Four Books on Music | A small book blog

June 12, 2022 · 19:18

I don’t usually read a lot of books about music in such a short amount of time, but this year I’ve read some good non-fiction titles on the subject that pretty much conclude that working in the music industry isn’t very good for your health.

A Seat at the Table: Women at the Front of Music by Amy Raphael is a collection of 18 interviews with women who work in the music industry. The interviews were conducted in 2018-2019. , mainly featuring singers and songwriters of various genres, while composer Jessica Curry, producer Kathryn Marks and DJ Clara Ampho reflect on similar issues of sexism and racism in the industry. In some ways, Alison Moyette and Tracy Thorne’s experiences of rising to fame in the 1970s and 1980s are a far cry from musicians starting out today and dealing with the pressures of social media, #MeToo and declining album sales due to streaming, but there are some annoying similarities, such as not being taken as seriously as their male counterparts. Raphael has clearly put a lot of thought into the range of interviewees in this collection, and it would be interesting to compare it with her 1995 companion book, Never Mind the Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock, which includes interviews with Debbie Harry and Courtney. Love and Bjork.

Bodies Ian WinwoodBodies: Life and Death in Music by Ian Winwood offers a compelling case for how addiction and mental health issues have become dangerously normalized in the music industry. Winwood was a music journalist for Kerrang! magazine for several years and has witnessed first-hand how this lifestyle affects those involved and documents his own mental health and addiction issues. With artists relying more than ever on relentless touring for a steady income, “Bodies” reveals that being on the road is just about the worst possible environment for anyone who feels remotely fragile. In addition to his many disturbing stories, Winwood rightly praises Biffy Clyro for defying the odds and avoiding the path to burnout and self-destruction by taking time off from touring when necessary. Winwood’s strongly argued central thesis is written with real frankness.

Exit stage left Nick DuerdenExit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars by Nick Duerden is another collection of snapshot interviews, this time with pop stars well past the peak of their fame, a sort of “where are they now?” summary. Duerden covers a fairly wide range of pop and rock acts, such as David Gray, The Darkness, Sean Ryder, Paul of S Club 7, Chumbawumba, Suzanne Vega and Billy Bragg, and career trajectories include hit wonders, sufferers of difficult second album syndrome, novelty. acts and those who simply fell out of fashion in a notoriously fickle industry only interested in chasing the next big thing. Some interviewees look back fondly on their time in the spotlight and are happy to be working on the nostalgia circuit, while others are bitter or resentful of how they were treated at the time, or have tried to reinvent themselves completely since their first burst of fame. . With over 30 artists and bands covered here, the interviews themselves are pretty short and bittersweet, and I can’t help but wonder if the most interesting stories could be told by those who would never agree to be interviewed for a book like this.

That jealous demon Jonathan NobleA departure from the excesses of pop music, I’ve dipped in and out This Jealous Demon, My Miserable Health: Illness, Death and Composers by Jonathan Noble which examines the physical and mental health of 70 composers. From Mozart’s many illnesses in his youth to Beethoven’s deafness and Schumann’s possible bipolar disorder, “That Jealous Demon” is very detailed and also full of the kind of tidbits that could sometimes be useful when answering questions about a university challenge. Noble is a retired surgeon, and his medical background allows him to consider how accurate some of the reported diagnoses were and how some might have fared with medical care today. Dense but fascinating, it offers a unique look at the lives of great composers and how their health conditions affected their work.

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