counter Music: A Subversive History - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

Music: A Subversive History

Availability: Ready to download

A preeminent music historian and critic presents a global history of music from the bottom up Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, historian Te A preeminent music historian and critic presents a global history of music from the bottom up Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, historian Ted Gioia reclaims the story of music for the riffraff, insurgents, and provocateurs. Gioia tells a four-thousand-year history of music as a global source of power, change, and upheaval. He shows how social outcasts have repeatedly become trailblazers of musical expression: slaves and their descendants, for instance, have repeatedly reinvented music, from ancient times all the way to the jazz, reggae, and hip-hop sounds of the current day. Music: A Subversive History is essential reading for anyone interested in the meaning of music, from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify.


Compare

A preeminent music historian and critic presents a global history of music from the bottom up Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, historian Te A preeminent music historian and critic presents a global history of music from the bottom up Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, historian Ted Gioia reclaims the story of music for the riffraff, insurgents, and provocateurs. Gioia tells a four-thousand-year history of music as a global source of power, change, and upheaval. He shows how social outcasts have repeatedly become trailblazers of musical expression: slaves and their descendants, for instance, have repeatedly reinvented music, from ancient times all the way to the jazz, reggae, and hip-hop sounds of the current day. Music: A Subversive History is essential reading for anyone interested in the meaning of music, from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify.

30 review for Music: A Subversive History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I am putting this down for the moment, the patronizing tone was too annoying. I might return to it at some point though, because he does talk about interesting stuff.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    Gioia notes early in this book that he's been writing it for 25 years. That shows: his conception of how music history is taught and written about and discussed is about 25 years out-of-date, and his work in this book suffers badly from it. The book would have been a powerful call to action and change two decades ago, but today, with hundreds of fantastic, progressive, new, and radically different approaches to music historiography in practice, both for "art" and "pop" musics, Gioia's work is ou Gioia notes early in this book that he's been writing it for 25 years. That shows: his conception of how music history is taught and written about and discussed is about 25 years out-of-date, and his work in this book suffers badly from it. The book would have been a powerful call to action and change two decades ago, but today, with hundreds of fantastic, progressive, new, and radically different approaches to music historiography in practice, both for "art" and "pop" musics, Gioia's work is out of touch, and the book's claims come far too late for it to be relevant or useful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joachim Stoop

    It was different and a bit less engaging than I expected

  4. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia started out by surprising me and ended up by blowing me away. Not what I had expected, as in: much more than I expected. I love to read music histories. Most tend to be about a specific genre, maybe about an era, sometimes about an instrument. The few I have read that are a history of music as a whole still tend to be selective with what is considered music (or at least what they deem worthy of inclusion) and/or limited by a broad style (western vs eastern Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia started out by surprising me and ended up by blowing me away. Not what I had expected, as in: much more than I expected. I love to read music histories. Most tend to be about a specific genre, maybe about an era, sometimes about an instrument. The few I have read that are a history of music as a whole still tend to be selective with what is considered music (or at least what they deem worthy of inclusion) and/or limited by a broad style (western vs eastern; tonal vs atonal). This book not only covers all of these but goes so far as to start with the Big Bang. Yes, that Big Bang. The breadth of topics covered through the portal of music and musicality is breathtaking. From prehistoric ideas of how music might have been used through various institutional attempts to control and limit music to the idea of music as primarily entertainment divorced from any practical purpose, Gioia cuts a wide path through not just music history but human history. He manages to not only cover all of this information but make some arguments for how music has been pivotal in history itself and even some insight into specific musicians (Beethoven, Parker, etc). I think because of the wide sweep through history this book will appeal to a wide range of readers, though admittedly certain sections may be more appealing than others. For scholars in various disciplines this may well indicate how music (broadly defined) might be incorporated into future research. For casual readers I think Gioia has managed to not get bogged down in any one area or time so that even if your primary interest might be a specific time the rest of the book will still interest you. And the early points he makes serve quite often as part of the foundation for later discussions in the book, so reading every section, even if not your main interest area, is highly recommended. While acknowledging that there will no doubt be some people who don't want this exhaustive or comprehensive history of music, I can't really think of any particular group of readers to whom I wouldn't recommend the book. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jason Friedlander

    Gioia’s story of (mostly western) music’s subversive power is interesting and entertaining to follow, though I realized halfway through that my engagement with it was inversely related to how much I knew about the period or artists brought up. At the end of the day it’s another grand narrative more intriguing read between the covers than within a broader context, but still one worth seriously considering.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gus Weyandt

