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Songbook (2003)

Songbook (2003)

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3.56 of 5 Votes: 2
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1573223565 (ISBN13: 9781573223560)
riverhead books

About book Songbook (2003)

I take music very seriously, drawing deep meaning, or trying to, from many of the songs and albums I listen to. I've been told by someone I care deeply for that I take music too seriously--that I'm idealizing fake or pretend stories and messages and that, by doing so, I've tainted my outlook on reality. But that, to put it bluntly, is utter bullshit. Music is just another form of human artistic communication, no different than someone pouring their inner feelings and desires out on canvas or on stage or hell, just through talking to one another. People spew lies and deceit to one another all the time. Any one form of communication is not necessarily better than any other, so long as it is honest and truthful. Hell, people say dishonest and deceitful things to one another all the time. There is plenty of garbage music that is similarly devoid of meaning at best, or harmful at worst. But to say that anyone looking for deeper meaning through pop songs is misguided is flat out insane. If doing so comes off as disingenuous to someone, then it's their inability to empathize and emotionally connect that is at fault, or perhaps their choice of music. This is an argument I could make all day...or I could just point them to Nick Hornby's wonderful collection of essays about pop songs and their often intimate meanings.As the author of "High Fidelity," Hornby's musical bona fides are unquestionable. These are some of the choice nuggets he presents in "Songbook":"Now, whenever I hear "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From," I think about that night, of course--how could it be otherwise? And initially, when I decided that I wanted to write a little book of essays about songs I loved (and that in itself was a tough discipline, because one has so many more opinions about what has gone wrong than about what is perfect), I presumed that the essays might be full of straightforward time-and-place connections like this, but they're not, not really. In fact, "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From" is just about the only one. And when I thought about why this should be so, why so few of the songs that are important to me come burdened with associative feelings or sensations, it occurred to me that the answer was obvious: if you love a song, love it enough for it to accompany you throughout the different stages of your life, then any specific memory is rubbed away by use. If I'd heard "Thunder Road" in some girl's bedroom in 1975, decided that it was okay, and had never seen the girl or listened to the song much again, then hearing it now would probably bring back the smell of her underarm deodorant. But that isn't what happened; what happened was that I heard "Thunder Road" and loved it, and I've listened to it at (alarmingly) frequent intervals ever since. "Thunder Road" really only reminds me of itself, and, I suppose, of my life since I was eighteen--that is to say, of nothing much and too much...One can only presume that the people who say that their very favorite record of all time reminds them of their honeymoon in Corsica, or of their family Chihuahua, don't actually like music very much. I wanted mostly to write about what it was in these songs that made me love them, not what I brought to the songs.""But sometimes, very occasionally, songs and books and films and pictures express who you are, perfectly. And they don't do this in words or images, necessarily; the connection is a lot less direct and more complicated than that. When I was first beginning to write seriously, I read Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and suddenly knew what I was, and what I wanted to be, for better or for worse. It's a process something like falling in love. You don't necessarily choose the best person, or the wisest, or the most beautiful; there's something else going on. There was a part of me that would rather have fallen for Updike, or Kerouac, and DeLillo--for someone masculine, at least, maybe somebody a little more opaque, and certainly someone who uses more swearwords--and, though I have admired those writers, at various stages in my life, admiration is a very different thing from the kind of transference I'm talking about. I'm talking about understanding--or at least feeling like I understand--every artistic decision, every impulse, the soul of both the work and its creator. "This is me," I wanted to say when I read Tyler's rich, sad, lovely novel. "I'm not a character, I'm nothing like the author, I haven't had the experiences she writes about. But even so, this is what I feel like, inside. This is what I would sound like, if ever I were to find a voice." And I did find a voice, eventually, and it was mine, not hers; but nevertheless, so powerful was the process of identification that I still don't feel as though I've expressed myself as well, as completely, as Tyler did on my behalf then.""When it comes down to i, I suppose that I, too, believe that life is momentous and sad but not destructive of all hope, and maybe that makes me a self-dramatizing depressive, or maybe it makes me a happy idiot, but either way "Thunder Road" knows how I feel and who I am, and that, in the end, is one of the consolations of art.""But the truly great songs, the ones that age and golden-oldies radio stations cannot wither, are about our romantic feelings. And this is not because songwriters have anything to add to the subject; it's just that romance, with its dips and turns and glooms and highs, its swoops and swoons and blues, is a natural metaphor for music itself. Songs that are about complicated things--Canadian court orders, say or the homosexual age of consent--draw attention to the inherent artificiality of the medium: Why is this guy singing? Why doesn't he write a newspaper article, or talk to a phone-in show? And how does a mandolin solo illustrate or clarify the plight of Eskimos anyway? But because it is the convention to write about affairs of the heart, the language seems to lose its awkwardness, to become transparent, and you can see straight through the words to the music. Lyrics about love become, in other words, like another musical instrument, and love songs become, somehow, pure song. Maybe this is what gives "You Had Time" the edge: our breakups, in the end, have more melody to them than our work does.""If it's true that music does, as I've attempted to argue elsewhere, serve as a form of self-expression even to those of us who can express ourselves tolerably well in speech or in writing, how much more vital is it going to be for him, when he has so few other outlets? That's why I love the relationship with music he has already, because it's how I know he has something in him that he wants others to articulate. In fact, thinking about it now, it's why I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part.""Your old music cannot sustain you through a life, not if you're someone who listens to music every day, at every opportunity. You need input, because pop music is about freshness, about Nelly Furtado and the maddeningly memorably fourth track on a first album by a band you saw on a late-night TV show.""The dance floor is still, to me, the social equivalent of the North Sea during English seaside holidays--something to be treated with the utmost fear and caution, something you walk toward and away from over a period of several hours while battling with your own courage, something you plunge into briefly and uncomfortably while every corpuscle in your blood screams at you to get out before it's too late, something that leaves lots of important parts of you feeling shriveled."

