How Music Works
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How Music Works


How Music Works is David Byrne’s remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music.

Acting as historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, he searches for patterns—and shows how those patterns have affected his own work over the years with Talking Heads and his many collaborators, from Brian Eno to Caetano Veloso. Byrne sees music as part of a larger, almost Darwinian pattern of adaptations and responses to its cultural and physical context. His range is panoptic, taking us from Wagnerian opera houses to African villages, from his earliest high school reel-to-reel recordings to his latest work in a home music studio (and all the big studios in between).

Touching on the joy, the physics, and even the business of making music, How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.

Title:How Music Works
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:345 pages

    How Music Works Reviews

  • Darwin8u
    May 26, 2015

    “But at times words can be a dangerous addition to music — they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more... ― David Byrne, How Music W...

  • Loring Wirbel
    Dec 31, 2012

    I approached Byrne's latest with a little trepidation, due to a less than stellar NY Times review, and due to the number of people in the music industry (notably his own former bandmates in Talking H...

  • Jud Barry
    Dec 20, 2012

    Byrne gives us his take on music in a style that is very pleasant, straightforward, and conversational. He comes across as someone whose wide-ranging, collaborative experience and creative intelligenc...

  • John Lee
    Sep 09, 2013

    I've loved the music of Talking Heads for a long time, so when I first heard about this book, I made sure to file it away so that I could read it. I finally did, and I'm really glad that David Byrne w...

  • Charles
    Nov 14, 2012

    I have been a Talking Heads listener for 30 years. For some reason that escapes me now I began to read How Music Works. To my delight I found it compelling.While much of the text is almost a autobiogr...

  • Patrick
    Nov 29, 2012

    An uneven, often enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing read. My disappointment stems–as, I'm sure, will most readers' interest in the first place (mine included)–from my deep admiration and subs...

  • Ben Winch
    Jul 18, 2014

    This is great. Good. Okay. All of the above. It’s unique (so far as I know): its closest relative is probably Miles Davis’s autobiography, or Byrne-friend Brian Eno’s Year With Swollen Appendice...

  • Neal
    Sep 08, 2012

    My review for Amazon's Best Books of the Month: It's no surprise that David Byrne knows his music. As the creative force behind Talking Heads and many solo and collaborative ventures, he's been writin...

  • Cheryl
    Jun 02, 2016

    Fascinating. Even though I know nothing about music, not even to know the difference between a chord and a chorus, nor have I been able to either enjoy or appreciate Talking Heads or Byrne's other mus...

  • Abimelech Abimelech
    Sep 22, 2013

    I picked this one up as a present for a musician I live with who doesn't read much and while appreciated, it sat on the coffee table for two weeks. I was a little put off by Byrne's Bicycle Diaries, w...