    Gioia’s history of music uniquely maps the age-old battle between artists and power structures. Comprehensive and thought-provoking, “Music: A Subversive History” challenges its readers to rethink musical innovation, not just as simple entertainment or high art, but as a social and political force with immense ability to alter and uproot lives as well as entire societies. This is a must-read for any music OR history buff: It will surely expand your understanding of music beyond the constraints o Gioia’s history of music uniquely maps the age-old battle between artists and power structures. Comprehensive and thought-provoking, “Music: A Subversive History” challenges its readers to rethink musical innovation, not just as simple entertainment or high art, but as a social and political force with immense ability to alter and uproot lives as well as entire societies. This is a must-read for any music OR history buff: It will surely expand your understanding of music beyond the constraints of the algorithms and records that mark the average person’s everyday relationship with human kind’s most provocative and powerful art form .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gaili Schoen

    Some fascinating information here. Shocking to hear that the US spends more on military bands than it does on the National Endowment for the Arts. It seems that the American government believes that music is best suited to ramp up our military! I appreciated that women in music history were given if not equal time, they were at least given most of their due. Many interesting anecdotes and the central argument that it is rebellion and outsiders that give rise to the most innovative music is plaus Some fascinating information here. Shocking to hear that the US spends more on military bands than it does on the National Endowment for the Arts. It seems that the American government believes that music is best suited to ramp up our military! I appreciated that women in music history were given if not equal time, they were at least given most of their due. Many interesting anecdotes and the central argument that it is rebellion and outsiders that give rise to the most innovative music is plausible. The author speaks about the magic of music to affect us deeply and to transform lives and cultures. This book could have been much shorter as the author repeats himself, restating the same points in different ways over and over again. And if he maintained a less academic tone, he could make his book much more accessible to music lovers. The author would have benefitted from a more proactive editor!

  8. 4 out of 5

    molosovsky

    Everyone interested in music should at least give this one a try. Gioia has a holistic view, and is not ›only‹ concerned with musical techniques, styles and fashions, but with anthropological, social and political aspects. Extremely valuable how he regards themes that rarely find their way into a non-fiction book about art, especially music, about all the ›dark‹ or ›raunchy‹ powers that music possesses: sex, violence, social unrest, defiance, magic, altered states of mind. Gioia is a fine storytell Everyone interested in music should at least give this one a try. Gioia has a holistic view, and is not ›only‹ concerned with musical techniques, styles and fashions, but with anthropological, social and political aspects. Extremely valuable how he regards themes that rarely find their way into a non-fiction book about art, especially music, about all the ›dark‹ or ›raunchy‹ powers that music possesses: sex, violence, social unrest, defiance, magic, altered states of mind. Gioia is a fine storyteller so that this book entertains like a novel about music and humans (individuals and societies) through the last 4000 years. Not experimental, but straightforward, never afraid to speculate or ask questions. Recommended for everyone interested in music, from layman to expert. Listend to audiobook (very good performed by Jamie Rennell except for some french pronounciations … I think) but will also buy hardcopy for notes and further study. Also: one of the books I would LOVE to translate into German if I had the time and/or energy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy Lively

    3.5 stars. I will be honest that I had to skim chunks of this book, mostly in the first half, because I just am not interested in the music of ancient history. I also thought the last two chapters were lacking in analysis and were more a lament about music in the digital age. However, the parts I liked I liked a lot, which was made all the more apparent to me when I saw how many notes I had taken & highlights I had by the time I was done. I found the notion of approaching music history from the 3.5 stars. I will be honest that I had to skim chunks of this book, mostly in the first half, because I just am not interested in the music of ancient history. I also thought the last two chapters were lacking in analysis and were more a lament about music in the digital age. However, the parts I liked I liked a lot, which was made all the more apparent to me when I saw how many notes I had taken & highlights I had by the time I was done. I found the notion of approaching music history from the “outsider”/subversive point of view an interesting one (which is also why I had some trouble with the last two chapters— they didn’t seem to fit his overall thesis.) Our best music seems to come from the writers who are using their platform to be heard when they aren’t feeling heard in any other way. Then it becomes mainstream (which usually means white people like it) and it isn’t subversive anymore. And then the cycle begins all over again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James Klagge

