Music is one of those things. We can’t always define it, or explain why we love what we love, but its power is unmistakable. Music and identity are inextricably linked: we often define ourselves by what we listen to. Quick...name your favorite song (or band, or genre) -- your brain probably got there before your words did. Did you conjure up a few notes, belt out a couplet of lyrics, or smell the sweat coming off everyone in the crowd at the last live show you attended?
Music can be a transcendent influence. This month, Mechanics’ Institute staff select books about the mysteries, glories, and stories behind the music we love. Come check out the staff picks display to see what makes us tick.
Taryn selects Opera and the morbidity of music by Joseph Kerman
Classical music is dead. Long live classical music! Despite the title, the author makes it clear that what we call "classical music", including opera, is anything but dead. Vital and joyously alive is how I'd describe these essays and book reviews.
Bobbie selects Unknown pleasures: inside Joy Division by Peter Hook
If you are a fan of the group New Order then you probably know they originated as Joy Division in the late 70’s post-punk era. They were on the verge of mainstream success and about to embark on their first American tour when lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. This book by bassist Peter Hook recounts Joy Division’s creation, the band mates’ deteriorating relationships, the demise of the band, and then rebirth as New Order. If you want to see Ian Curtis’ story on film, the DVD Control follows his rise and fall as the leader of the band.
Chris selects Let's talk about love: a journey to the end of taste by Carl Wilson
In this installment of the 33 1/3 book series from Bloomsbury, where an author addresses a single LP in great detail, Salon music critic Carl Wilson shares his take on the jewel in the crown of Celine Dion's career. Highly polarizing, the album was commercially embraced to near ubiquity while it was critically derided, author included. Revisiting the album, Wilson investigates the album and Celine's career, unpacking the sensibilities and narratives that created such controversy, discussing the nature of taste, cultural capital and what it means to be a fan (or not a fan) of a particular artist. Funny, generous and optimistic, this short book is a great journey through the art/pop divide.
Heather selects High fidelity by Nick Hornby
At Championship Vinyl, Rob Fleming and his crew spend their workday discussing the fine art of mix tapes, devising “top five” lists, and arguing about all things music. One problem: his long-time girlfriend has just dumped him because of his chronically juvenile behavior. Rob goes on an odyssey of self-discovery to figure out how music and love fit into his adult life. This novel twines together an obsession with music and an acute existential crisis -- two of my favorite things to explore in fiction.