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'How Music Works' by David Byrne

A Musical Book Review

I have had this book in my possession for over a month now, I believe. It has taken me that long to get through it. I am always reading more than one book at a time though, so that is part of the problem. However, it also took me a bit to get through it because it is both an interesting and a strange read. David Byrne is a talented guy, albeit somewhat crazy at times. That crazy shows through within the pages of this book, but so does his talent and his love of music.

What made this a hard read for me is that Byrne talks about himself and his music much throughout the book. I requested this particular book because it was about music, not because it was about a particular band or a certain musician. I didn’t want to read the life and times of someone and their music career. I wanted to learn more about music and get deeper into the meaning of music and how it affects different people in different ways.

I did like the way that Byrne broke the chapters up in this book. From Analog music all the way beyond, and from pros to amateurs. All music has a place in this book, once you get past Byrne’s “My Life in Performance” chapter.

Technology is what brought us music. Sure, you can go watch someone picking guitar and singing on a corner with no mics and no amps, but without all of the work of technology, we’d never had 8-tracks, vinyl records, CDs, or even the iPods. You’d only be able to catch musicians playing on street corners… and without instruments, all they would be doing is singing.

Technology has even made it so that people who can’t really sing can still sell records and become rich.

According to Byrne, the ability to record music allows those songs to be frozen. Music frozen in time can then be listened to and analyzed. If not for frozen music there would be no need for music reviews (and I would be out a job). The ability to record music also had an effect on the music industry and what musicians were doing with their music (if you want to know what that effect was you’re going to want to pick up a copy of this book).

The instruments of music also had a profound effect on music. In the past, many people had to create their own instruments, before they finally became mass produced. Of course, some talented musicians looking for a fun sound or something different will still design their own instruments, and there are also plenty of awesome and talented people out there making guitars and such right in their own homes, by hand, which gives the instrument something more than one created using a machine on which someone only pushed a few buttons.

The deeper you go into music the more you understand, and that is kind of the point of this book. It draws you into the world of music, inside and out. So, if you can get past some rambling here and there and you don’t mind hearing about Byrne and his musical adventures, this book is well worth picking up. If you are simply a music novice that likes to listen to songs this book may be a little too much for you. If you are a musician or someone that somehow works in the field of music (like a music reviewer) you will definitely find some joy, knowledge, and useful information within these pages.

Buy Your Copy Here

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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