• How Music Works

  • By: David Byrne
  • Narrated by: Andrew Garman
  • Length: 13 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-25-12
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (552 ratings)

Regular price: $31.49

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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.
©2012 David Byrne (P)2012 Recorded Books
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Critic Reviews

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

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Daniel on 12-16-12

"David Byrne is a Human" by a Talking Heads fan

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Byrne writes like a Malcom Gladwell in the music world. To me, that was interesting enough to keep me hooked because I didn't realize David Byrne was so smart and normal. I would recommend this book if you are trying to "figure out" music. Not that he claims to understand music completely. He tries to keep a balanced view and show the realm of possibilities of "how music works." Sometimes he goes on long tangents, talking about his projects after Talking Heads (which was sometimes interesting).

It was a great book to have in the car on the way to and from work.

What was one of the most memorable moments of How Music Works?

His section on music writing collaboration. For me, as someone in a band, I really took away some great communication techniques.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

The narrator was OK. I felt he seemed to miss Byrne's connotation sometimes. He also doesn't know how to pronounce "timbre." I feel like Byrne definitely didn't listen to this audiobook and OK everything.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Nothing too extreme. There were parts that were very exciting, like when he related to exactly what my band is going through right now.

Any additional comments?

I would say that if you are still enchanted with The Talking Heads sound, don't read this book. I haven't listened to them since reading it, but I suspect some of the magic may be gone when I do. This is ok for me, because one day I hope to reach levels that David Byrne reached. Or if you are a music fan, and want to see behind the scenes, it will be a fun read. You may want to skip through some parts, but overall it's worth it.

It's very unfortunate that the only other review on here was from some conservative person. Yes, Byrne goes on a few little rants in favor of liberalism, but i wouldn't say that's his main objective.

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18 of 18 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By thomas on 07-30-13

Very Good

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. I am a music fan first and although I really enjoy Talking Heads and David Byrne I would not consider myself a huge fan. With that said this is a very good book for anyone who likes music and want to understand it more. It comes off as thoughtful and well researched, with a point of view. I recommend it highly with those caveats and parameters.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Well David Byrne is essentially the character here ....his viewpoint is fascinating. I like the fact that he is explaining why his artistic taste and choices are what they are. Whether you agree or not, it's interesting.

Have you listened to any of Andrew Garman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No but I thought he did a good job, well done Andrew.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Having been to CBGB's I thought it was funny how he clinically described that down trodden club. His focus on acoustics and performance context was something I never thought of when in that space.

Any additional comments?

There have been a few other good music books I have read recently "The Life and Times of Brian Eno" and "Love Goes to Building on Fire"; both were very good. I would put this book on that par. If you are fan of musicology, the process of how art is made, anecdotes about a localized music scene and insight into how music gets made this is a great book. This is not a revealing, personality driven book about the rock n roll lifestyle. It descries music as art. I really enjoyed it, and I am glad I read/listened to it.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Anthony on 07-05-14

Listen enthralled - music to your ears!

Wonderfully stimulating musical experience! A fascinating listen at multiple levels - David Byrne himself, music and its place in our lives, and the transformation of music in contemporary times.

Byrne is simultaneously academic and accessible - quoting research while sharing stories from his own life experience, challenges, joys and relationships. An underlying theme is about creativity and how it is facilitated and stimulated. He offers examples of innovation and engagement. He shares insights from his wide-ranging collaborations, demonstrating how they have added value, sometimes unpredictably, to his own art. He describes his sources of inspiration, his values, and his interface with the music industry.

He offers perspectives on the place played by music in our lives and the lives of others: music as therapy, as expression, as mediator of community and repository of collective memory. Byrne examines the mathematics of music, its evolutionary role, and the common threads across styles of music, languages and cultures. He rails against snobbish conceptions of 'good music' and the associated dismissal of swathes of creativity.

A third dimension to this book is about how music has changed over time. He examines issues from the role of performance venues to the changing technology of recording, reproduction and dissemination of music. He discusses the role of the studio and post-studio creativity in recording and transforming sound. Particularly interesting is his exploration of how musical creativity and production is supported and exploited and how increasingly accessible technologies are challenging established business models. His typology of the relationship between artist and record company would be of interest to any musician seeking to derive some income from his or her art. He touches on music as a force for control as well as a force for revolution and challenge. (Reminds me of Pink Floyd, The Wall - ever seen the animated version of the album? Exceptional!)

Byrne offers a compelling insight into music as both a reflection and creative enabler of humanity, emotion, and experience. He is committed to equity in engaging with music in all its diversity. He challenges the conventional view of an hierarchy of musical genres with opera and classical music at the pinnacle. He argues against a view that while all music is of value, some is more valuable than others (excuse me for putting words in his mouth; but it reminded me of Orwell's Animal Farm - see my review). He argues that different people will appreciate different forms and genres, deriving meaning from them at different times and in different settings.

Issues are explored through anecdotes and stories, personal insights, references to science and art and their interface. Byrne is humble and witty, reflective but never pontificating.

A wonderful and stimulating listen - all that was missing was the musical accompaniment - something Byrne should work on for those of us who enjoy his music as much as his interesting insights and stories!

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 07-09-15

Good book, but the narration grates a little!

It's a great book, but the narration grates after a while! Sorry, but that's just how I feel.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Troy Abraham on 06-28-17

Great book, well read!

Best book I've heard in along while
Strongly recommend it for anyone musical or not

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2 out of 5 stars
By Alex on 09-14-16

Borefest

The performance could send you to sleep after 5 red bulls.

The title is a bit misleading. Long topics about how he dressed as a performer and the lighting used just made me lose interest constantly.

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