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Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  944 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The groundbreaking Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum; September 2004; paperback original) maps the aural and discursive terrain of vanguard music today. Rather than offering a history of contemporary music, Audio Culture traces the genealogy of current musical practices and theoretical concerns, drawing lines of connection between recent musical production ...more
Paperback, 472 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Turtleback Books (first published August 1st 2004)
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Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
I'm not a huge fan of artists talking about their art, but this book is great. Edgard Varèse, Henry Cowell, Merzbow, Brian Eno, Glenn Gould et al. Some real heavy hitters. And their words, which the editors of this volume have culled from essays, interviews and even liner notes, rise above the merely theoretical. I've read this book twice so far—first as a novice and then again with a more substantial knowledge base—and it has honestly bolstered my subjective appreciation for the medium both tim ...more
This book is so phenomenal. I use it frequently in my research. Though I have yet to read every essay collected in these pages, it is the most excellent collection I've found on music.

This book was an important part of the class I taught on music and communication last summer. Though most of the readings I assigned for the class were articles and book chapters, this was the only entire book I assigned. Frankly, I had a hard time finding any books that provided what I wanted to teach from...unti
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: true listeners
Having read this book extremely slowly over two years, it seems to me that my listening experience (and growing appreciation) of more experimental side of music must have helped in perception of these texts. I would say that this book of essays, articles, interviews and other kinds of strange texts, with extensive chronology, bibliography and discography is a great 'sneak peak' into what was happening in the music of 20th centrury, especially in the fifties and sixties. If you are open to it, yo ...more
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is as good an overview of the evolution of experimental / avant-garde approaches to sound & music as you're likely to find, presented in perfect bite-sized chunks. This could / should be (and I'm told it has been) used as a textbook for a class on the subject of modern & contemporary sound practice.

Even if you've done a lot of reading on this subject, you're sure to find lots here that will be new.

Caeser Pink
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book for those interested in experimental music theories, but it is not an easy read.
Alastair Kemp
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The idea of these reviews is to write while the book is still fresh. Hard to do as it's taken me 18 months to finish. Having said that it is great for dipping into and out of as you have the time, whereas its a hard slog trying to read it as a traditional book.

The writing is for the most part is very theoretical although not necessarily academic, having been written largely by the artists and composers operating in the respective fields covered, with the odd philosopher and music journo thrown i
Mikael Lind
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
A lovely collection of crucial essays on modern music. I use it sometimes like a dictionary, looking for names in the index and read the article they're in, or sometimes I just jump through the pages until I get stuck somewhere. So much material, so many good articles.

The only thing I'm missing is a critical discussion on modern music. Some discussions on atonality, and why it's still not particularly popular among audiences, and perhaps on the obscurity of some electro-acoustic music.

Great ache
Ray Dunsmore
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is that rare book that makes you see something you've known your entire life (here, recorded music) in a completely different light. It expands your boundaries farther than you've ever thought and it makes you totally reevaluate everything you know about music. Yeah, it can get incredibly dry and academic, but the fundamental ideas are what counts and those are incredible.

Especially the chapters by William S. Burroughs, R. Murray Schafer, Luigi Russolo and John Oswald.
Casey Danielson
May 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
From the history of the Walkman leading to the urban nomad to Brian Eno's surprisingly readable discussion of ambient music to Cage's dry, dense explorations of sounds and meanings, this is a great choice for anyone interested in electronic music of any kind. ...more
David Ashley
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
[Review originally written for Amazon in 2008 when I was 20... so apologies! Great great reference book which is logically laid out and wide reaching. Very inspirational.]

This book is jam packed full of information and is split neatly (maybe more so than i was expecting) into sections such as 'The Open Work' and 'Noise, Sound, Silence'.

