How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works

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 pattern...

Details How Music Works

TitleHow Music Works
Release DateSep 12th, 2012
Number of pages345 pages
GenreMusic, Nonfiction, History, Art, Audiobook

Reviews How Music Works

  • Darwin8u
    “But at times words can be a dangerous addition to music — they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more... ― David Byrne, How Music Works...If done poorly, they can destroy the pleasant ambiguity that constitutes much of the reason we love music. That ambiguity allows listeners to psychologically tailor a song to suit their needs, sensibilities, and situations, but words can limit...
  • Loring Wirbel
    I approached Byrne's latest with a little trepidation, due to a less than stellar NY Times review, and due to the number of people in the music industry (notably his own former bandmates in Talking Heads) who feel somewhat mistreated by Byrne. I was ready to read something that might be a bit arrogant, but was pleasantly surprised to read a folksy, fun, and exuberantly-written series of essays about how the 21st-century music industry operates, h...
  • Jud Barry
    Byrne gives us his take on music in a style that is very pleasant, straightforward, and conversational. He comes across as someone whose wide-ranging, collaborative experience and creative intelligence combine with an everyday kind of modesty in a way that allows you to imagine you could run into him in a club somewhere (he tries to take in at least one live performance a week) and have a good conversation, provided the music lets you (one of his...
  • John Lee
    I've loved the music of Talking Heads for a long time, so when I first heard about this book, I made sure to file it away so that I could read it. I finally did, and I'm really glad that David Byrne wrote this book.This isn't really a memoir, nor is it a scientific treatise. Rather, Byrne simply goes through the music creation process (ideation, performance, recording, manufacturing, promotion, etc.) piece by piece and explains them to the best o...
  • Charles
    I have been a Talking Heads listener for 30 years. For some reason that escapes me now I began to read How Music Works. To my delight I found it compelling.While much of the text is almost a autobiographical narrative of the creating of Byrne's musical corpus, the role of that narrative is quite different than one might expect. I take the book to be a discussion, a philosophical discussion in the best sense, of the creative process. I am reminded...
  • Patrick
    An uneven, often enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing read. My disappointment stems–as, I'm sure, will most readers' interest in the first place (mine included)–from my deep admiration and subsequent expectations of David Byrne. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, Byrne writes that he didn't set out to write an aging rocker bio, nor a set of "think pieces," but a bit of both. The book is most interesting and successful in the bi...
  • Ben Winch
    This is great. Good. Okay. All of the above. It’s unique (so far as I know): its closest relative is probably Miles Davis’s autobiography, or Byrne-friend Brian Eno’s Year With Swollen Appendices. It’s autobiographical, in a strictly professional/artistic sense – that is, concerned with music over personal experience – and I applaud that. Early on, when I was still in the “dipping-into” phase (something I do with all rock music bo...
  • Neal
    My review for Amazon's Best Books of the Month: It's no surprise that David Byrne knows his music. As the creative force behind Talking Heads and many solo and collaborative ventures, he's been writing, playing, and recording music for decades. What is surprising is how well his voice translates to the page. In this wide-ranging, occasionally autobiographical analysis of the evolution and inner workings of the music industry, Byrne explores his o...
  • Cheryl
    Fascinating. Even though I know nothing about music, not even to know the difference between a chord and a chorus, nor have I been able to either enjoy or appreciate Talking Heads or Byrne's other music, I thoroughly enjoyed most of this book. I do admit to feeling overwhelmed enough, or lost enough, to skim bits, but something on the next page would always draw me back in....Most interesting stuff needs context and so is too long to share here, ...
  • Abimelech Abimelech
    I picked this one up as a present for a musician I live with who doesn't read much and while appreciated, it sat on the coffee table for two weeks. I was a little put off by Byrne's Bicycle Diaries, which is weird because I know a bit more about bicycles than I do instruments and while no die-hard Talking Heads fan, I've always been a huge fan of his work with Eno. I read an early passage on the fly about how the musical language of birds, due to...