    An interesting read. Offers a history of music from the start (hunter-gatherers) to streaming. Although it examines a few non-Western traditions, it is mostly Western music. The "subversive history" proposes that musical innovation always comes from the outsiders and then eventually gets accommodated. Thus, the history of music is a sort of pendulum. While this is painting with very broad strokes, it makes for an interesting viewpoint. It does feel like the details are sometimes cherry-picked to An interesting read. Offers a history of music from the start (hunter-gatherers) to streaming. Although it examines a few non-Western traditions, it is mostly Western music. The "subversive history" proposes that musical innovation always comes from the outsiders and then eventually gets accommodated. Thus, the history of music is a sort of pendulum. While this is painting with very broad strokes, it makes for an interesting viewpoint. It does feel like the details are sometimes cherry-picked to fit the theory, but that is probably unavoidable if one is committed to a theory. The author is very knowledgeable, and the real interest of the book is in the obscure musicians or historical details known to the author. My favorite chapter was the last one, on the effects of modern technology on music. Being a scholar myself (of Wittgenstein, not of music) it is only appropriate that I nit-pick a bit: -In telling stories about musicians, it is only natural that the author wants to fill out the stories with interesting details. But this leads the author to use ancient biographical sources or anecdotes that are either questionable or known to be apocryphal. (While I admire the author for using endnotes to give sources, he doesn't even give sources for these stories. I'm guessing they come from places like The lives and opinions of eminent philosophers by Diogenes Laertius. The extensive stories related about Pythagoras and Empedocles struck me as especially doubtful.) I guess this is the danger of trying to take scholarship to the people. -The author discusses how singers can hide messages in their songs that are known to insiders but disguised to outsiders--like spirituals ostensibly recalling the Israelites' escape from Egypt but also calling for their own liberation from slavery, or sexual innuendo. The author says (p. 159 & 186) that "Henry Louis Gates introduced the term 'signifying' to encompass this practice..." That's just silly. Gates may have "introduced" the term into the scholarly discussion, but it has been a well-known term for at least decades. The Signifying Monkey is a stock character in African-American folktales, and Sonny Boy Williamson II sang about "signifying" in "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" (1955). -The author gives the background for Christmas songs being called Christmas "carols" (p. 191). It is plausible and interesting, but I wonder how he resisted mentioning Bob Dylan's "legendary" account of the origin of the term in his XM Theme Time radio show about "Christmas and New Years." I think Bob made it up out of whole cloth! -The author has justifiably critical things to say about Steven Pinker, who is NOT a philosopher (as claimed on p. 279) but a psychologist (as claimed on p. 469); and whose name is "Steven" (as claimed on p. 279), NOT "Stephen" (as claimed on p. 469). -I was bothered by his discussion of "rock" music as it emerged as distinct from "rock-n-roll." Certainly there was no "rock" in the '50's, and it had emerged by the '70's. But when, more specifically? The author claims (p. 381) "By 1960, rock had taken over the commercial music business." That seemed awfully implausible. I would have put the emergence of "rock" more like the mid-'60's. He mentions both "Revolver," by the Beatles, and the Velvet Underground on p. 391, Henrdix's "Are You Experienced" (p. 362) and Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" (p. 363), and I would connect them with the start of "rock"--i.e., 1965-66. -The author has an interesting chapter ("The Sacrificial Ritual") about the early death of rock stars and the impact on their music, but this way of putting it just didn't make sense (p. 405): "Music stars at this exulted level may even see their recordings reach a new peak of popularity in the week following their demise." But...they are not around to "see" anything following their demise! -The author's brief discussion (p. 407) of the cathartic effect of some music, with an allusion to Aristotle, would have been a good place for a footnote to my op-ed “Violent media may have a cathartic role in healthy lives,” Roanoke Times, May 7, 1999, posted on my webpage. -I enjoyed the ways the author found to connect music with mundane aspects of life, like exercise. He says (p. 459) "synching the tempo of a music playlist with an athlete's heartbeat can improve stamina, speed and performance." My own experience with running is that synching the beat of the music with my stride is much more visceral. A powerful song that matches or is slightly faster than my stride is incredibly motivating. Of course, it all depends on your stride, but for me U2's "Beautiful Day" is perfect. -I would have enjoyed some discussion of the role, experience and aesthetics of listening to music. For example, the possession of music (records, tapes, cd's, downloads) is less than a century old, and quickly passing. I would need a U-Haul to move all my records/cd's (and books), while my son could move all his in his pocket. I devote notable space in my house to books and music, while that's never a consideration in anyone's mind on "House Hunters." (For more on this see my op-ed “Me and my books,” Roanoke Times, September 4, 2014, posted on my webpage.). When I was a teenager and into my twenties I set aside time to listen to music. Even now I do, though less so. Mostly now music is part of multi-tasking--listening to streaming while you work, etc. I am not a multi-tasker. Connected with both the previous points about space for music and time for music, there is the matter of music-listening technology. Along with my space for records and cd's I have a "stereo" with a record-player, cd-player, amplifier and speakers. I am not high-end, but anyway medium-end. I care about how the music sounds. What does it mean for music that that is now rare? Will sound technology ever matter any more? Does it matter whether it matters? (OK, I'm a philosopher...) In sum, I'm glad I read the book, and found lots to enjoy. But I think I'll search out something by the author that is more narrowly focussed, such as Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex MacMillan

