Audio Culture is a reader (though it doesn’t say so anywhere on the jacket). It is not a single argument constructed by a lone author in pursuit of convincing others of his thesis. Rather it is one of those books, like the postmodernism reader, where many pieces from different authors are collected in order to present an introduction to a topic, as well as giving a historical overview.
To anyone unfamiliar with musical theory, practice, and the philosophers and musicians who concern themselves with such undertakings, this book will be both dense, yet just accessible enough to warrant a curious read through. However, I do say that a lot of the content will be easier to digest if you have prior knowledge of some of the terms and concepts; possessing even an idea of musical history will greatly assist you in comprehending the content. This is due to the nature of the book: dealing with music, unless you are a musician yourself and know what sound is related to a concept, you will find yourself mystified at many of the concepts. So if you are not reading this book as part of a class I would delve into any sources (perhaps on Youtube and beyond) which will give you an idea of the actual sound mechanics.
The book’s divided into several sections. Each section orders the information as to insert the reader into the theoretical cornerstones which support each oncoming section. If you were to read from beginning to end then at the book’s conclusion you would sport a impressive understanding of how each chapter interlocked with the next.
The sections are:
(1) Music and Its Others: Noise, Sound, Silence
(2) Modes of Listening
(3) Music in the Age of Electronic (Re)production
(4) The Open Work
(5) Experimental Musics
(6) Improvised Musics
(8) DJ Culture
(9) Electronic Music and Electronica
As said previously, each section bleeds into each other. While each section holds a different thesis on music and how it is experienced and written, the knowledge obtained by the reader grows exponentially as they keep pace with how the philosophy has evolved with the times.
The contributors to each section is varied. Both contemporary and more classical oriented writers are included. Everyone from Theodore W. Adorno to John Cage, and Umberto Eco are included… along with many others. The pieces vary from the intellectually demanding to casual interviews and non-pulse lectures on how a certain figure sees a concept or event. Over all I would not say this book is very demanding, not if you are familiar with some of the histories involved with the pieces and have some background work. If lacking in this is will likely be more dense to work through.
So over all I would say this is a must-buy primer on musical history. Any student or scholar interested in the know-how of how what we have now came to be, should not overlook giving this reader a buy. I will say that I enjoyed it. And if I can enjoy a reader dealing entirely with a subject area which didn’t previously interest me, then I think anyone with an interest will be thrilled by it.
(Are you interested in this reader being the next serialized book summarized on this blog? If so then comment below)