Before listening to "How Music Works", based on what I knew about his music (his Talking Heads days anyway; my favorite album was "Remain in Light"), I thought to myself: does he mean "How Modern Pop Music Works"? But after listening to it, I now think that the title is appropriate, at least up to the current period.
This book covers a wide range of topics, including: how the historical, social, and technological environment shaped the type of music; what he was feeling/thinking while going through the experience of making music with Talking Heads in the lower east side of New York City in the 70s and 80s; how different cultures and people influenced his music; the financial aspect of making music in the current music production environment, and more. I can tell that he is extremely well read, but his interpretation of cultural/social aspects of music is unique, I think. He is also a very good writer. I really enjoyed this book.
I only knew Tony Danza from the 1980's TV show "Taxi", but, through this book, I found out what a great guy he is. But more importantly, in this book, Tony Danza lets me peek at some of the real lives of the kids who attend a public school in Philadelphia. I never watched the cable TV "reality show" that was part of this, but I know this actor went much deeper than a role in the TV show. He stayed with the class after the TV show production ended, and he still keeps in touch with some of the students. It's really heat-breaking what some of these kids have to go through in their personal lives AND go through the high school life that is so important in determining their future. We all know how important education is, but most of us, including myself, tend to think "education" in rather abstract way. This book brought me back to the time when I went to a public school but also reminded me how important this short period can be in shaping the kids' future. For this, I now feel that high school teachers probably play more important roles than college professors do. We often hear about negative things about teachers in public schools, but, considering what they are up against, we don't give (at least many of) them enough credit. Tony Danza honestly describes what went through his mind during his interactions with the students and other teachers and admits his flaws, mistakes, and vulnerability. I could tell that Tony Danza himself had some great passionate teachers. He is a great narrator by the way. Many of the scenes made me cry (and I almost never cry listening to audiobooks).
I think this is the first time I rate a book with five stars for both story and performance. So many of the diseases prevalent in modern societies (e.g., Type 2 diabetes) are called "mismatch disease" because they are caused by mismatch of the modern life style such as abundance of food (of unbalanced kind) vs. our evolutionary tendency to store fat and sugar when we can because food was scarce. This book provides a comprehensive view on how we humans developed since our ancestors started walking on two feet. The author has a rare quality of being able to translate his research expertise to its public health implications. I feel lucky to be alive in this age when books like this can teach us the evolutionary perspective on how we are living now compared to the past and what can be improved. It is also devastating to know that so many of modern diseases are preventable, and yet, important information like this has not seeped into the mainstream culture.
As a teenager in the 1970's, I was never a Beatles fan (I was more into the Stones), but some of John Lennon's post-Beatles music, such as "Mother" and "Imagine", made such a strong impression on me because they sounded like they were coming right out of his very personal inner self. But I was a bit too young then to know exactly what was going on politically. This book filled me in with the information on the cultural and political background in America that Lennon walks into at the time and vividly depicts how he lived through the period and influenced many people (to the point that Nixon was afraid of him). Sure, as a former Beatle, it was probably easier than anyone to make a difference in the world, but he didn't have to do any of the things he did. His attempts to get involved and make a difference even in the local community levels appeared sincere and are consistent with his music. I am glad someone wrote a book about this period of Lennon's life.
I liked the way this book made me feel a bit uncomfortable. You don't hear or read these bluntly honest opinions about the type of lies that we often consider socially acceptable (if you think about it, as the author explains, they are harmful). I did not agree with some of his arguments, but the most important thing was that this book made me re-evaluate my approach to life. I also liked the last 30 minutes where he responded to readers' questions. When there are too many books out there in which the authors stretch and repeat the same points over and over again, this to-the-point style was also refreshing.
I admit that I never seriously studied Einstein's equations or quantum physics, but this book gave me a great outline of the development of modern physics. I am now motivated to listen to other audiobooks on modern physics or even get some paper books that contain equations. Michio Kaku is also good at depicting human side of Einstein and other physicists. It's fun to think about Einstein writing numerous love letters. I also never imagined that Schrödinger was a serious womanizer!
I cannot help comparing this book to "The China Study" by Colin Campbell, who recommends plant-based diet, which may appear to be at odds with the recommendations given in "Grain Brain". Both authors have "credible" (though this can be subjective) research background. However, I felt that this book provided more scientific arguments and thus, to me, more convincing. Through reading this book, I felt that I learned a lot in various areas of biology - brain, causes of many illnesses: inflammation and oxidation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. To me, the most convincing argument against the wheat-filled eating habits of modern society is the fact that we humans started eating wheat only ten thousand years ago or so, and that the characteristics of modern wheat (e.g, gluten content) changed in the past several decades and is nothing like what ancestors ate. I can believe that the increase in obesity and diabetes has something to do with the increasing consumption of wheat. I did think that the author is opinionated and probably biased (this was also the case with Colin Campbell). Yet, I am convinced that there is no harm in avoiding wheat most of the time. It is SO hard to avoid wheat-containing food though.
If you have not read any of Murakami's books, I would suggest that you start with "Kafka on the shore" or "The wind-up bird chronicle". This book does have some of the ingredients common in Murakami's books (unrequited love, alienation, metaphors, etc.), but it's not as haunting as "Kafka on the shore" or as intense as "The wind-up bird chronicle". The story could be longer to resolve some important mysteries that I expected to be explained. It left me with somewhat "unfinished" feeling. But I still enjoyed this book because of the interesting balance of characters and some memorable scenes I could visualize.
This is my first five-star audiobook. The relationship between Patti and Robert is more moving than anything that I ever read even in fictions. Beautiful and precious. The way Smith writes and narrates is also so honest. I am so glad that she read this herself. I feel lucky to have encountered this book. I will listen to this again.
I couldn't help but compare this to the 1939 movie (Judy Garland as Dorothy) production that I saw on television when I was a teenager because that movie created a very special image of the story in my memory. I have to say that this production (Anne Hathaway's narration) is as good but also in a different way. Anne Hathaway is just amazing in narrating different characters in the story (and I wasn't particularly a big fan of this actress in movies). She creates a special world out of this story. She must have gone through a lot of trouble preparing for playing more than ten different characters. As a teenager, I thought the story had (cute) flaws (e.g., a brainless scarecrow wouldn't be asking for a brain if he did not have a brain, etc.), but now that I am an adult, I could just enjoy the way this brilliant actress presents the story. I highly recommend this audiobook.
I have read several biographies and auto-biographies of musicians (Miles Davis, Janis Ian, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) recently, and, content-wise, this one is probably the least moving and dramatic. And yet, I still liked what Neil Young had to say. As he mentioned in this book, for a hippie-type, he is materialistic. He writes a lot about cars (old ones, mostly). He cares a lot about sound quality. He went trough a lot in terms of his illness and his children's conditions. But he does not make a big deal out of them. The events in the book are not organized chronologically and are somewhat disorganized, which reflects his spontaneity style (a former pothead?). He is a peculiar nerd who happened to experience the 1960s and 1970s and thus was influenced by the attitude of the period. But he keeps up with the technology, knows what he wants, and intends to be around for awhile (and thus gave up drinking and smoking, for now anyway). Often, the book read like a diary, but I still enjoyed it.
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