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Sonata for Jukebox: An Autobiography of My Ears
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Sonata for Jukebox: An Autobiography of My Ears

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  25 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
Dazzling and original, Sonata for Jukebox is a brilliant foray into how pop music has woven itself into our lives since the dawn of the recording age. Geoffrey O'Brien delves into twentieth-century pop music as we experience it: a phenomenon that is at once public and private, personal yet popular. O'Brien's book is more than a history of pop music, although fragments of ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 6th 2005 by Counterpoint (first published March 25th 2004)
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Paul Bryant
One star knocked off for being borderline incomprehensible at times.

It turns out that Geoffrey O'Brien is the smarter brother I never had, and when he cranks up his typewriter after a few light ales and brandies some rather crazed things begin to happen. In this example he's on about the Beach Boys - hold on to your hat - :

The ripples of that tropical surf might be the last dawdling vibrations of some Gnostic manifestation. A molecular poetry, modular and self-sustaining, had been allowed to esc
Peter Cherches
Jul 31, 2013 Peter Cherches rated it it was amazing
Everybody, well almost everybody, listens to music and loves some kind of music, be it what's hot at the moment or the sounds of one's childhood. Then there are "music people." Not necessarily musicians, but people for whom music is more than a soundtrack to life, it's inextricably intertwined with their lives. I'm one of those people, and Geoffrey O'Brien's book is by one of us for the rest of us. In lyrical prose O'Brien captures both the nostalgia for and the urgency of the music of/in his ...more
Nov 11, 2016 Jehnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Closely skimmed.
This is all over the place. There are long meandering somewhat uninteresting holes that he traverses down. But then there are fascinating lines about the role and meaning of music. I got what I wanted out of it, but I wouldn't hold this book up as the best example of music memoir. There are better.
Iso Cambia
"Each listener's personal history can be stitched together from recollections of first encounters, recollections that in due course become private legends.... It's the peculiar faculty of music to make each such first meeting, in retrospect, a snapshot of what the world was at that moment. Sound is the most absorbent medium of all, soaking up histories and philosophical systems and physical surroundings and encoding them in something so slight as a single vocal quaver or icy harpsichord ...more
Eddy Lee
Apr 15, 2012 Eddy Lee rated it really liked it
Some of the more autobiographical essays in this collection can be read as companion pieces to his wonderful short stories in "Dreamtime". It's a very personal, idiosyncratic collection, so if you're looking for a cohesive philosophy of music or some sort of survey of the development of popular recorded music you'll likely be disappointed, but these essays reveal O'Brien to be an acute and sensitive observer of the place music holds in our mental world.
A.M. Canja
Apr 25, 2012 A.M. Canja rated it it was amazing
Very entertaining, smartly written book about music and culture. I kept reading this book from time to time as an inspiration.
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Jul 31, 2010 Nick Duretta rated it it was ok
This had an intriguing premise for a pop music lover like myself, but I was very disappointed.
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“Yet the laboriously sought musical epiphany rarely compares to the unsought, even unwanted tune whose ambush is violent and sudden: the song the cab driver was tuned to, the song rumbling from the speaker wedged against the fire-escape railing, the song tingling from the transistor on the beach blanket. To locate those songs again can become, with age, something like a religious quest, as suggested by the frequent use of the phrase "Holy Grail" to describe hard-to-find tracks. The collector is haunted by the knowledge that somewhere on the planet an intact chunk of his past still exists, uncorrupted by time or circumstance.” 4 likes
“The age of recording is necessarily an age of nostalgia--when was the past so hauntingly accessible?--but its bitterest insight is the incapacity of even the most perfectly captured sound to restore the moment of its first inscribing. That world is no longer there.” 3 likes
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