    This global survey of the history of music is a hit-or-miss affair, as many chapters, particularly during the prehistoric and medieval eras, either drag or are too repetitive. He overuses cliched phrases such as "the present ethos" and "at this juncture" to the point of aggravation. The author's editor should have urged him to consolidate the first half's key points into fewer chapters, especially as his postmodern speculations about the subversive undertones of premodern music are overly relian This global survey of the history of music is a hit-or-miss affair, as many chapters, particularly during the prehistoric and medieval eras, either drag or are too repetitive. He overuses cliched phrases such as "the present ethos" and "at this juncture" to the point of aggravation. The author's editor should have urged him to consolidate the first half's key points into fewer chapters, especially as his postmodern speculations about the subversive undertones of premodern music are overly reliant upon a spotty historical record. The book picks up in the second half, but never reaches the same level of insight of other books that I've read about music with similar themes, such as In Praise of Commercial Culture, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! and A Renegade History of the United States.

  12. 4 out of 5

    June

    Writing about music can be very difficult indeed--explaining with words what really is best heard with one's own ears. The cultural history of music is equally as complex, with every piece having a wide array of sources and influences, as well as some coincidental resemblances. Ted Gioia has done well at emphasizing the interconnected nature of music as it relates to our experience as humans. The reader gains a kind of bird's-eye-view of why and how we make music, as well as lots of interesting f Writing about music can be very difficult indeed--explaining with words what really is best heard with one's own ears. The cultural history of music is equally as complex, with every piece having a wide array of sources and influences, as well as some coincidental resemblances. Ted Gioia has done well at emphasizing the interconnected nature of music as it relates to our experience as humans. The reader gains a kind of bird's-eye-view of why and how we make music, as well as lots of interesting facts that will impress your friends or trivia night competitors.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Frodo

    What an education on the history of music: Is music sound or notes? Noise or precisely planned? From Sappho and Pythagoras to Jazz and Blues to the Beatles and Rock to Personics and Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Gioia paints dazzling picture of the history of music. When music is dear to you, you will find this book a tour de force.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Vekert

    The paleobiology was notably wrong on a few obvious points so all the cool stuff seemed dubious. Dnf.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    This is an impressive and ambitious - maybe a little too ambitious - attempt to understand the history of music from way back when. And when I saw way back when, Gioia tries to go to prehistoric times to understand the roots of the appeal of music. It can be traced back to bird songs. (While music is often associated with love nowadays, Gioia notes how music was also always associated with war as well). There are a few themes that come through. One is about the desire to control music and reduce This is an impressive and ambitious - maybe a little too ambitious - attempt to understand the history of music from way back when. And when I saw way back when, Gioia tries to go to prehistoric times to understand the roots of the appeal of music. It can be traced back to bird songs. (While music is often associated with love nowadays, Gioia notes how music was also always associated with war as well). There are a few themes that come through. One is about the desire to control music and reduce it to a formula versus the interest in subverting any such methodolgy. He notes that Pythagoras was the first to try to make music to a mathematical formula. Such a goal has always been there - and we see it strongly in music today. But Gioia also notes that part of the appeal of music has been in finding something newfangled, something that cuts against the norm. And so attempts to make music into a precise formula fall by the wayside. He notes that part of the appeal of music from the African diasposra is how it didn't fit in perfectly with western musical traditions - it was newfangled. Another theme is where change and innovation originates from. Gioia argues that it's normally outsiders. Look at blues music - it's as outsider as you can get. It's poor, marginal farmers in the poorest part of the country making that music. He even notes that country music in many ways rose up side-by-side with it. (And that jazz while an urban creation while the others were rural creations). It's a very good book and I got a lot out of it. But it might be biting off more than it can chew. It's really a history of western music, not all music. There's a brief note to how much Mozi hated music, but that's it from China, for instance. While his last chapter on modern day music is very good, some of the ones leading up to it are a bit standard/generic - and even have some obvious errors. (For instance, a discussion of rap notes how even the 1985 LA Rams made a song. Actually, I'm 99% sure he meant the 1985 Chicago Bears). Some other observations from the book that I found striking. In recent years, some police departments have blared classical music in places frequented by drug dealers - and seen the dealers leave the area. Plato hated popular music, foreshadowing later critical versus popular battles. Aristotle hated flutes the way that some now hate electric guitars. There's long been a concern over music making men effemente - this is tied to the legend of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Rome did little musical innovation. Christianity feared the association of music with sin. But they adopted singing as the only good music. Drums were especially bad - but that just led to rythmic chanting in their songs instead. Abelard had fame in his own day for writing love songs. Troubadours helped save and revitalize western music. They may have been involved with the Cathar heresy - they developed at the same place at the same time. It may have come from slave singers in Iberia. Regardless, tourbadours legitimized secular music. The Reinsannce invented the idea of the audience. You're not singing for God or country, but for an audience - let them determine what's good or bad. By the mid-14th century, musicians were on city payrolls. Around 1600, the opera began and kicked off the commercialization of music. Bach was a rebel in his own time and his reputation really took hold only after his death with German nationalism and romanticism. Others like Beethoven were also coopted by the powers that be. Music was associated with nationalism in the 19th century (Verdi, Wagner). Folk music was collected then, too. It elevated songs of the masses into a Serious Matter. The rich influenced cultural tastes, but often by "slumming it" - a term dating back to the 1880s. They often want to adopt the music of lowers to engage in some borrowed authenticity. Gioia argues that Stephen Foster was the Vanilla Ice of his day. Country music came from music designed to make herds calm - pastoral communities across the world often have similar musical types. Meanwhile, hunting socities could use music to scare other animals away. Country music asserts traditional values, which is core to traditional societies, which also helps explain country's continued success. The Beatles were remarkable because they kept shifting their style all the time while sitting atop the musical world. He sorta argues that rock went from Elvis to Sid Vicious and it's all epilogue after that. Musical technology now outstrips musical change itself. Rap was invented 10 miles from the HQ of the music business, but industry leaders never went to the South Bronx. Gangsta rap holds many sytlistic and lyrical similarities to much of folk music, which also often focuses on sex and violence. EDM is futuristic, but is many ways just a new version of traditional trance music.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John McClester