“You could, if you were perverse, argue that you’ll never hear England by listening to English pop music. The Beatles and the Stones were, in their formative years, American cover bands that sang with American accents; the Sex Pistols were The Stooges with bad teeth and a canny manager, and Bowie was an art-school version of Jackson Browne until he saw the New York Dolls.” So begins Nick Hornby’s chapter on why England’s national anthem should change (shouldn’t they all?) from “God Save the Queen” to Ian Dury & The Blockheads “Reasons to be Cheerful.” And he lays down astute reasoning behind his wry suggestions. In Hornby’s personal survey on music, “Songbook,” he ponders many ideas, among them how many Dylan discs are really enough. Apparently five is all you need even though he amassed 20+ discs and collections as we all did. And he’s right; he’s right about so many songs and artists and pop movements that you can’t help but stop and cue up Youtube. You’ll even cue up “Late for the Sky” by Jackson Browne just to see if Hornby’s post-40s sensibilities align with your growth from The Ramones to songs with meaning. Often they do. Hornby’s re-examined musical history is right on. “I can’t afford to be a pop snob any more, and if there is a piece of music out there that has the ability to move me, then I want to hear it, no matter who’s made it.” In the case of Hornby’s re-assessment of Browne and the “delicate Californian flowers” and his cross reference of Mojo Magazine’s top 100 Greatest Punk Singles as proof that sometimes we get some music at certain times in our lives and sometimes we’re just not attuned to other efforts is spot on. He’s right, there really isn’t 100 great punk singles, most are simple awful, but he does recognize it’s a moment in life that we hold dear. And then it’s time to move on. Hornby’s “Songbook” isn’t clear-cutting nostalgia. He appreciates greatness and what moves us. “What must it have been like, to listen to “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1966, aged nineteen or twenty?” Hornby asks. “I heard “Anarchy in the UK” in 1976, aged nineteen, but the enormous power those records had then has mostly been lost now.” Songs got faster, louder, and shorter, so they lost the shock. Dylan, being Dylan, we mine it deeper, because it was meant to be mined. Or so we thought, and that may be why we get exhausted by ‘serious’ artists, Dylan, Zeppelin, Springsteen, until the fun is gone. As Hornby points out, “Like a Rolling Stone,” still sounds perfect. It just doesn’t sound fresh anymore.” “Songbook” starts with an assessment of Springsteen and a mention of Dave Eggers’ theory that we play songs over and over because we have to ‘solve’ them. That may be true, but we still love the evanescence of what moves us. Then Hornby ends “Songbook” with a look at Patti Smith. “One of the things you can’t help but love about Smith is her relentless and incurable bohemianism, her assuaged thirst for everything connected to art and books and music. In this one evening she named-checked Virginia Woolf and Tom Verlaine, William Blake and Jerry Garcia, Graham Greene and William Burroughs.” While Springsteen worries about being The Boss, and as perfect as he can be, and he can be absolutely perfect, witness his song “The Rising” in response to 9/11, Smith on the other hand “seems blissfully untroubled about her status as an artist: she just is one, and it requires no further contemplation on her part.”Hornby wrote that after seeing a transformative Patti Smith performance, and I’m convinced, as he was that night,that great artists, those that make us feel the music and art and writing channeled through them, make us all better human beings.

