Monday, February 24, 2014

Book review : How music works - David Byrne

How Music Works - David Byrne

I have been a fan of David Byrne for pretty much as long as I can remember. As a kid I saw Talking Heads videos on MTV and was always impressed by how creative, strong and weird I thought he was. Also I liked the fact that he was smart, arty and funny. It was always inviting.

I bought my first David Byrne book in japan. It was a book of photos from his travels. On the same trip I bought a book with Freakshow posters. And who wrote the foreword in the book? David Byrne. A couple of years later I stumbled across his book on Bicycles (It really is the future, you know).

As I have started driving to work I usually turn on a ted talk that I can listen to in the car. Its a great format and I have the illusion that some of it might stick. When I saw that David Byrne had done one I was very happy indeed. He spoke about the architecture of the rooms were music is performed and how it effects the music that is played there. Or the other way around. Operahouses, punkclubs etc etc   

A couple of months later I stumbled across his new book and it wasnt a hard sell.

In this fairly lengthy book David Byrne is doing two things...From his own experiences and studies he wants to explain how Music, the Music business and how Music performance works....also he is trying to avoid an ageing rockstar biography. And he is a enthusiatic writer. He has read books and studies on the subject. He writes about music history, music architecture, resonances and acoustic phenomena (I had no idea all the planets had their own harmonic character...) and the finances of the modern recording industry.

David Byrne is a writer who feels strongly about his subject and he has a naturally inquisitive mind....but he looses me occasionally in the book. Especially the chapter about the economics of the Music Industry become lengthy and dare I say it....boring. It is very difficult to make ends meet in the modern music industry....I sort of had a clue about that. But Byrne is passionate about it. So in this case maybe it isn´t the writers fault but the readers...I cant muster up the energy to look at pie charts of record label finances. I probably should but it doesnt light my fire.

Now and then David Byrne writes from his own experiences with CBGBs, "world music", Brian Eno and the Talking Heads....and all of a sudden his language changes in the book. He is a lot more fluid and to the point. He is funny and witty and the words come easy. I love these sections and probably thats why I liked his book on bicycles too....Subjects that reside within him are simple for him to write about, stories and tales he knows and as a result...while Im reading I hear his voice in my head. In the rest of the book I sort of see him shuffling thru papers, post its and quotes from other sources.  

A good read....but bring sandwiches and coffee. It might take a while.

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