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How Music Works by David Byrne


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Music makes people dance and this is one reason why I have always loved listening and playing music from a young child until now.  Yet, there is many truths and ideas about how music happens both in history and in record making that I don't understand.  David Byrne, in his new book, How Music Works, takes us on a journey inside both the background of music from long ago to present but also gives us the lowdown on how the music industry works, both behind the scenes and in promotion and advertising.  Collaborating with the Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and others, David has experienced the highs and lows of music in all its forms, from jazz to rock, soul to publishing.

One of the most astonishing features early on in the book was Byrne's understanding of symphonic and classical music went from an all-inclusive event with much response from the audience to a more peaceful and immobile activity from the audience.  He writes,"With classical music, not only did the venues change, but the behavior of the audience did, too.  Around 1900, according to music critic Alex Ross, classical audiences were no longer allowed to shout, eat, and chat, during a performance.  One was expected to sit immobile and listen with rapt attention." (12).  The early times of raucous affairs of shouting and verbally responding back to way the music made one feel were gone, and now symphonies were affairs for the well-dressed and quiet ticket holders.

David recounts his time with the Talking Heads as providing but some amusement and some weirdness.  He writes, "After auditioning at CBGB one afternoon for Hilly Krystal, the club's owner and a few others, Talking Heads got offered a slot opening up for the Ramones.  As twitchy and Aspergery a stage presence as I was in those days, I had a sense...that I could hold an audience's attention." (43).  Learning to play different textures in their music, the band continued touring in Europe with a kind of art band, half funky groove band.  The clothing attire was a mismatch and at time downright odd, but it seemed to work for The Talking Heads.

I really enjoyed this book, part history of music, part autobiographical in all its various parts.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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