Monday, January 21, 2013

Music Books I Wish I Had Time to Read

I work at a large research university music library, and one of my responsibilities is processing new books, about 100 per month. I don't have time to read the vast majority of those books, but I've started keeping a list of what books I'd read if I had the time. Many of these are academic books, meaning they are too expensive unless you are professionally invested, but that's what libraries are for, right? 
Here's my list from the past few months:
  • Beyond ‘Innocence’: Amis Aboriginal Song in Taiwan as an Ecosystem, by Shzr Ee Tan - Did you know that there is a group of native Taiwanese, cultural and ethnically different than the Chinese population, and they have their own music?
  • Ukulele Heroes: The Golden Age, by Ian Whitcomb - Not particularly scholarly, but if you are interested in learning about how the ukelele developed (like how it might have come to Hawaii through Portugal), than this is the book for you.
  • Turkish Metal, by Pierre Heckerl (right) - There are female Muslim rockers? Yes, there are.
  • The Last Biwa Singer: A Blind Musician in History, Imagination, and Performance by Hugh Ferranti - Looks at the tradition of blind musicians in Japan, especially Yamashika Yoshiyuki (1901-1996). It’s amazing how many cultures revered blind, itinerant musicians. The Irish had a long tradition of blind harpers and fiddlers, too.
  • In Search of Song: The Life and Times of Lucy Broadwood by Dorothy De Val - living in England at the beginning of the 20th century, Broadwood was instrumental in the folk music revival. She went around with many people (including one of my favorites, Percy Grainger) collecting English folk songs on wax cylinders before the music disappeared.
  • The Music of Fantasy Cinema edited by Janet K. Halfyard - This book is an intersection of music and one of my other interests/hobbies, science fiction and fantasy. It's collection of essays about fantastical film music, including Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Legend, and Edward Scissorhands.
  • The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More! ed. by Helena Simonett - A bunch of essays about a very well-used and versatile instrument.
  • Shpil: The Art of Playing Klezmer, ed. by Yale Strom - a collection of essays on how to play Klezmer music, with sections on each major instrument. I wish I had had this book when I started my own Klezmer band!
  • Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare by Dave Thompson - Haven’t you always wanted to know about the real-person Born-Again-Christian golfer that spawned the famous Rock alter-ego?
  • Music as Intangible Cultural Heritage: Policy, Ideology, and Practice in the Preservation of East Asian Traditions, ed. by Keith Howard - How does music become a politically protected cultural heritage, and does that actually change the music and the function of the music?
I guess I can deduce from this list that I'm interested folk music, the cultural power of music, and uncommon instruments. Any of those books sound interesting (or uninteresting) to you? Are there any music books you wish you had time to read?

Vocab: zydeco, biwa


  1. I lived in Taiwan, and since then I've been interested in the subcultures there, including, but not limited to, the native aboriginal people. I've talked with many of them, and been in some of their houses. One of them even gave me me a traditional hat (looks somewhat like a beaded beanie cap with a tie at the back). But! I still don't feel like I really understand their culture or past, and music is one great way to do that. The book about their music sounds very interesting, and hearing their music would be even more interesting.