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
GenreMusic, Nonfiction, History, Art

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...
  • Vicki
    There is a lot of information about musical roots and how musicians worked to perfect their sound according to what worked best with their style. I was fascinated by the facts about the designs of opera houses, concert halls and clubs. There are some entertaining tidbits in this book which covers not only the history but the decisions on Byrne's bands, music, and even clothing choices. It was an enjoyable read and I was provided this paperback co...
  • yh
    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...
  • 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...
  • julieta
    Una maravilla de libro. De verdad, me gusta mucho más que el anterior, diarios de Bicicleta, me parece que se llamaba. Este es David con todo, y eso que no puedo decir que he seguido su carrera, aunque siempre he admirado su capacidad para hacer tantas cosas distintas, arte, performance, talking heads! Me encanta, es una celebración de la música, es inspirador, desde tips musicales, hasta de la industria. Me deja muy inspirada para salirme de ...
  • 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...
  • Tomas Ramanauskas
    David Byrne, a legend, becomes your professor for duration of this book and delivers a fascinating deep dive into the world of music, its hows and whys. He scatters autobiographical experiences amid broadly scoped lecture on the sounds, the formats, the shapes, the evolution, even the numbers behind the recordings. It is a multi-faceted account of near child like astonishment on how this bloody thing really works.
  • 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...
  • Alan
    David Byrne's How Music Works was a perfect book for me to take traveling—dense with information, observations and concrete advice, all organized in manageable sections and copioiusly illustrated. Byrne delivers most handsomely on his title's promise: these essays are nothing less than the collected ruminations of a multi-talented musician on his long-practiced and still vibrant craft.Byrne is also (and not coincidentally, I'm sure) a lifelong ...
  • 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, ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 courtesy of Byrne himself. There are some interesting tid...
  • Erik
    Three stars because i liked it. Its more of a 3.5 , but rounding down because too many issues.This book is a classic case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. Part autobiography, part pop-sci book on music, part New Yorker-style expose on the nature of the arts. You get bits of all of it, but you cant help feeling that you are missing out on a lot. Maybe thats the point - a jumping off point? Except you don't really know what you ar...
  • 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...
  • Chris
    Ik heb getwijfeld over 5 sterren. Dit boek was een uiterst aangename verrassing. Het stond al jaren op mijn leeslijst, maar telkens als ik het vastnam in de boekhandel, had ik het gevoel dat het misschien toch niet veel meer dan een veredelde autobiografie zou zijn. Ik zat er compleet naast, met mijn gevoel. Wellicht omdat ik een beetje vergeten was wat voor een veelzijdig en intelligent mens, muzikant en kunstenaar David Byrne wel is. Frontman v...
  • Jordan Debben
    I felt like I learned a lot about music by reading this. I knew almost nothing when I started reading, and it's nice to read a book where you feel like you have learned something from every page. It's remarkably comprehensive too, with chapters on the theory, practice, history, creation, and business of music. It's all here, and presented in a way that even a music noob like me can understand and process. There are so many thought provoking nugge...
  • 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 ...
  • Jay Gabler
    Clearly Byrne wanted to write a musical manifesto rather than a reminisce, but the most compelling parts of this book are the sections where he talks about his own musical history. When this is effectively integrated with his broader project—for example, when he opens up about the finances behind two of his albums to illustrate the madness of record-industry accounting—How Music Works is a great read. For long sections, however, this book con...
  • Josh
    This was good! David Byrne takes a comprehensive, largely pragmatic survey of all aspects of music. He spends a lot of time refuting musical/artistic myths. For example, he definitely doesn't think music is made by inspired geniuses. It comes from hard work and practice. And more boringly, is usually steered by format--of venue, medium, larger cultural contexts, record company obligations--as much as creative whim. He also talks about the recordi...
  • Michael Bohli
    Musik ist immer etwas magisches, unerklärliches. Egal wie tief man sich mit Künstlerinnen und Künstlern, sowie deren Liedern auseinandersetzt, die Emotionen und Wirkungen bleiben mystisch. Mit "How Music Works" versucht der Gründer von Talking Heads, David Byrne, die Mechaniken zu ergründen und einige Punkte zur Geschichte und der aktuellen, musikalischen Weltlage zu erörtern. Aufgeteilt in lose zusammenhängenden Kapiteln wird schnell klar...
  • jordan
    Overlooking the occasional grammatical or spelling error (aHEM, editing is always a good idea, y’know...) and the seemingly random, long-winded tangents that strained my patience, this did really open my eyes to different aspects of music, and change the way I look at (or rather, listen to) music.
  • Stevie Dunbar
    I'm writing about the book I read
  • 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...
  • Denis
    Absolutely fantastic read. Byrne has done a great service here. Whether or not you are a musician, care about David Byrne or the Talking Heads, this well researched and organized work (each chapter clearly focuses on different aspects) will enlighten you in some way or another as to understanding and appreciating music in all its forms: Why it is in the form as we know it based on its history and development; how it was influenced by architecture...
  • 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...