Friday, August 28, 2015

Knowledge is power

I've always felt like I don't know enough about music history. When I was growing up, my dad listened almost exclusively to Jimi Hendrix and The Talking Heads, so I've got some of the older rock acts down. But there's still an overwhelming amount to learn about. I don't need to become a walking encyclopedia of music trivia, but it'd be nice to have a better understanding of how today's scene came to be.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about a Coursera class on rock history that helped me start learning the basics. It was interesting, but I didn't want to stop there. Here's how I've continued educating myself lately:

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce by Bob Stanley
The amount of work that must have gone into this book is staggering. Of course it's impossible to go too in-depth with most of the artists, but Stanley lays down a solid groundwork of information. I would recommend reading it in pieces--take time to digest each group or genre. Otherwise, you'll be overloaded with information. And make sure you have Spotify available, so you can listen to the songs you're reading about. I found a few new favorites that way!

How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt
I make a point of buying music to support artists I love now, but in the past, I confess I downloaded my fair share of leaked albums. How that music got on the Internet, I had no clue. I assumed someone just ripped it and posted it online. This book starts with the German audio engineers who struggled for years to develop the mp3, and then spreads to a factory worker at a North Carolina CD-manufacturing plant who is responsible for almost two thousand album leaks. Completely fascinating.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
I got to see an advanced screening of this documentary (directed by the fabulous Colin Hanks) and I loved it. Sadly, I was too young to experience Tower Records at its peak, and this film reminded me of how much I missed out on. Despite the inevitable sad ending to the story, the documentary will keep you hooked throughout. Check out the trailer:

I'm currently looking for my next music history lesson, so feel free to send recommendations my way!