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A Subversive History

Ted Gioia



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Basic Books
10 December 2019
Music; Theory of music & musicology; World music
The phrase music history likely summons up images of long-dead composers, smug men in wigs and waistcoats, and people dancing without touching. In Music: A Subversive History, Gioia responds to the false notions that undergird this tedium. Traditional histories of music, Gioia contents, downplay those elements of music that are considered disreputable or irrational-its deep connections to sexuality, magic, trance and alternative mind states, healing, social control, generational conflict, political unrest, even violence and murder. They suppress the stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact and disguised their sources. Here, Gioia attempts to reclaim music history for the riffraff, the insurgents and provocateurs - the real drivers of change and innovation. In Music, Gioia tells the four-thousand-year history of music as a source of power, change, upheaval and enchantment. He starts by exploring humanity's first instruments, which were closely linked to the food chain: the first horns were animal horns, our earliest string instrument was a hunter's bow and our oldest known instrument, the Neanderthal flute, was constructed from a bear femur. He turns to neuroscience to explain why the Celtic love story of Tristan and Iseult echoes the eleventh century Gorgani Persian love epic about Vis and Ramin, or why the troubadours of Europe echo artisan singers of ancient Egypt. He investigates the idea of song as sin as Church leaders for the first thousand years of Christianity attempted to control and suppress the songs of the common people and he explains the shift of music from a social practice to an economic enterprise during the Renaissance. Gioia shows how social outcasts have repeatedly become the great trailblazers of musical expression: slaves and their descendants, for instance, have repeatedly reinvented music in America and elsewhere, from ragtime, blues, jazz, R&B, to bossa nova, soul and hip hop. A revolutionary and revisionist account, Music: A Subversive History will be essential reading for anyone interested in the meaning of music.
By:   Ted Gioia
Imprint:   Basic Books
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 238mm,  Width: 162mm,  Spine: 52mm
Weight:   766g
ISBN:   9781541644366
ISBN 10:   1541644360
Pages:   528
Publication Date:   10 December 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Ted Gioia is a music historian and the author of eleven books, including How to Listen to Jazz. His three previous books on the social history of music - Work Songs, Healing Songs and Love Songs - have each been honoured with ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. Gioia's wide-ranging activities as a critic, scholar, performer and educator have established him as a leading global guide to music past, present and future.

Reviews for Music: A Subversive History

One of the most perceptive writers on music has cut a wide swath down the path of history, illuminating details often left in the shadows and broadening our understanding of all things sonic. Gioia vividly points out that the wheels of cultural advancement are often turned by the countless unsung heroes of inventiveness. A mind opening and totally engaging read! --Terry Riley Gioia's sprawling and deeply interesting history of music defies all stereotypes of music scholarship. This is rich work that provokes many fascinating questions. Scientists and humanists alike will find plenty to disagree with, but isn't that the point? 'A subversive history', indeed. --Samuel Mehr, Director, The Music Lab, Harvard University As a fan of 'big histories' that sweep through space and time, I gobbled this one like candy as I found myself astounded by some idea, some fact, some source, some dots connected into a fast-reading big picture that takes in Roman pantomime riots, Occitan troubadours, churchbells, blues, Afrofuturism, surveillance capitalism, and much more. A must for music heads. --Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music and The World That Made New Orleans In this meticulously-researched yet thoroughly page-turning book, Gioia argues for the universality of music from all cultures and eras. Subversives from Sappho to Mozart and Charlie Parker are given new perspective -- as is the role of the church and other arts-shaping institutions. Music of emotion is looked at alongside the music of political power in a fascinating way by a master writer and critical thinker. This is a must-read for those of us for whom music has a central role in our daily lives. --Fred Hersch, pianist and composer, and author of Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz A revisionist history highlights music's connections to violence, disruption, and power. In a sweeping survey that begins in pre-human natural soundscapes, music historian Gioia (How To Listen to Jazz, 2016, etc.) examines changes and innovation in music, arguing vigorously that the music produced by peasants and plebeians, slaves and bohemians, renegades and outcasts reflected and influenced social, cultural, and political life... A bold, fresh, and informative chronicle of music's evolution and cultural meaning. --Kirkus In this excellent history, music critic Gioia (How to Listen to Jazz) dazzles with tales of how music grew out of violence, sex, and rebellion... Gioia's richly told narrative provides fresh insights into the history of music. --Publishers Weekly, starred review Gioia's argument is persuasive and offers a wealth of possibilities for further exploration. This fascinating recontextualization will appeal to anyone who ever wondered why Hound Dog became a hit only when Elvis Presley covered it. --Library Journal Gioia draws on social science research into the past and present to forge a sweeping and enthralling account of music as an agency of human change. --Booklist, starred review I can't speak highly enough about Music: A Subversive History...[Gioia] is always fun to read...I suspect that academic scholars will pooh-pooh aspects of Music. That's as it should be...Gioia remains something of an outsider critic, convinced that the passion for destruction can be a creative passion. --Michael Dirda, Washington Post A dauntingly ambitious, obsessively researched labor of cultural provocation. --Robert Christgau, Los Angeles Times Gioia's great strength as a writer is his sensitivity to the vast range of all the world's music, and his impressive grasp of the literature on world music, jazz and pop, as well as classical music... This book feels like the summation of a lifetime's avid musical exploration and reading. It has an epic sweep and passionate engagement with the topic that carries one along irresistibly. --Telegraph Music: A Subversive History is by some distance the most wide-ranging and provocative thing he's [Gioia's] come up with... In terms of scope, well, put it this way: it starts out talking about a bear's thighbone that Neanderthal hunters apparently turned into a primitive flute somewhere between 43,000 and 82,000 years ago and ends up, 450 pages later, discussing K-pop and EDM. --Guardian Scintillating... Gioia is writing about evolution and magic -- this is a music history that synthesizes both Darwin and Frazer, and, at least in terms of writing for a general audience, is the first to do so. We need this story. --Brooklyn Rail [A] sweeping study...The author aims to subvert our ideas about music history -- essentially, Western classical tradition and its contemporary and popular offshoots -- in part by removing its pedestals...Gioia challenges notions of progress based solely on aesthetic or stylistic innovation...characteriz[ing] music history as a cyclical power struggle with shifting battle lines. --Larry Blumenfeld, Wall Street Journal

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