Book Review: Phases & Stages

Sheet Music

Phases & Stages

How Music Works

by David Byrne
McSweeney's Books, 352 pp., $32

While not his "aging rocker's bio," David Byrne's third book, How Music Works, might be as close to an autobiography as we're likely to get from the Scottish-born co-founder of Talking Heads. That's unfortunate because descriptions/illustrations of CBGB, plus the creative process behind Heads songs and innovative tour staging – not to mention his work with Brian Eno – are the most engaging parts of what he has to say. The rest is an opinionated history and sociological treatise on the forms music takes and the industry surrounding it. Byrne gets wonky when talking about business and "How to Make a Scene," while final chapter "Harmonia Mundi" delves into where music came from and its effect on culture, from the Greeks to Marshall McLuhan. That's weighty stuff bogging down Byrne's rather informal prose. In some instances, it makes for memorable witticisms about how music does or doesn't work: "We don't make music – it makes us. Which is maybe the point of this whole book." That's How Music Works in a nutshell: David Byrne manages to balance the substantial in a manner so lightweight it almost floats away.

READ MORE
More David Byrne
So Much Specialness
So Much Specialness
How David Byrne's 'True Stories' captured a lost Texas and a prescient picture of today

Leah Churner, Oct. 5, 2012

ACL Live Shots
David Byrne

Audra Schroeder, Oct. 3, 2008

More Music Reviews
Gift Guide: Rock & Roll Books
Hank: The Short Life & Long Country Road of Hank Williams
Hank: The Short Life & Long Country Road of Hank Williams

Jim Caligiuri, Dec. 9, 2016

Gift Guide: Rock & Roll Books
Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale
Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale

Tim Stegall, Dec. 9, 2016

More by Jim Caligiuri
Texas Platters
David Halley
A Month of Somedays (Record Review)

Dec. 2, 2016

Texas Platters
Jonathan Terrell
Color Me Lucky (Record Review)

Nov. 25, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

David Byrne, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, CBGB

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)