How Music Works - Byrne, David

How Music Works - Byrne, David - First published in Great...

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First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Canongate Books Ltd, 14 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TE This digital edition first published in 2012 by Canongate Books First published in the USA in 2012 by McSweeney’s San Francisco Copyright © 2012 David Byrne Cover design by Dave Eggers All rights reserved, including right of reproduction in whole or part in any form. eISBN: 978 0 85786 251 8
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To Emma and Tom Byrne, who put up with my adolescent musical expressions and even helped out from time to time.
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CONTENTS Preface Creation in Reverse My Life in Performance Technology Shapes Music: Analog Technology Shapes Music: Digital In the Recording Studio Collaborations Business and Finances How to Make a Scene Amateurs! Harmonia Mundi Acknowledgments Notes Suggested Reading Photo Credits About the Author
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PREFACE I ’ve been involved in music all my adult life. I didn’t plan it that way, and it wasn’t even a serious ambition at first, but that’s the way it turned out. A very happy accident, if you ask me. It’s a little strange, though, to realize that a large part of my identity is tied to something that is completely ephemeral. You can’t touch music—it exists only at the moment it is being apprehended—and yet it can profoundly alter how we view the world and our place in it. Music can get us through difficult patches in our lives by changing not only how we feel about ourselves, but also how we feel about everything outside ourselves. It’s powerful stuff. Early on, though, I realized that the same music placed in a different context can not only change the way a listener perceives that music, but it can also cause the music itself to take on an entirely new meaning. Depending on where you hear it—in a concert hall or on the street—or what the intention is, the same piece of music could either be an annoying intrusion, abrasive and assaulting, or you could find yourself dancing to it. How music works, or doesn’t work, is determined not just by what it is in isolation (if such a condition can ever be said to exist) but in large part by what surrounds it, where you hear it and when you hear it. How it’s performed, how it’s sold and distributed, how it’s recorded, who performs it, whom you hear it with, and, of course, finally, what it sounds like: these are the things that determine not only if a piece of music works—if it successfully achieves what it sets out to accomplish—but what it is . Each chapter in this book focuses on a distinct aspect of music and its context. One asks how technology has affected the way music sounds and the way we think of it. Another considers the influence of the places in which we listen to it. The chapters are not chronological or sequential. You can read them in any order, though I do think the order my editors and I arrived at has a flow to it—it isn’t entirely random.
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