Recommended New and Recent Books on Music
James Fairclough and Harry Farnham The Mozart ProjectPipedreams Media, 2014
An utterly spectacular production that realizes the promise of multimedia, this interactive book combines learned and richly presented critical, biographical, and historical writing on Mozart with audio and video: interviews, panel discussions, three hours of music, 25 filmed performances, and a performance of Alexander Pushkin’s drama Mozart and Salieri (available through iBooks for iPad and Mac OS X only).
Robert GordonRespect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul ExplosionBloomsbury USA, 2013
Now in paperback, Gordon’s 2013 account of the rise and fall of Stax Records doubles as a cultural history of the South in the 1960s.
Tristan Perich1-Bit SymphonyPhysical Editions, 2014
Not a reissue but a republication: Perich’s breakthrough 1-Bit Symphony is now available with a bound copy of the score—to be exact, the first 1/100th of a second of the score, which amounts to almost 700 pages of hypnotic code, the first in a series on Physical Editions that packages recordings of Perich’s new compositions with a poster print of the score (Parallels is new and currently available).
Joshua HarmonThe Annotated Mixtape Dzanc Books, 2014
Harmon, a poet and fiction writer, views US history and his own life through the lens of his own record collection, a seemingly self-indulgent premise that nevertheless yields compelling results.
John SzwedBillie Holiday, The Musician and the MythViking, March 2015
2015 is Lady Day’s centennial year, and the great biographer of Miles Davis and Sun Ra explores her life and music without the romantic clichés that cloud her reputation and achievement.
Jon FineYour Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution* (But Can No Longer Hear)Viking Adult, 2015
A truly terrible title, but Jon Fine’s in-the-trenches account of his time in bands like Bitch Magnet and Don Caballero is a grounded antidote to the inevitable myth-making of books like Our Band Can Be Your Life (2001). It’s also, surprisingly, a frank examination of the nature of male friendship.
David GrubbsRecords Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound RecordingDuke University Press, 2014
A fascinating exploration of an enduring paradox at the core of avant-garde music: the sub rosa conflict between a listener’s path to knowledge—via records—and how those who made that music, particularly John Cage, thought that records were the antithesis of their art and values.
David StubbsFuture Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern GermanyMelville House, 2015
Published last year in the UK but due stateside in July, Stubbs’s survey of the fertile postwar ground that sprouted bands like Can and Kraftwerk promises to shed light on Krautrock and Germany in a way similar to that in which Rob Young’s Electric Eden (2010) examined folk music in the British Isles.
Will Holder and Alex WatermanYes, But is it Edible?New Documents, 2014
Something like the Old and New Testament of Robert Ashley, this large-scale book collects essays by Ashley and important early and late scores—including ...in memoriam Kit Carson (1963) and the entirety of Dust (1998) and Celestial Excursions (2003)—and with it, ambitious readers can literally make their own performances of his works, in the deepest, fundamental tradition of classical music.
Robert ChristgauGoing into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man Dey Street Books, 2015
Christgau’s excoriating brevity in his long-running Consumer Guide frustrates me as much as Greil Marcus’s bloated mythologizing, but there’s no denying the man’s stature as one of rock’s foremost critics. Who are we to begrudge him a memoir?
Turning Lead To Air: Music for Cello From Primo LeviBy Alessandro Cassin
MARCH 2023 | Music
Can narrative prose occasion instrumental music? Though countless compositions have been based on literary texts, the process from words to music can be elusive. A case in point was the world premiere of Luciano Chessas Piombo (Italian for lead)from Primo Levis story of the same titlefor solo cello, performed by the exceptional Frances-Marie Uitti on January 21 at Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring, New York, and the following week, at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.
The Birth of Music out of the Spirit of Critical Idolatry?By Seth Brodsky
DEC 21-JAN 22 | Critics Page
Sounding the idolswait, isnt this what music already does? What music is? Everything music touchesand it touches everythingseems to appear after the fact as having been an idol, or at least idol-like: hollow, silent, still. A drum, a mouth, a score for sure. A room, a premise. Maybe images above all? None dead, none even all that mute, and yet music, once it arrives on the scene, makes them seem as if they had been dead and mute, refuges for a kind of unearned authority. No idols without unearned authority.
Moondog Music in Coventry CathedralBy Martin Longley
APRIL 2022 | Music
Coventry Cathedral invited Down Is Up from London, an ensemble dedicated almost solely to the music of Moondog, that old inhabitant of New York City. The cathedral is famed for both being bombed into destruction (1940) and optimistic rebirth (1962), providing a suitably majestic setting for the works of composer, performer, and Viking-robed street musician Louis Hardin.
“A Totally Integrated Club Scene”: New York, New Music: 1980–1986 at the Museum of the City of New YorkBy Matthew Pessar Joseph
OCT 2021 | Music
Now, 1980s music has become anything but underground. Perhaps spurred by the cost of once artistically vibrant downtown neighborhoods like the East Village and SoHo, nostalgia for the decade has reached new heights.