    Well, I finally finished "Music: A Subversive History" by Ted Gioia, whose 514 pages took me a while, not because the book wasn't fascinating, but like Leonard Cohen said, I like to take things slow. For the reader who wants to cut right to the chase (whatever that might be), Gioia provides several guides. First, the book is arranged chronologically from the singing and chanting that accompanied paleolithic cave painting (p.29), through the divergent views of Empedocles and Pythagorus on the nat Well, I finally finished "Music: A Subversive History" by Ted Gioia, whose 514 pages took me a while, not because the book wasn't fascinating, but like Leonard Cohen said, I like to take things slow. For the reader who wants to cut right to the chase (whatever that might be), Gioia provides several guides. First, the book is arranged chronologically from the singing and chanting that accompanied paleolithic cave painting (p.29), through the divergent views of Empedocles and Pythagorus on the nature of music (p.48-55), to Beethoven's being deemed “a volatile ousider” (p.236), to contemporary Electric Dance Music as a re-creation of “the ecstatic trance rituals of music's earliest origins” (p.450). This structure allows readers to easily skip to the era and/or genre that interests them, without having to plow through material they would just as soon avoid. Second, Gioia concludes his work with an “Epilogue” consisting of forty summary statements that outline his argument that music's history is a subversive one, e.g. “Music is always more than notes. It is made out of sounds. Confusing these two is not a small matter.” (p.466). The third guide is the book's principal premise: “... a four-thousand-year history of disruptors and insurgents creating musical revolutions...” (p.2) which is reiterated throughout the different historical moments and musical styles. Readers working front to back, page-by-page through the book may find this somewhat repetitive, but readers dropping in on favorite topics or jumping around to fill in blank spots in their music history will not miss out on the gist of Gioia's argument. One of Ted Gioia's most interserting observations is chapter 24, “The Origins of Country Music in the Neolithic Era,” where he notes: “Country music still adheres to the ethos of settled life that entered human society with cultivating and herding – in sharp contrast to the nomadic imperative of hunting and gathering societies. You couldn't wander very far if you wanted to raise a crop while breeding livestock. Maybe that's why country songs still celebrate static lives, sticking with your job 9-to-5, even if it's lousy, and standing by your good-for-nothing man, even if he's worse. Blues songs are different. They deal with ramblers leaving on the next train and evading the hellhound on their trail, but that's not country music. In country, you endure and abide, make the payment on the dented pickup truck, and you go back to that same sad bar you went to last week, last month, last year.” (p.371) Due primarily to its historical range, "Music: A Subversive History" is not a casual read. However, readers will be rewarded by Ted Gioia's hospitable prose, informative specifics, and broad, passionate intelligence.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paddy

