the archivist May 24, 2021


A Subversive History

by Ted Gioia

amzn | lib

From the publisher:

“A dauntingly ambitious, obsessively researched” (Los Angeles Times) global history of music that reveals how songs have shifted societies and sparked revolutions.
Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, Ted Gioia reclaims the story of music for the riffraff, insurgents, and provocateurs.
Gioia tells a four-thousand-year history of music as a global source of power, change, and upheaval. He shows how outcasts, immigrants, slaves, and others at the margins of society have repeatedly served as trailblazers of musical expression, reinventing our most cherished songs from ancient times all the way to the jazz, reggae, and hip-hop sounds of the current day.
Music: A Subversive History is essential reading for anyone interested in the meaning of music, from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify.

Our take:

Writing about music can be very difficult indeed–explaining with words what really is best heard with one’s own ears. The cultural history of music is equally as complex, with every piece having a wide array of sources and influences, as well as some coincidental resemblances.

Ted Gioia emphasizes the interconnected nature of music as it relates to our experience as humans. The reader gains a kind of bird’s-eye-view of why and how we make music, as well as lots of interesting facts that will impress your friends or trivia night competitors.

Does the author cover everything? No, that would require volumes. But this adds an interesting voice to the conversation.