Thursday, 31 July 2014

How Music Works


Yesterday I received this in the mail:


This is the book that inspired this blog. A good friend of mine lent me his copy. I took it away and was knocked out. So I ordered my own copy.

It's not quite the Holy Bible that the title suggests but it covers a lot of ground, from the very formation of what we call music, right through to the future of music as a commodity.

My only criticism of the book would be the apparent revisionism of his own back catalogue. 
Throughout the book, he draws on his own work, especially the first four Talking Heads albums, and his collaborations with Brian Eno.
And then there is an almighty great gap. The Talking Heads I grew up listening to in the early to mid 80s, Little Creatures and True Stories hardly rate a mention. Even Stop Making Sense, one of the best live albums and music films ever, seems glossed over. Maybe he felt that their best and most innovative work came in those first four ( they are all included in the book 1000 Albums To Hear Before You Die, but nothing from Speaking In Tounges on makes the list). Or maybe those albums don't hold happy memories. The band split acrimoniously and perhaps the rot had set in some time before that. 
I'm speculating. 
But for me, I came to the band through those wonderful singles from Burning Down the House onward so I wanted to know a bit more about them.

But that's a minor quibble. It's not an autobiography and  what David Byrne has produced here is a deep insight into not only how music works in his own experience and on a sociological level, but how music works as an industry. 

And you don't need to be a classically trained musician or have a degree in audio physics to follow what he has to say either. He tackles the subject in laymans terms because, like me, he doesn't come from a classical background.

Anyone even contemplating a career in music needs to read this book to understand from someone who has been there and done that, what it takes to be financially successful. (And Byrne's criteria on success these days are around comfort, not stardom).

He's also savvy enough to take on the likes of iTunes and Spotify for their lack of artist acknowledgement. He has recently pulled as much of his back catalogue from Spotify as possible. As a subscriber this disappoints me but I do get why.

So why, with all that doom and gloom did the book inspire me?

Well it came down to one of the final chapters when he offers some hope of the future of music. 
He's writing in a country whose educational system has dropped all music education in case one child gets left behind in the basics while doing something as frivolous as creating art or playing music.

That scares me because that may be my future or lack of....
And it infuriates me because dumbass politicians and non musical talking heads all around the world are spouting this garage about teaching the basics. They think if we can somehow turn our schools into factories that churn out citizens who can read write and do maths if we just concentrate on teaching those things all day.

But in the Bay Area, California, a movement has started. Music For Kids is turning music on its head and engaging kids into playing music by helping them to play the music they love already.

When I saw what these guys were doing, I felt a synchronicity. I've been following them on Twitter and am seriously impressed. 

There's someone,or maybe many people, on the other side of the world running a music program with the same fundamental ideas as me:

-Music inspires passion even in the passive listener.

-Kids learn best when they are inspired to learn stuff they are passionate about.

-Teachers teach best when they are inspired and passionate also.

-Music education is a gateway to creativity where high level cognitive thinking can be achieved relatively easily.

If you agree, we need to talk.




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