    First off, the title of the book may more accurately read as a subversive history of WESTERN music. It takes a non-westerner to recognize this simple fact out of the gate. However, the author has done a wonderful job of presenting music as a subversive force through the ages, even as it paradoxically serves as a force to unite communities. Music’s association with sex and violence from times immemorial serve as the backdrop for the entirely of the book. The author is not wrong with taking this p First off, the title of the book may more accurately read as a subversive history of WESTERN music. It takes a non-westerner to recognize this simple fact out of the gate. However, the author has done a wonderful job of presenting music as a subversive force through the ages, even as it paradoxically serves as a force to unite communities. Music’s association with sex and violence from times immemorial serve as the backdrop for the entirely of the book. The author is not wrong with taking this position as we learn from the examples he provides. The transformation of societies through the emergence of new musical styles that start either from the bottom strata of society - slaves,peasants - or the outer edges of normal society - punk, hip-hop - inform us about recurring patterns that have played out in living memory for most of us. The author bemoans the current state of music ( auditory cheesecake) while warning us about the dehumanization of music through technology and AI, forces that are atomizing society to a point where existence is more and more a solitary affair and less a communal experience. Even though the author clarifies that this book is about musical history, it really is more about the sociology of music. To that end, his omission of the cult-like following for the Grateful Dead, with its long tail now in its 25th year after the passing of Jerry Garcia, King of the Dead Heads, is puzzling. He also mostly ignores the popular music of the aughts and the current decade, which I don’t blame him for. As a performing musician for several decades, I can confess to the lack of inspiration in the current pantheon of musical heroes. Blame it on my age, but I find myself drawn more to remasters and reinterpretations of jazz and rock standards to contemporary jazz or rock. Nostalgia reigns supreme. I pay hundreds of dollars to see classic rock bands in their fifth or sixth “farewell” concert but would not consider paying a small door charge for an emerging band. My big question on the future of music is also one he leaves us contemplating at the end of the book: what new musical genre can possibly emerge now that will breathe life into the comatose industry ? He suggests that a new style will emerge from technology with the assistance of AI. I see it happening and am not sure what that’s going to sound like. There is no substitute to real music performed by a real musician to make a genuine emotional connection with the audience. However, AI is replacing humans in many aspects of life. Musicians won’t be spared either.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kumail Akbar

    “When dealing with music, the personal is the political, and always has been.” This is what Gioia wanted to show with this work, and has done an excellent job doing so. As I am not well versed in the history of music, I am unable to comment on the accuracy of his claims nor evaluate them with any semblance of objectivity, but as a coherent narrative the argument he presents – that musical innovation happens ‘from the bottom up and the outside in’ sounds very believable. He argues that the histor “When dealing with music, the personal is the political, and always has been.” This is what Gioia wanted to show with this work, and has done an excellent job doing so. As I am not well versed in the history of music, I am unable to comment on the accuracy of his claims nor evaluate them with any semblance of objectivity, but as a coherent narrative the argument he presents – that musical innovation happens ‘from the bottom up and the outside in’ sounds very believable. He argues that the history of music mirrors the history of other human social ideas, that is musical styles emerge in contrast to and in antagonism to prevailing trends, these are then adopted by larger musical institutions and thus become the norm, only to be replaced or re-energized by another style emerging in contrast to the now established one. “On the one hand we encounter the music of order and discipline, aspiring to the perfection of mathematics and aligned with institutional prerogatives. On the other, we find music of intense feelings, frequently associated with magic or trance states, and resistant to control from above.” And yet the former cannot exist without the latter. “The intense songs of outsiders and various marginalized groups possess power, and that power can’t be ignored.” What seems blasphemous in its early stages gets adopted by the church with the passage of time. A relatively credible argument, backed by volumes of data written in thoroughly engaging style makes this a thoroughly enjoyable read. Rating: 5/5

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) This book was more interesting than I initially thought it might be. It offer a comprehensive history of music, looking at how the major innovations for music came from those deemed subversive and/or revolutionary. The author seems to relish pointing out the fallacies of established music history and has no problem turning sacred cows into great hamburgers. Some of the biggest revelations come from the older history, back in the time of the Sumerians and the great kingdoms of the Mid (Audiobook) This book was more interesting than I initially thought it might be. It offer a comprehensive history of music, looking at how the major innovations for music came from those deemed subversive and/or revolutionary. The author seems to relish pointing out the fallacies of established music history and has no problem turning sacred cows into great hamburgers. Some of the biggest revelations come from the older history, back in the time of the Sumerians and the great kingdoms of the Middle East in Old Testament days, where musicians of that time were often women and those engaged in activities the surviving recorded history does not bother to recall/correct. He is quick to point out that if an established historical figure is given credit for a musical development, then it is likely said individual did little to advance that development, that the leader and his followers co-opted the advancement. He skewers everyone from King Solomon to Bach to Silicon Valley and their foray into the music business. While long, the work was engaging and would make quite the music history textbook. Audio does not include actual music, but its rating is the same as the hard/e-copy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Let's go ahead and call this for what it is: The Howard Zinn of Music History. A story of musical evolution told through the slaves and prostitutes, the outsiders and the renegades. And then,  when the social upheaval in response to these new movements subside, how they become part of the mainstream. Look no further than the Punk Rock of Beethoven to N.W.A being admitted to the Library of Congress only a couple decades after Reverend LoveJoy's wife implored us to "think of the children". The res Let's go ahead and call this for what it is: The Howard Zinn of Music History. A story of musical evolution told through the slaves and prostitutes, the outsiders and the renegades. And then,  when the social upheaval in response to these new movements subside, how they become part of the mainstream. Look no further than the Punk Rock of Beethoven to N.W.A being admitted to the Library of Congress only a couple decades after Reverend LoveJoy's wife implored us to "think of the children". The research here is solid and Gioia clearly knows his stuff; he writes with an authority that is both commanding and captivating.  The story begins literally in prehistory with the sounds of nature, the calls of war; nevertheless, the story really takes off when we meet Beethoven: the kingpin from whom all subsequent musical badassery hails. The book concludes with the most recent - and potentially most cataclysmic upheaval in the advent of streaming services. Highly informative, lots of fun.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ted Burke

