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Author Archive: "Adam Brent Houghtaling"

An Education: 18 Favorite Music Books New and Old

This Will End in TearsAny obsessive music fan cannot be satiated by music alone. There's an underlying desire to know the people and the stories behind the music. I know I certainly have a thirst for knowledge about producers, studios, subgenres, sub-subgenres, album release dates, tour bus fights, and intraband romances.

To this end, here is a collection of 18 of my favorite behind-the-scenes books about music by both legendary figures and young writers. Some are new and some are old, but they all played a part in helping me write my own book (This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music) and will continue to be sources of inspiration.

1. Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound by Eric Tamm

2. The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music by Nick Kent

3. I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum

4. ...


Time Alone: The Similarities Between Listening to Sad Music and Reading

Why does sad music move us so tremendously? This was one of the most intriguing questions I had to answer while working on my book, This Will End In Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music. What I found was a confluence of neurological, physiological, and environmental factors that all come together to make our experience with sad music unique and also quite similar to the reading experience.

Notoriously grumpy German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote that in our "powers of reflection, memory, and foresight, man possesses, as it were, a machine for condensing and storing up his pleasures and his sorrows." He was more right than he could have imagined.

Interpreting language, whether in a novel or lyrics to a song, engages the same language centers of our brain — Broca's area and Wernicke's area — and neurological evidence now suggests that language descriptive of smell, taste, or touch gives the parts of our brains responsible for those senses a bit of a workout, in effect making us experience them in some small way.

The recognized view of the neurotransmitter dopamine is that it is released ...


A Digital Editor’s Devotion to Print

I can't remember when my family first bought a computer, but it was long after those who had taken an early plunge into personal computing had relegated their Apple IIs and Commodore 64s to the attic. As such, I can't count myself as a digital native, but that didn't prohibit my entry into the world of digital editing immediately following my graduation from college in the late 90s. I've spent my whole career as a digital editor of one stripe or another, including time at AOL and Gourmet magazine, running digital content for Martha Stewart's publishing empire, and acting as a content strategist consultant. I'm as much of a believer in the power and opportunity of digital content as anyone, but I seem to have drawn a line in the sand regarding books.

I was a bit of a holdout when the music industry's slide toward digital was more than evident — 2006 and the closing of the last Tower Records is a clear demarcation — because I loved going to the record store. Now my music buying patterns are split between the future and the past. I ...


Deep Blue: The Allure of Azure

While in the early stages of sketching the outline for my book, This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music, I came upon the notion of writing an essay about the color blue, which was important to my case for two reasons: the color's connection to the history of melancholy and its widespread cultural connotations. As I began my research I found that the color — its history and its meanings — held a story much deeper than I had imagined and held a similar special attraction for other writers.

I found the connection between melancholy and blue to go as far back as the middle of the 16th century and the Gremlin-like blue devils that plagued the most saturnine men and women. I was fascinated by the twists in meaning it contained — it has enigmatically stood for the most peaceful of hues (the ocean and the clear sky) and the most redolent of sadness and despair, and it has been both the most holy color (painters once reserved a special tint of aquamarine for the clothes of the Virgin Mary) ...


Indispensable: The Books That Helped Me Build a Book

When I started thinking about the form that my book — This Will End In Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music — would take, I knew I wanted two things: it should be interesting for both deep-cut obsessives as well as less rabid music fans , and it should have multiple layers providing for more than just one entryway for readers.

Regarding the first point: I wanted music fans like me — brimming with dates, names, and other assorted trivia — to be able to quickly skim through my book and see things they maybe haven't seen or thought of before. So I included a brief history of melancholy and essays on the cultural significance of the color blue and about how the physiology of tears ties into their pop significance. I also peppered my many playlists in the book with appropriate, but nearly lost, songs that even I had never heard before researching the book, such as Private Charles Bowens and the Gentlemen from Tigerland's "Christmas in Vietnam," which I found on one of my epic dives into the darker corners of YouTube. I also decided to ...


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