At the beginning of each essay the editors have given a brief account of the author (who in most cases practice(d) work with sound, i.e. Derek Bailey, John Cage,
Alisa Dicson
Now the musical culture is really developing very quickly and rapidly, and I think it is very cool, but it seems to me that now a lot of low-quality musical equipment has begun to be produced. Do not you think so? I recently bought headphones and they broke after a week. So I think you need to read blogs more often about how to choose this technique and how to buy something. For example, this article is What do you think? ...more
William Hearne
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
High brow, intellectual but not inaccessible essays on serious philosophical and musical subjects.

If you are studying, this is a very useful book.
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
favorite book ive bought for a class lol
Apr 19, 2021 added it
Thought-provoking stuff if you are into sound design, musique concrete, audio as a raw material in creative endeavors, etc. Probably pretty boring if you are not.
Audio Culture is a magnificent collection of writings on music theorism, criticism, and analyses spanning the entire age of recorded sound to the present. These writings are offered in their respective chronology and organized into sections - Noise/Sound/Silence, Modes of Listening, Music in the Age of Electronic (Re)Production, etc. Authors featured include everyone from Italian Fututist (and author of the manifesto, The Art of Noises) Luigi Russolo, to Cage and Stockhausen, and on to contempor ...more
Charlie Mcallister
Jul 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
lots of really good essays in this book - there is always something missing when this much is written about music, though. i think my favorites are the two by brian eno and the one by steve reich - they seem to be the most about music and the least about themselves. i also found john zorn's explanation for his "games" very interesting, but in admission of my own ignorance, i've never heard any of his music to my knowledge, so i'm even more interested in hearing recordings.

i am also herein fully
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is a compilation of interviews, articles and statements from key figures in sound art ranging from artist such as Lucier, Cage, Eno and Feldman to academics like Eco, Adorno and McLuhan. Christopher Cox, contributor to Cabinet Magazine, edits this book along side Daniel Warner. Thee variety of text makes the ambiguous line between music and art approachable and easily accessible to varying levels of interest.
This is a collection of writings about modern music, music culture, electronic music and aesthetics (edited by one of my professors at Hampshire.)
So far I've read only read the article by Pierre Schaeffer, which I translated!
Brian Eno: "I can neither read nor write music, and I can't play any instruments really well, either. You can't imagine a situation prior to this where anyone like me could have been a composer. It couldn't have happened. How could I do it without tape and without technology?"

Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
An excellent refresher on the writing of some of the "movers & shapers" of sound art. Some really interesting context that I didn't get in those grad classes, too - a really, really worthwhile read for summer afternoons. ...more
Onsetsu Evan Cordes
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
All sorts of different styles here. Some dry, some quiiiick.

I got distracted halfway through the book. I'm tempted to just read bits & pieces from it, but there's so much good stuff that I don't want to miss any of it.

Glad I went A-Z on this one, even tho it took awhile.
Malini Sridharan
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think I am close to having read all the essays. It has only taken me 7 years! To be fair, I have only owned my own copy for the past 3 years or so.

For bits and pieces to pick up and browse, it does not get much better than this!
Sep 07, 2007 rated it liked it
This is required reading for my "Sound Images" course. I think Sam's enjoying it even more than I am. ...more
Dec 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: audiophiles, noise, free and microtonal fans
essays: Eno's are great, Henry Flynt, Split up into a historical narrative. Musings on the evolution of noise music as it ties to our cultural growth. ...more
Stubby Girdle
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
oh crap. about listening and determining or not determining (or indetermining which is like an oxymoron) and so much. compact pieces but oh so deadly oh so potent!
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, i-own-this, theory
Essential reading for those interested in the contemporary and/or avant-garde world of music and sound.
i like most of the musicians/authors anthologized within, but this book seems like bullshit to me. offensive introductions/commentary.

ahhhh,,,,, there are some real gems in here though.
May 30, 2010 added it
This is a book of reference that I refer back to often. Great intro into sound culture and musicology history.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great primer for anyone interested in sound theory and how it sits within art discourse.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great anthology on modern music, superb selection of authors and texts.
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Christoph Cox, professor of philosophy, received his B.A. in Modern Culture & Media from Brown University and a Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Cox teaches and writes on contemporary European philosophy, cultural theory, and aesthetics.

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