Tagged with How Music Works

The Music of New York

In David Byrne’s book How Music works, he describes a rather extraordinary 9 year old, Matthew Whitaker who was born 20 weeks premature and weighed 2 pounds, and is blind. “Every Saturday he travels to New York from his home in Hackensack, New Jersey, for a full day of music lessons, He plays 7 instruments. … Continue reading

On High Art

In David Byrne’s book How Music Works, he spends a lot of time complaining about how much money is poured into what is perceived as high art, whilst neglecting so many other art forms. He questions the very notion of high art, but that’s maybe because he doesn’t know the history of it. He cites … Continue reading

Definite Articles

Here’s a slice of David Byrne’s book How Music Works: “I heard computer scientist Jaron Lanier speak at a symposium recently. After playing some pieces on a shen, a Chinese mouth organ, he said that it had a surprising and prodigious heritage. He claimed that this instrument was maybe the first in which then notes … Continue reading

Singing to Just You?

No matter how much I write, I never feel like I am the author. This may sound strange, because I clearly am. I have the copyright on the books I published, and yet when I read them after some time, it feels like someone else wrote them, and it feels like that at the time. … Continue reading

Music and Technology

One of the things that defines us as modern humans is the constant striving to do things bigger, better, faster, and the history of sound recording has been for more precision, from wax cylinders to tapes to vinyl and now digital. But the problem with digital is that it means the music has to fit … Continue reading

Another String to Bing’s Bow

Bing Crosby always came across as a rather laid back old guy who could sing, but he had some pretty amazing sidelines. He and Bob Hope were instrumental in promoting the work of black musicians, in particular, their friend Louis Armstrong; I once heard a recording of Bob Hope heckling a racist comic. Bing was … Continue reading

Satchmo Dancing

Here is some more from David Byrne’s book, How Music Works. Music has been part of human culture for as long as there has been such a thing as culture, but it changed dramatically with the invention of recorded sound by Edison in 1887. His first machine was not to record music – it was … Continue reading

Religion and Performance

One of the biggest differences between communities seems to be that of religion – not just about what they believe, but of how they practice it. In David Byrne’s book How Music Works, he talks of a visit to Balinese temple: “The audiences, mostly local villagers of all ages, weren’t paying attention half the time. … Continue reading

Byrne on Performance

I am fascinated by what happens to people at public gatherings, such as concerts, in churches, political rallies, by the energy, the sense of community, and why this seems to be such an integral part of most civilisations. David Byrne is also fascinated by the process of performance; in his book How Music Works he … Continue reading

Rhythm and Song

Here’s another idea from David Byrne’s How Music Works.  When musicians are reading music, there is a need for precision, to get the right notes in the right places, which to an extent can be copied by machines, but there is a human element, of style, of phrasing, that makes singers and musicians distinctive and … Continue reading