is his exploration of how musical creativity and production is supported and exploited and how increasingly accessible technologies are challenging established business models. His typology of the relationship between artist and record company would be of interest to any musician seeking to derive some income from his or her art. He touches on music as a force for control as well as a force for revolution and challenge. (Reminds me of Pink Floyd, The Wall - ever seen the animated version of the album? Exceptional!)

Byrne offers a compelling insight into music as both a reflection and creative enabler of humanity, emotion, and experience. He is committed to equity in engaging with music in all its diversity. He challenges the conventional view of an hierarchy of musical genres with opera and classical music at the pinnacle. He argues against a view that while all music is of value, some is more valuable than others (excuse me for putting words in his mouth; but it reminded me of Orwell's Animal Farm - see my review). He argues that different people will appreciate different forms and genres, deriving meaning from them at different times and in different settings.

Issues are explored through anecdotes and stories, personal insights, references to science and art and their interface. Byrne is humble and witty, reflective but never pontificating.

A wonderful and stimulating listen - all that was missing was the musical accompaniment - something Byrne should work on for those of us who enjoy his music as much as his interesting insights and stories!
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- Anthony

Good book, but the narration grates a little!

It's a great book, but the narration grates after a while! Sorry, but that's just how I feel.
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- Amazon Customer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 25-10-2012
  • Publisher: Recorded Books