Art school confidential - Page 2

David Byrne's 'How Music Works' edifies and entertains

David Byrne explains it all.

On the other hand, chapters such as the two entitled "Technology Shapes Music" (covering both analog and digital) are as thorough as they are fascinating. Beginning with the earliest sound recordings in 1878 to an in-depth user's guide to the music software that has become the industry standard (even for confirmed oddballs such as Byrne), these chapters offer a thoughtful analysis on not just how music works, but also how it's worked. Finally, in chapter ten ("Harmonia Mundi"), a mere 302 pages in, Byrne turns to the scientific and spiritual principles of music and music theory. Music, it appears, has been around about as long as human beings have, as fragments of 45,000 year-old flutes and pictorial evidence found in Mesopotamia and Egypt help prove. He veers off into Pythagorian territory by expounding upon the so-called Music of the Spheres, and ventures into tantric philosophy, which asserts that the vibration of the universe is generated by Shakti and Shiva having sex.

The book ends on a note of bittersweet optimism, contemplating a future where human composers could actually become obsolete. It's a future Byrne claims not to fear — while still expressing admiration for music makers past and present, and gratitude for his own place, in this moment, within their ranks.

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