Book Review: Best Music Writing of 2011

Alex Ross is the guest editor for the 2011 version of Best Music Writing, which collects and highlights some of the most interesting magazine and journal articles about the music scene. The Best Music Writing of 2011 is a fantastic look at music from multiple angles, and (give Ross’s involvement and his role in writing about classical music for the New Yorker) the focus shifts from classical to jazz to heavy metal and beyond. Topics from Lady Gaga to the use of the vocoder device in music (from its origins in the spy services) to the plight of making a living as a wedding singer in the days of the DJ are like touchstones of the music world. These pieces move beyond our expectations of what music is and how music affects us. Ross has done a nice job of culling out intriguing topics.

This genre-jumping is right up my alley, and although I find some articles I just skim, I am always apt to stumble into interesting pieces that I would have otherwise missed. The article in here that remains fresh in my mind is one that explores one night at the Fillmore when Miles Davis and Neil Young performed on the same stage, on the same night (not together, though, but Davis opened for Young). Both artist were in the midst of change, and exploration, and I just had that “wow” reaction to thinking what it must have been like to hear Davis just as Bitches Brew was to be released and Young with the original incarnation of Crazy Horse on the same stage.

If you like music, and if you like reading about music, this collection is a keeper.

Peace (in the music),

PS — I am reading now that the publisher of the series has pulled the plug. But series editor Daphne Carr is pushing ahead with a plan to raise money and publish next year’s collection independently. I’m in!


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