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As this book's title suggests, musician and Talking Heads cofounder Byrne (Bicycle Diaries) brings the same ambition and wide-ranging focus to his writing that has always been present in his music and visual art. In chapters that function as distinct essays, he explores several hows of music: how technology has shaped its history, how artists can make money from it, and how our culture and surroundings affect our reactions to it.ÅPerhaps unsurprisingly, this broad approach results in shallow spots, with underdeveloped lines of thought and interesting topics that vanish too quickly.ÅYet despite the lapses in rigor, Byrne has a knack for presenting ideas and theories from music scholarship-notably, the still-emerging field of sound culture-in an accessible manner. VERDICT While he avoids focusing onÅhisÅmusical career, Byrne's ability to draw upon his experiences with Talking Heads and as a solo artist to illustrate his points is a clear strength. Music fans of all stripes will find engaging material in this book.-Chris Martin, North Dakota State Univ. Libs., Fargo, ND (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In this fascinating meditation, Talking Heads frontman Byrne (Bicycle Diaries) explores how social and practical context, more than individual authorship, shaped music making in history and his own career. Touching on everything from bird-song and mirror neurons to the scene at CBGB, his wide-ranging treatment analyzes the effect of music venues (he theorizes that terrible stadium acoustics bias arena-rock bands toward plodding anthems), technology (sound recording induced opera singers to add vibrato), finances (he proffers balance sheets for two of his albums), and much else on the music we hear. He draws extensively from his own experiences, as his music shifted from the minimalism of early Talking Heads ("no `oh, babys' or words that I wouldn't use in in daily speech") to complex theatricality; his chapters on Heads recording sessions are some of the most insightful accounts of musical creativity yet penned. The result is a surprising challenge to the romantic cliche of musical genius: rather than an upwelling of authentic feeling, he insists, "making music is like constructing a machine whose function is to dredge up emotions in performer and listener." Byrne's erudite and entertaining prose reveals him to be a true musical intellectual, with serious and revealing things to say about his art. Photos. (Sept. 21) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Most people know idiosyncratic, Scottish-born David Byrne as the front man of that great new wave band, Talking Heads. But he is also an author, painter, photographer, and film and record producer. In this wide-ranging celebration of the power of music, he discusses, among many topics, the early days of the recording industry, various types of music venues, birdsong and whale calls, the significance of mixtapes, the development of CDs, his love of African rhythms, and the concept of creativity and what it means to be creative. But he also mentions his own career as well as the many collaborators he has worked with, including English musician and producer Brian Eno, Brazilian composer and singer Caetano Veloso, and DJ Fatboy Slim. He describes the origin of his twitchy stage persona and acknowledges his own shyness, describing himself as a withdrawn introvert, whose most comfortable way of communicating was, he says, onstage. ( Poor Susan Boyle; I can identify, he writes). At one point, he even self-diagnoses himself as having a mild form of Asperger's syndrome. He concludes by asking provocative questions: What is music good for? Why do we need music? Funding future creativity is a worthy investment, he insists. Endlessly fascinating, insightful, and intelligent.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2010 Booklist