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How Music Works


"A supremely intelligent, superbly written dissection of music as an art form and way of life... Highly recommended—anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book."
Kirkus Reviews

How Music Works hardcoverHow Music Works is David Byrne's remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he's spent a lifetime thinking about. He explains how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and how the advent of recording technology forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Acting as historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, he searches for patterns—and tells us how they have affected his own work over the years with Talking Heads and his many collaborators. Touching on the joy, physics, and the business of making music, he also shows how it is inextricably linked to its cultural and physical context. His range is panoptic, taking us from La Scala to African villages, from his teenage reel-to-reel recordings to his latest work in a home music studio. How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music's liberating, life-affirming power.


spacer Edition: spacer Publisher: spacer Release date:spacer
spacer United States: How Music Works   McSweeney's   12 September 2012
     Order: McSweeney's, Amazon
spacer United Kingdom: How Music Works   Canongate   12 September 2012
      Order: Amazon
For foreign rights and reprints, please contact The Wylie Agency.


"David Byrne's best book to date."
Boing Boing 27 Sept. 2013
"I am quite taken by the ultra-quiet, almost blandly generic cover... Composed with just a single neutral black sans-serif typeface, one size for both title and byline, and a simple computer “sound” icon — voila, that’s all you need to get the message across."
The New York Times 29 Dec. 2012
"...digressive and chatty, part memoir, part theoretical investigation, bursting with a sense of free-flowing curiosity."
The Telegraph 29 Nov. 2012
"100 Notable Books of 2012: This guidebook explores the eccentric rock star’s personal and professional experience."
The New York Times 27 Nov. 2012
"...a fresh perspective from a down-to-earth mind."
The Guardian, 09 Nov. 2012
"David Byrne deserves great praise for How Music Works. It is as accessible as pop yet able to posit deep and startlingly original thoughts and discoveries in almost every paragraph. Not unlike getting your ears syringed, this book will make you hear music in a different way."
The Sunday Telegraph, 30 Sept. 2012
"An entertaining and erudite book…this is a serious, straight-forward account of an art from that also manages to be inspiring."
Financial Times, 28 Sept. 2012
"Byrne and his book make for good company."
The Washington Post, 22 Sept. 2012
"As well as being an investigation into the context in which music is made, How Music Works is an accomplished celebration of an ever-evolving art form that can alter how we look at ourselves and the world."
The Independent, 22 Sept. 2012
"David Byrne is a brilliantly original, eccentric rock star, and he has written a book to match his protean talents."
The New York Times, 21 Sept. 2012
"How Music Works is music-geek heaven."
The List, 18 Sept. 2012
"[David Byrne] tells us about the hidden forces that lie behind everything we listen to."
The Observer, 15 Sept. 2012
"Beautifully designed by Dave Eggers' McSweeney's publishing house, it's a smart, accessible survey of the ways music is affected by circumstances – time, place, money, technology, human relationships – and how they can change the way we experience it."
Rolling Stone, 12 Sept. 2012
"It's this brand of populism that is inspiring about How Music Works, which is never anything but accessible and direct. Among its primary arguments is one in favor of amateurism, which Byrne sees as essential to the art."
LA Times, 12 Sept. 2012
"It was wildly ambitious to try and turn this galaxy of theory into a readable work of scholarship but Byrne has done it, and done it with style."
The Observer, 07 Sept. 2012
• "Always an intensely thoughtful experimenter, here he lets us in on the thinking behind the experiments. But this book is not just, or even primarily, a rock memoir. It’s also an exploration of the radical transformation—or surprising durability—of music from the beginning of the age of mechanical reproduction through the era of iTunes and MP3s."
Kirkus Reviews, 1 August 2012
"Byrne’s erudite and entertaining prose reveals him to be a true musical intellectual, with serious and revealing things to say about his art."
Publisher's Weekly, 23 July 2012

• 14 September 2012, Minneapolis: Delivering Music—How Technology Shapes What We Hear, with Steve Seel
• 17 September 2012, Chicago: Stay Free!—How To Survive In The Indie World, with Bettina Richards, moderated by Greg Kot
• 19 September 2012, Toronto: Wassup Internet?!—Music in the Digital Landscape, with Cory Doctorow
• 22 September 2012, Montreal: I Am Standing On A Stage--Why Do We Do It?, with Win Butler, moderated by Sean Michaels
• 24 September 2012, Boston: Are We Born Musical?, with Steven Pinker
• 28 September 2012, Philadelphia: Delivering Music—How Technology Shapes What We Hear, with Greg Milner
• 01 October 2012, Music and Copyright in the Digital Era, with David Lowery
• 14 October 2012, Los Angeles: Going It Alone: Music, Marketing and the Web, with Trent Reznor, moderated by Josh Kun
• 16 October 2012, San Francisco: What You Hear is What You Are, with Bernie Krause
• 19 October 2012, Portland: Acting Out—Why Perform?, with Carrie Brownstein
• 24 October 2012, London, England: Do We Need Any More Music?, with Matthew Hebert, moderated by Alexis Petridis
• 25 October 2012, Manchester, England: Plug In, Tune Out: Does Music Matter Less in the Current Era?, with Mark Mulligan, moderated by Dave Haslam
• 26 October 2012, Glasgow, Scotland: Stay Free—How to Survive as a Label and Artist, with Alun Woodward, moderated by Nicola Meighan
• 05 December 2012, New York: Music and Copyright in the Digital Era, with Chris Ruen
• 26 February 2013, New York, New York: Public Forum Duet: David Byrne and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson


For foreign rights and reprints, please contact The Wylie Agency.
For publicity and interview requests, please contact Sacks & Co.

©Catalina Kulczar