How Music Works

  • by David Byrne
  • Narrated by Andrew Garman
  • 13 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the iconic band Talking Heads, David Byrne has received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the insightful How Music Works, Byrne offers his unique perspective on music - including how music is shaped by time, how recording technologies transform the listening experience, the evolution of the industry, and much more.


What the Critics Say

"Anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book." (Kirkus Reviews)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not a survey of music history. Just Big Ego Byrne.

Would you try another book from David Byrne and/or Andrew Garman?

Absolutely not. As a book on music per se, it is terrible. Byrne has absolutely has no clue of the origins of classical music in liturgy, the development of harmony, etc, although he is pompous as heck about knowing it all. He reduces classical music, ballet and opera to status tokens for robber capitalists while 'hip hop' artists who blast their music out the car windows are said to be generous "sharing" their worthy music. Africans can be spiritual, yet Bach who wrote the most spiritual music ever, and inscribed each piece with "only for the glory of God", can't be, and is presented as essentially a buffoon. For Byrne, classical music is synonymous with the symphony, which is a minor part of it all. Solo artists, people who play classical music for pleasure, minimum wage listeners to NPR, etc, aren't considered. In short, Byrne sets himself up as the beginning and end of all that's worthy in music. The narcissism and lack of scholarship in "How Music Works" is appalling. This had me running back to Taruskin for a real music history, and both John Butt and John Eliot Gardiner for another look at Bach. Why did David Byrne wear a big suit in Talking Heads? To match his BIG HEAD.

What do you think your next listen will be?

A serious book on music.

What three words best describe Andrew Garman’s voice?

Clear, articulate, accurate.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It was a good description of Mr Byrne's personal history with the recording business.

Any additional comments?

Not recommended. The book should be retitled so people actually looking for a general book on music won't be misled.

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- Andrew

Audiobook is Better

I enjoyed this exploration of music with David Byrne as the talking head, gently guiding the listener through how music (and the music business) work(s).

Like several nonfiction books I've read/listened to lately, my big complaint is I wish he just gave us more, dug a bit deeper, and perhaps hired a better editor. I like that the book was infused with Byrnes' own populist, funky, musical biases. It seemed autistically casual. Like talking to a really open person who isn't trying to hide or pull the shades on his own past. He didn't shy away from his own mistakes and his own life. He used Talking Heads and his own albums as examples of the different ways music can be done and sold. His interests allow this book to move from punk to African music to soundtracks, etc.

One of my favorite themes of Byrne's reminded me of the last book I read (The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction). David Byrne seemed passionate about not just music alone, but music's place in our social networks. How music is both a communication with others and reflective of our community. In his more zen moments he even rambles on about the music of the Universe, etc. Byrne's biases were occasionally annoying. He did seem to carry a pretty large dark spot right on-top of classic music's basic repertoire. His politics, or musical reactions to politics, also seems a bit naïve. But all is forgiven, in the end. This is a guy who is not afraid to put himself WAY out there, describe the scene as he sees it, and figure out a way to make the people around him want to dance. And THAT I guess says a lot and hides a multitude of minor sins as we dance into the darkness.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-25-2012
  • Publisher: Recorded Books