    Fascinating read, Goia does us the favor of skipping the technical comparatives and assorted arcana that interest tech heads and deep nerds and instead discusses, in plain language, the evolution of music in social, philosophical and spiritual context, revealing the need to make music as a means to give direct and immediate expression of human experience . He covers a lot of material here, does a fine job displaying the various arguments over the use and misuse of music has been, and is very cog Fascinating read, Goia does us the favor of skipping the technical comparatives and assorted arcana that interest tech heads and deep nerds and instead discusses, in plain language, the evolution of music in social, philosophical and spiritual context, revealing the need to make music as a means to give direct and immediate expression of human experience . He covers a lot of material here, does a fine job displaying the various arguments over the use and misuse of music has been, and is very cogent and persuasive as to how various music forms, especially song, developed over time , changing condition, and need to adapt . Some of his conclusions seem a little pat--I am suspect these days of sweeping pronouncements about unbelievable large things such as the history of music--but Goia does make you appreciate the miracle of being able to make music .

  22. 4 out of 5

    E.

    A really fun read. Gioia advances a few key theses in this history of music--that music is deeply connected to magic, that music is deeply connected to violence, that musical innovations are created by outsiders and eventually mainstreamed by the power structure. The latter means that he doesn't accept some of the standard histories that claim some prominent political or church leader introduced some innovation and he goes looking for where the ideas really came from. He's got a thesis as to why A really fun read. Gioia advances a few key theses in this history of music--that music is deeply connected to magic, that music is deeply connected to violence, that musical innovations are created by outsiders and eventually mainstreamed by the power structure. The latter means that he doesn't accept some of the standard histories that claim some prominent political or church leader introduced some innovation and he goes looking for where the ideas really came from. He's got a thesis as to why drums were not prominent in early country music, and it ties back to the prehistoric move from hunting to herding cultures. He defends universal aspects of music (arguing with ethnomusicologists) and often the common thread that connects geographically diverse cultures with similar music is the animals they kept. This is full of fun, provocative ideas and stories.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Sex and violence. That's what music is all about, folks! Gioia draws a somewhat straight line from the most probable origins of music in the human species to the algorithmic curation of listener playlists. He argues music is always driven by the outsider. It's the music of the slave that influences the tastes of the slave masters, whose attempts to standardize and codify only push the outsider to innovate. This will come as no surprise to anyone who's a fan of more than one genre of music. It's Sex and violence. That's what music is all about, folks! Gioia draws a somewhat straight line from the most probable origins of music in the human species to the algorithmic curation of listener playlists. He argues music is always driven by the outsider. It's the music of the slave that influences the tastes of the slave masters, whose attempts to standardize and codify only push the outsider to innovate. This will come as no surprise to anyone who's a fan of more than one genre of music. It's an endless cycle. I can forgive Gioia's insistence on holding up The Sex Pistols as the sole standard bearer for punk rock only because he manages to mention The Dubliners in a survey of all the influential music in human history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    The final line of the book is: "... with music, we can all be wizards." If that doesn't intrigue you ... don't know what to say. Entertaining and fascinating - I have no way of evaluating the accuracy of some of this, but when Gioia touches on subjects I know something about (music during the Reformation, church fathers on music etc.) I found him to be painting in broad strokes (not surprising, given the scope of the book), but not inaccurately. I do wish that there had been a little more on musi The final line of the book is: "... with music, we can all be wizards." If that doesn't intrigue you ... don't know what to say. Entertaining and fascinating - I have no way of evaluating the accuracy of some of this, but when Gioia touches on subjects I know something about (music during the Reformation, church fathers on music etc.) I found him to be painting in broad strokes (not surprising, given the scope of the book), but not inaccurately. I do wish that there had been a little more on music-making, amateur musicianship etc. (and its decline) in the modern era. Gioia really focuses in on the commercial side of things when he moves into the 20th and 21st centuries, but I think he would have interesting things to say about making music for reasons other than profit in our current era.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Denison