  • Pustulio
    Si fuera por el contenido este libro tendría sus cinco estrellas. La estrella que le falta es culpa del editor. Byrne lo dice al principio que él no es escritor y que no sabe como acomodar un libro. Pero pues para eso tienes un editor, la única falla que le veo al libro es orden. Brinca de capítulo en capítulo en temas muy diferentes. Y me parece que pudiera tener un mejor orden si el editor hubiera hecho su trabajo. Dicho esto: El libro est...
  • Anetq
    Det er præcis det titlen siger: En minutiøs gennemgang af 'hvordan musik virker' og dermed mener han det hele: hvordan lyd påvirker os, hvor meget kontekst spiller ind, hvordan teknologiudviklingen former musikken, hvordan man skaber musik, samarbejder kreativt, performance, optagelser og ikke mindst businesssiden: hvordan tjener artisterne penge, hvad gør pladeselskaberne osv. (og vi får hans egne regnskaber for et par plader for at anskuel...
  • Christopher
    As much as I am a fan of Talking Heads and David Byrne, when he wrote a book about bicycling a couple of years ago, I picked it up but I didn't get very far. Not a big fan of bicycles. But I am a big fan of music. So when David Byrne writes a book explaining music, I AM THERE.This should be required reading for anyone who has even a sliver of desire for making music for a living. You don't need to be a fan of Byrne's music to appreciate the fruit...
  • Jane
    I LOVED this. Devoured it. Byrne is incisive and articulate and offers new way of seeing (and hearing) music. I do a good deal of business writing and no longer often find myself on fire to get something written down, but from the start of this book I was itching to tie Byrne's ideas on music as "content" to my own work. As so many of my Goodreads connections are in L&D I especially recommend it to them, as I'm sure the parallels will be inescapa...
  • Elaine
    This really was a joy to read. Touching on all aspects (and genres) of music, from how technology shapes our perceptions of what music should be, to what to expect from a recording contract, this book really does cover it all.David Byrne (frontman from Talking Heads), is engaging, funny, insightful, immensely knowledgeable and more importantly, enthusiastic about a subject he has dedicated his life too.The one thing that stopped this book rating ...
  • Marvin
    I expected ex-Talking Heads front man and eclectic solo artist David Byrne would have some interesting things to say about music. But I was impressed by the scope and range of How Music Works. Byrne covers nearly every aspect of creating and enjoying music from the first steps of composing and to the nuances of performance to producing and promoting. Plus he puts it in sync with the world we live in never forgetting that music is a vital and ever...
  • Martin Hernandez
    La música de TALKING HEADS nunca me llamó mucho la atención, de hecho, no tengo uno solo de sus discos en mi colección, y tampoco sabía que David BYRNE es/era el genio creativo detrás de esa banda. Compré el libro porque me gusta la música, el título despertó mi curiosidad, y esperaba aprender algo acerca de la "tecnología" de la música. Al final, resulta un texto a medio camino entre el ensayo y la autobiografía, que puede result...
  • Nicole
    You should see my copy of this book - so many little flags to remind me to go back and check something out again!! Really enjoyable read for me, particularly the first six chapters (Creation in Reverse, My Life in Performance, Technology Shapes Music: Analog and Digital, In the Recording Studio, and Collaborations). I knew I wasn't getting a music biography here, but I enjoyed when Byrne included his own examples and experiences for fleshing out ...
  • nicole
    Musician, artist and author ruminates on music creation, influences, delivery methods and impact.I adore David Bryne and found Bicycling Diaries, his cycling travelogue, to be as fascinating as any Talking Heads album. I was excited to see him explore music through a similar writing style, but perhaps my anticipation is what kept me from fully appreciating the book as it was meant to be enjoyed. In the prologue, Byrne states that this work could ...
  • Tyler Hill
    This book is epic. One part professional memoir, one part dissertation on the history and business of music creation and one part esoteric musings on the roll music plays in society; its hard to think of an area of music that this book doesn't touch at least briefly. To be fair, that is a little bit of hyperbole. This isn't actually Byrne's attempt to cover every aspect of music in a Music Appreciation 101 sort of way. In many ways it is the anti...
