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Episode 138: Music, a Subversive History


“A recurring phenomenon traced in these pages,” writes Ted Gioia in his new book Music: A Subversive History, “a surprisingly consistent one, despite marked differences in epochs and cultures—finds innovations coming from disruptive outsiders who shake up the very same institutions that later lay claim to them.” This is just one of tens or hundreds of insights in Gioia’s book, scattered across its pages, including the importance of bells to music history; the sacrificial ritual of the musician’s death; and the reason for similarity in the music of societies who herd animals. And Gioia concludes this feast with a list of forty points that is titled “This Is Not a Manifesto,” which for me was pretty much the same as vowing not to think about dancing purple elephants for the next five minutes.

Ted Gioia has written eleven books, and this makes at least the fifth book he’s written on music history. He is an noted and notable critic, and is also a jazz pianist, who in the 1980’s worked to establish a Jazz Studies program at his alma mater Stanford University.