    Music: A Subversive History Ted Gioia 1/30/2020 This is his fourth book on music. In it he argues a simple essential Hegelian formula where Thesis is the old accepted “in fashion” style, Antithesis is the new “outsider” music, which in his theory must come from the outside, must be a real anti-thesis, and finally Synthesis, wherein the erstwhile radical anti-music has gradually become a new Thesis, ready for its own antithesis from the outside. Seems obvious enough. But his thus framed history of Music: A Subversive History Ted Gioia 1/30/2020 This is his fourth book on music. In it he argues a simple essential Hegelian formula where Thesis is the old accepted “in fashion” style, Antithesis is the new “outsider” music, which in his theory must come from the outside, must be a real anti-thesis, and finally Synthesis, wherein the erstwhile radical anti-music has gradually become a new Thesis, ready for its own antithesis from the outside. Seems obvious enough. But his thus framed history of music (in an evolutionary context, ala: which came first, music or language?) was still an interesting and thought provoking read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick Rabkin

    A bit too clever for its own good. Still, a very intriguing approach to understanding the power of music throughout history. By the time you get past Pythagoras, though, he's pretty much wrung out the idea and it take a couple of hundred more pages before he gets to the present. Big theories like this always leak a little. One can quibble and find lots of exceptions and alternative ways to understand what's going on in music, but Gioia has done for music what, in some ways Marx did for political A bit too clever for its own good. Still, a very intriguing approach to understanding the power of music throughout history. By the time you get past Pythagoras, though, he's pretty much wrung out the idea and it take a couple of hundred more pages before he gets to the present. Big theories like this always leak a little. One can quibble and find lots of exceptions and alternative ways to understand what's going on in music, but Gioia has done for music what, in some ways Marx did for political economy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A captivating read and a nice counterpart to the standard music history textbooks. Gioia presents a compelling theory about the development of musical styles and argues his case persuasively with regard to each era and style that he covers. Much of the evidence presented is truly illuminating. Who knew that the Lydians and Phrygians were actually ethnic groups enslaved by the Greeks, for instance? I bristled a bit at Gioia's insistence upon the universality of music, but he's referring more to i A captivating read and a nice counterpart to the standard music history textbooks. Gioia presents a compelling theory about the development of musical styles and argues his case persuasively with regard to each era and style that he covers. Much of the evidence presented is truly illuminating. Who knew that the Lydians and Phrygians were actually ethnic groups enslaved by the Greeks, for instance? I bristled a bit at Gioia's insistence upon the universality of music, but he's referring more to its social functions and patterns of development, not the particulars of any given theoretical framework such as 12TET. The book is not without notable flaws. The testimonial from Fred Hersch at the very beginning boldly asserts that Gioia argues the universality of music from all cultures, which leads one to believe that the book will present a balanced, global perspective. To Gioia's credit, Music is significantly less Eurocentric than many other music history books, especially in the beginning. However, as the book goes on, it increasingly falls into the groove of the conventional European music history timeline. Gioia gives many forms of African-American and/or popular music their due (finally), but the book is only half-committed to the idea of a global perspective. A few references to Rumi or the Shijing ultimately amount to a shallow multiculturalism. The lack of substance with which Gioia discusses Latin American music is striking in comparison to his discussion of certain other topics: references to Sid Vicious abound, yet the words "Cuba" or "Mexico" do not even appear once. A couple of distracting typographical errors made their way into the first edition, and whether they will be corrected in future editions remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Music for what it really is: an alternative Western music history text, A People's History of the United States for music, if you will. It's certainly a hell of a lot more exciting than my undergrad textbook. Because of the vastness of the topic and the relative brevity of the work, many seminal figures within even the Western classical tradition don't receive their proper due, and I'd recommend reading this book as a supplement to more traditional music history material.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    I enjoyed Ted Giola’s ‘The History of Jazz’ and enjoyed equally his ‘Music: A Subversive History’. In the former he explains how African-Americans, slaves and the offspring of slaves, were responsible for creating blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and rock, i.e. the music of 20th century America. In the latter he shows that throughout history it’s been ‘outsiders’ and those at the margins of society who’ve influenced music that eventually became mainstream.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Music can be a tough subject to make interesting, and the author mostly succeeds. This is a long book, but the diversity of the topics covered and their inter-relationships is clear and well-executed. This may be a bit dry for some readers, but the author has deep knowledge and is a good writer. I really appreciate the copy for review!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee Barry

    A fantastic work of scholarship, but the subversion premise is a bit weak, and the book is top-heavy in information to support it. There were some interesting takeaways for me, but I wasn't really that moved by it. I recommend Joel Dinerstein's book The Origins of Cool in Postwar America. 'Cool' is inherently subversive across many domains. A fantastic work of scholarship, but the subversion premise is a bit weak, and the book is top-heavy in information to support it. There were some interesting takeaways for me, but I wasn't really that moved by it. I recommend Joel Dinerstein's book The Origins of Cool in Postwar America. 'Cool' is inherently subversive across many domains.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...