  • David
    Byrne's "How Music Works" is a good book which is nearly excellent but for a painfully distracting flaw. More specifically, it is like a glass of extremely good wine with a fly in it.First, the great, which is most of the book. Byrne, as an accomplished and thoughtful musician, has a lot of neat observations about music in terms of how different styles work in different contexts and spaces, about how music touches all aspects of the human conditi...
  • Zach
    How Music Works by David Byrne was certainly an ingesting book. It was not quite what I was expecting. Byrne is obviously well versed in the music industry and has a wide range of knowledge. I do wish however that the approach to the topic was more scientific. He does display a vast amount of knowledge on the science of sound and the psychology behind why people like certain kinds of music there is no arguing with that. But he likes to slip in hi...
  • Chris
    This book fails to live up to its title, and indeed to the name of its author, who's musical career might lead you to expect that he has some interesting insight into the question of how music works.What you get instead is a cursory and unfocused ramble through recent history of music technology and theory, loosely tied together with some personal anecdotes and sophomoric pseudo-philosophy curtesy of Byrne himself. There are some interesting tidb...
  • Tom
    David Byrne is an intelligent thoughtful and articulate musician - with many interesting ideas on music. He makes an excellent case for arts education - playing music and performing teaches collaboration and listening skills that few other areas do. He is very well-read on the subject but wears his erudition lightly, with clear summaries of some unusual theories on brain development and language development, and an interesting theory of his own t...
  • Stefanie Gaspar
    This is one of the most amazing music books that I have read in a long time. The former Talking Heads David Byrne talks about how music "works" in harmony with surroundings, money, intentions and context - and how music can signify absolutely nothing if it is not inside a particular context. This is a book that can be read by scholars, music professionals and essencially everyone that wants to understand a little bit more about how the sounds tha...
  • Art
    The title of David Byrne's book is more or less correct, although the various chapters, some of which originated as TED talks or other projects, all seem to come at the topic from different angles (so it isn't exactly a coherent whole). It probably helps to have been a Talking Heads fan (which I was -- they were my favorite band in high school) and maybe it would have helped to have followed his subsequent career (which I did not) but less emphas...
  • Ian
    David Byrne gives us a fascinating look into music in all its many facets. From the history of recording and the psychological/social impact of music on humans to the nitty-gritty details about making money in the business, Byrne loads his book with the personal insights he's had in his life working with music.Byrne's insights in particular are fascinating for those interested in his own music, as he offers his own perspective and explanations as...
  • Kent
    This is an excellent book and was a pleasure to read. Musicians and music fans would for sure find this an interesting read and even those who are just casual music listeners would probably enjoy it as well. You don't have to be a fan of David Byrne or the Talking Heads to enjoy this. He talks a bit about his studio and music experiences with the band, but it is not a biography. He talks about so many aspects of music, such as finances, the recor...
  • Patrick Neylan
    You'd expect David Byrne – he of Talking Heads – to write something engaging. His band was quirky and unique, and far more intelligent than most other acts out there. Indeed, what he's come up with is an intelligent and not overly intellectual book that explains pretty much every aspect of music one could want explaining, from the physical and psychological effect of sound to where the money goes. Each of its ten chapters could be read as a s...
  • Anna L Conti
    This book is like David Byrne's other work, musical and otherwise - hard to describe, but a lot of fun, and an interesting journey. I read it straight through, enjoying his observations on the creative process, the life of an artist, and the discovery of links between different ways of knowing. I skimmed over some of the sections on technical aspects of music, but that might be the most interesting part to another person. I think this would be an...