Do You like book Songbook (2003)?

This is my favorite Nick Hornby book. He picks some of his favorite songs to share and well he says it better than I could: "All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don't like them as much as I do" I love how he writes about music and how it makes him feel. It changed the way that I listen to music, too, and realize the importance of music to my emotional well-being. As he says, “I love the relationship that anyone has with music ... because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. ... It's the best part of us probably ...”

What could perhaps described as autobiographical music criticism. Anyone who knows me knows I frequently cite the often miss attributed quote "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" (Costello? Monk? Mingus? Kant?) so this book is kinda like that. Plus, Hornby frequently comes across as an old, liberal fart, especially in his descriptions of 21st century pop music and hip hop BUT HE KNOWS HES AN OLD LIBERAL FART AND HE REALLY LOVES Nelly Furtado so that sort of makes it OK doesn't it? Not really. I don't even know where to begin with that one.Still, his passion for music made me pull out a couple CD's I'd bought out of guilt and/or curiousity and listen to then, only to realize I still didn't like them.

Tal como su título ya da a entender, '31 canciones' se trata de una disección de 31 canciones que por diversos motivos han impactado y llegado al autor. No importa que la lista que ha escogido Hornby no tenga ningún parecido con la que hubiéramos escogido nosotros, ni que ni siquiera hayamos oído las canciones de las que habla, porque consigue transmitir perfectamente el amor que siente por estas canciones en concreto, y por la música en general, con un estilo que mezcla crítica musical, ensayo y autobiografía. Hay momentos verdaderamente memorables: como cuando defiende la "música pop" ante los que la consideran superficial y simplona; cuando relata el efecto que tiene la música en su hijo autista; cuando explica lo que es adorar un grupo que nadie conoce o descubrir una canción nueva que logra emocionarnos; cuando nos cuenta cómo en su juventud sólo adoraba (y se decidía a escuchar sólo) música "ruidosa", pero que con el pasar de los años ha ido perdiendo todos sus prejuicios musicales.Sin embargo, mi momento preferido es cuando nos cuenta cómo podemos llegar a odiar una canción que habíamos descubierto por casualidad, simplemente porque la empiezan a poner a todas partes y a todas horas. Es algo que inevitablemente nos habrá pasado a muchos y algo que yo nunca hasta ahora me había parado a analizar. Hornby argumenta que es porque es imposible "amar o conectar con una música que está tan omnipresente como el monóxido de carbono", porque la música es algo que nos habla directamente a nosotros, sobre nuestra intimidad. Y a partir de aquí también he descubierto porque siempre es tan especial encontrar en la radio esa canción que para ti es en algun modo especial, simplemente porque es la oportunidad de compartir por una vez algo que tienes muy dentro, algo que te define como persona. Y por todo esto creo que es un libro imprescindible para todos los que aman la música.

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