How Music Works by David Byrne

David Byrne is brilliant. His music, films, visual art, books and journal entries have held my attention since I first heard the album Talking Heads: 77 when I was in high school. Byrne was the lead singer and lyricist for the band, and I remember listening to the song “Don’t Worry About the Government” and just laughing in amazement at what an intimate, hilarious and poignant experience it was.

Soon after listening to that first album, a good friend introduced me to the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense and I was hooked. The sound, the ideas, the performance – it all clicked. The bizarre confluence of world music, technology, performance art, and psychology were enough to make me smile and think, as well as pay better attention to my own intuition, all at the same time. The bonus David Byrne Interview with David Byrne after the film made his work all the more appealing to me.

Since his time as front man for Talking Heads, Byrne has explored and produced a wide variety of books and music, as well as visual and performance art. Just google any of his chairs, sculptures, drawings or bicycle racks and you’ll find that he’s been very busy, even outside of creating new music. “Playing the Building” is an interactive piece of installation art, where parts of a building are connected to an organ, making the building “playable” to the participant. Byrne has written and created artwork for several books and is well known for his cycling adventures and online journal entries.

Byrne’s music covers a broad spectrum, including: pop, rock, metal, fusion, techno, latin and opera, and he has produced music for films, theatre, and various art projects. How great, then, that Byrne has just released How Music Works, a “remarkable and buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about. In it he explores how profoundly music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains how the advent of recording technology in the twentieth century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music. Touching on the joy, the physics, and even the business of making music, How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.” (

I didn’t have a Christmas Wish List before finding out about this book, but you can bet I’ll be putting this at the top!

2 Responses to “How Music Works by David Byrne”
  1. So what architecture did serialism pull from?

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