How Music Works by David Byrne

78%

18 Critic Reviews

Mr. Byrne is exploring all the reasons music is beautiful and how other people, especially musicians, can appreciate and sustain that beauty for themselves.
-Wall Street Journal

Synopsis

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.
 

About David Byrne

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DAVID BYRNE is cofounder of the music group Talking Heads as well as a visual artist. He has released several solo albums in addition to collaborations with Twyla Tharp, Robert Wilson, and Brian Eno. He lives and bikes in New York City.
 
Published September 12, 2012 by McSweeney's. 350 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography, History, Self Help, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Dec 30 2012
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for How Music Works
All: 18 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Excellent
Aug 15 2012

Byrne touches on all kinds of music from all ages and every part of the world...anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Michel Faber on Nov 09 2012

How Music Works is wonderfully wide-ranging, covering the prehistoric origins of music, Madonna's contracts... and music's physiological and neurological effects

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Mark Ellen on Sep 07 2012

It was wildly ambitious to try and turn this galaxy of theory into a readable work of scholarship but Byrne has done it, and done it with style.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by JOHN ROCKWELL on Sep 21 2012

...doesn’t quite cohere. It is full of sharp, glancing insights, but Byrne never brings his approach to music into focus.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Sep 12 2012

Give Mr. Byrne credit for consistently going his own way. But “How Music Works” is a road to nowhere.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Jul 23 2012

Byrne’s erudite and entertaining prose reveals him to be a true musical intellectual, with serious and revealing things to say about his art.

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Wall Street Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by MICHAEL AZERRAD on Oct 05 2012

Mr. Byrne is exploring all the reasons music is beautiful and how other people, especially musicians, can appreciate and sustain that beauty for themselves.

Read Full Review of How Music Works | See more reviews from Wall Street Journal

Star Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by JON BREAM on Sep 08 2012

...he's a bright and curious observer just thinking out loud, offering a mixture of thoughtful insight and the obvious.

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Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by David Rothenberg on Sep 21 2012

If you’re a surviving rock star, you may find yourself asked to write a book...they’ve all been interesting and worth reading. But none of them is as good as David Byrne’s book

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Jason Heller on Sep 17 2012

To How Music Works’ credit, that same joy—of singing and playing, of thinking and dancing, of listening and wondering—renders almost every page a song.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Oliver Keens on Oct 01 2012

Every form of music, from birdsong onwards, is considered and elegantly related to form, debunking romantic conceits about music and presenting a far more beautiful rationality.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Sep 24 2012

Byrne delivers an essential guide to performance and recording, honest and up-to-date, and filled with both practical advice and insightful commentary.

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Joan Anderman on Sep 15 2012

...a buoyant hybrid of social history, anthropological survey, autobiography, personal philosophy, and business manual, sometimes on the same page.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Tim Page on Sep 22 2012

...welcoming, informal, digressive...one has the pleasant sense that Byrne is speaking directly to the reader, sharing a few confidences he has picked up over the years.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Sep 13 2012

The book contains no details about the famously rancorous dissolution of Talking Heads...

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Paste

Below average
Reviewed by Elias Leight on Oct 16 2012

...when not focused on experiences in the studio, his writing loses its firsthand intensity, its narrative coherence, and a good deal of its power to interest.

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London Evening Standard

Below average
Reviewed by Nick Curtis on Sep 06 2012

Altogether it’s as quirky and odd as you’d expect from Byrne but less consistently entertaining than you’d hope.

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Cnet

Good
Reviewed by Steve Guttenberg on Oct 14 2012

"How Music Works" is a journey of sorts, with a knowledgeable guide chock-full of personal insights and charm.

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Reader Rating for How Music Works
79%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 169 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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