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How Music Works Audiobook, by David Byrne Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: David Byrne Narrator: Andrew Garman Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2012 ISBN: 9781470331818
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,041 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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Best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the iconic band Talking Heads, David Byrne has received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the insightful How Music Works, Byrne offers his unique perspective on music - including how music is shaped by time, how recording technologies transform the listening experience, the evolution of the industry, and much more. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “David Byrne is a brilliantly original, eccentric rock star, and he has written a book to match his protean talents…Full of sharp, glancing insights.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A decidedly generous book—welcoming, informal, digressive, full of ideas and intelligence—and on has the pleasant sense that Byrne is speaking directly to the reader, sharing a few confidences he has picked up over the years…Byrne and his book make for good company.”

    Washington Post

  • How Music Works, is as engaging as it is eclectic: a buoyant hybrid of social history, anthropological survey, autobiography, personal philosophy, and business manual, sometimes on the same page.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “David Byrne deserves great praise for How Music Works. It is as accessible as pop yet able to posit deep and startlingly original thoughts and discoveries in almost every paragraph…This book will make you hear music in a different way.” 

    Telegraph (London)

  • “An accomplished celebration of an ever-evolving art form that can alter how we look at ourselves and the world…A meticulously researched and hugely absorbing history of music.”

    Independent (London)

  • “Byrne explores a whole symphony of argument in this extraordinary book with the precise, technical enthusiasm you’d expect…It’s fascinating.” 

    Observer (London)

  • “Creators of all stripes will find much to inspire them in Mr. Byrne’s erudite musings on the biological and mathematical underpinnings of sound, from Plato to Copernicus and from John Cage to Tantric Buddhists…Should be required reading for all writers and publishers.”


  • “Byrne’s knack for paradox and passion carries his erratic narrative…To How Music Works’ credit, that same joy—of singing and playing, of thinking and dancing, of listening and wondering—renders almost every page a song.”

    AV Club

  • “Both deeply personal and intellectually adventurous, this unique, stimulating book invites us to contemplate the diversity of experience we can learn to hear.”

    Barnes & Noble, editorial review

  • “Fascinating…Byrne’s erudite and entertaining prose reveals him to be a true musical intellectual, with serious and revealing things to say about his art.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Endlessly fascinating, insightful, and intelligent.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “A supremely intelligent, superbly written discussion of music as an art form and way of life…Highly recommended—anyone at all interested in music will learn a lot from this book.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2012
  • One of 2012 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction
  • A Los Angeles Times bestseller
  • One of the 2012 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bogdan | 2/20/2014

    " Excellent presentation of how the music industry works. Each chapter can be read in an independent fashion, so even if you're not music-savvy, but are interested in the business of music and the economics of the industry you can still get a lot out of this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 2/19/2014

    " Great book! Sort of a scattershot approach to musing on various aspects of the music industry/production/consumption in this country 9and elsehwer), esp over the past 30 years. Byrne is a capable guide through these topics, and his personal experience adds much weight to his ideas. You don't have to be a Talking Heads fan to enjoy this book, but it helps. Many of his examples are drawn from his personal life and career, naturally enough. Well worth a read IMO. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Garth | 2/16/2014

    " David Byrne obviously has a great deal of knowledge about the music industry and imparts some of his learnings. IMO, this book would have been better as a memoir about the different aspects of music that he covers (performing, recording, collaborating, business earnings, making a scene) . When he speaks from his part, his voice is better and its a much more engaging book. When he gives the history of recorded music, he slips into a prosaic, book report tone. Granted, he claims he has a little bit of Asperger's (which could account for some of the tone), but he actually is much more engaging when speaking from his own experience. And frankly, that what makes him interesting in the first place! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ken! | 2/5/2014

    " Some chapters are better than others. He's got some good insights (no surprise) but gets bogged down in the business (also no surprise.) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mdmayer | 1/25/2014

    " Among other things, this is interesting wandering narrative showing how the physical constraints of the world (architecture, technology, instruments...) shapes music as we know it. Good mix of how much the author talks about his own music compared to how much he talks about other people's music and music in general. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 1/22/2014

    " I loved this book. Concise, clear, and honest, Byrne addresses the history of music, why it has evolved to sound like it does, options available to musicians today, why we like music, and the prejudices surrounding music and society's perceptions of "good" and "bad." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matthew | 1/19/2014

    " David Byrne's opinions about, well, How Music Works. He's got a lot of things to say about a lot of things, and they're all worth thinking about. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Misty | 1/11/2014

    " interesting, if a bit of a hodgepodge. The last chapter was dense and barely readable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Eamonn | 1/8/2014

    " Can any book explain how music works? This is a decent effort by David Byrne. However, just put on "Naive Melody" and you will realize that, in the end, nothing has been explained. The mystery remains, thank goodness! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melinda | 1/2/2014

    " Great for music nerds. Hopefully someday they'll release a version of the book with links to the music and performances he's talking about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Doug | 11/6/2013

    " Everything from how music is constructed to how it's transacted. This is a great manual for anyone with a curiosity, from someone who's thought about and seen it all. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Casey | 10/11/2013

    " One of the most fascinating looks at the creative process I have ever read. Byrne also explores the things that impact how and what we create. In his case music, in mine more design and concept. Heinous. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Richard | 10/10/2013

    " . a string of oddball, well-articulated asides about music - everything from the origin of song to what it's like to write songs with brian eno. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nora | 6/20/2013

    " I'm not an avid talking heads fan, but enjoyed this journey into David Byrne's head. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Austin | 5/27/2013

    " Effortless, great balance of biographical fragment and essays in service of a strongly contextual framework for understanding music. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 5/1/2013

    " Some real interesting stuff about recording, roots of music, and his own connection with it "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Drew | 4/22/2013

    " I approached this book expecting an autobiography, but instead found a lifetime of insight from a true American auteur. Byrne's discussion of his conclusions regarding music are truly illuminating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adam | 4/17/2013

    " Essay style exploration into origins of music, modern history of music and the musical career of david Byrne. What's not to like? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Celia | 1/13/2013

    " Some of this was really interesting, some of it dry as a textbook. Uneven, but with some delights. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tom | 12/1/2012

    " excellent book with many interesting observations. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Midiane | 11/19/2012

    " a rambling, sprawling book. this is what happens when musos think they're musicologists or ethnomusicologists and a book devolves into a this-is-how-i-made-music-work-for-me. the title is misleading and the content is just skin-deep. very disappointed. "

About the Author

David Byrne is a Scottish-born Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and cofounder of Talking Heads. He has been the recipient of many awards, including an Oscar and a Golden Globe. The author of Bicycle Diaries and The New Sins, he lives in New York City.

About the Narrator

Andrew Garman is a television, film, and voice actor. His acting credits include the film Julie & Julia and appearances the television series Law & Order, Mercy, and Conviction. Among his audiobook narrations are Arcadia by Lauren Groff, Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette, and Love Is a Canoe by Ben Schrank, among others.