History of Music Books

I just finished a few incredible books that cover the history of music from a few different perspectives.

Theft: A History of Music

The first is Theft: A History of Music (Amazon link) by Jennifer Jenkins and James Boyle, which covers 2000 years of music history in the form of a comic book. It dives into the topics of remixing, copyright, ownership, impact of technology, law, and more.  It’s a highly entertaining read. I don’t really read comics or graphic novels or whatever the kids call them, but it turned out to be a really fun way to work through the subject matter. There’s a ton of wit in the writing, the illustrations are fantastic, and the content is well researched and presented.

How Music Works

The second is How Music Works by David Byrne, which delves into the mechanics of how music works, why we human beings are attracted to it, how context shapes creative work, and a whole lot more. Byrne weaves his personal story of his career into the narrative, but it’s not exactly an autobiography. As a big Talking Heads (and solo David Bryne) fan I really enjoyed his anecdotes, insights, and stories. He goes into detail of the production of Stop Making Sense, which is easily my favorite music-related movie.

So that’s that. If you like music or really just want to better understand how culture, law, context, psychology, history, et al impact the act of creation, I’d say both of these books are worth your while.