Synopses & Reviews
A bracing, revisionary and provocative inquiry into music — from Beethoven to Duke Ellington, Conlon Nancarrow to Evelyn Glennie — as a personal and cultural experience: how it is composed, idiosyncratically perceived by critics and reviewers, and why we listen to it the way we do.
Andrew Durkin, best known as leader of the west coast’s Industrial Jazz Group, is singular for his insistence on asking tough questions about the complexity of our presumptions about music and about listening, especially in the digital age. In this winning and lucid study, he explodes the age-old conception of musical composition as the work of individual genius, arguing instead that in both its composition and reception music is fundamentally a collaborative enterprise that comes to be only through mediation. Drawing on a rich variety of examples — Big Jay McNeely’s “Deacon’s Hop,” Biz Markie’s “Alone Again,” George Antheil’s Ballet Mechanique, Frank Zappa’s “While You Were Art,” or Pauline Oliveros’s “Tuning Meditation,” to name only a few — Durkin makes clear that our appreciation of any piece of music is always informed by neuroscientific, psychological, technological, and cultural factors, and that how we listen might have as much power to change music as music might have to change how we listen.
"In this tedious but also provocative study, performer and composer Durkin challenges readers to think beyond musical composition as the work of an individual genius and to probe instead the ways that various audiences receive the work, the ways that diverse technologies help create it, and the several channels of collaboration that help make it. Attempting to illustrate how culture relates to and defines music, he argues that 'audience' is a broad 'phenomenon that includes... the technicians who build instruments as well as the musicians themselves,' so that any performance of a musical composition is the result of a network extending far beyond its immediate listeners. Drawing on music as diverse as Duke Ellington's, Beethoven's, and Frank Zappa's, Durkin demonstrates the challenges of locating the 'authentic' performance or version of a piece of music, showing how each time the musical piece is heard, it contains different emotions and meanings for listeners. Durkin also explores the changing worlds of digital technologies and copyright as he examines how deeply the medium affects the reception of the music and its exposure to multiple re-compositions. Durkin presents a new way of thinking about how we receive music." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Andrew Durkin is a composer and writer who has a PhD in English from the University of Southern California, where his mentor was Joseph Dane, author of What Is a Book? He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC, where he worked with digital media pioneer Bob Stein. He lives in Portland, Oregon.