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PSN-e’s stocking fillers: part 1

test 2 December 2008

UK: Searching for some audio professional-friendly seasonal gifts? David Davies has a few suggestions… In the first of a two-part festive retail special, PSN-e goes in search of audio/music-related books and unearths first-rate page-turners from the likes of Robert Charles Alexander, Dr Floyd E. Toole, Alex Ross, Bill Drummond and Rick Wakeman (pictured here at the recent APRS Fellowships Lunch).

In Michael Gerzon – Beyond Psychoacoustics (Dora Media Productions), author Robert Charles Alexander deep-mines the life and times of late audio engineering pioneer Michael Gerzon. A prolific sound recording engineer, Gerzon is arguably best-known for his involvement in the development of Ambisonics, the Soundfield Microphone and a number of prominent software-based audio engineering tools. An extraordinarily rich life that was curtailed at the age of just 50 is assessed in a book that is available only from the Michael Gerzon website (link below).

On a similar note, Dr Floyd E. Toole recently published The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms through Elsevier imprint Focal press. A former AES president and recently retired from a long stint at Harman International Industries, Toole addresses a variety of topics in this comprehensive 568-pager, including multi-channel audio system configurations, loudspeaker evaluation, acoustics and psychoacoustics.

Another fine choice from the more cerebral end of the bookshelf is Alex Ross’s The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Fourth Estate). Lavished with praise upon its release earlier this year – not least from Bj_rk, who said that the book “will rekindle anyone’s fire for music” – The Rest Is Noise_ offers a comprehensive and consistently thought-provoking account of 20th century classical music. Ross – recently described as “a revolutionary critic” in The Guardian – addresses social, political and technological issues in an epic door-stopper of a volume that should provide endless distraction from dreadful Christmas television.

Start contemplating 20th century musical pioneers and it won’t be too long before the name ‘Brian Eno’ springs to mind. First making his mark as Roxy Music’s in-house sonic disruptor in the early 1970s, Eno has gone on to a career of unequalled diversity, encompassing ambient music, production, visual art, political activism and more. Now the full, frequently glorious saga has been chronicled in David Sheppard’s compelling On Some Faraway Beach – The Life and Times of Brian Eno (Orion). Drawing on first-hand input from the likes of Bryan Ferry, David Byrne and Eno himself, it possesses that vital quality which distinguishes all the best music biographies – it sends you scurrying back to the actual records, in this case to marvel afresh at the many delights of Here Come the Warm Jets, Fear of Music, etc. (Incidentally, Eno’s new album with Byrne, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, is also well worth checking out.)

Looking for something a little bit lighter? Then you might want to try Rick Wakeman’s Grumpy Old Rock Star and Other Wondrous Stories (Preface). Billed as “a collection of never-before-told stories from his amazing life”, the book touches on most aspects of Wakeman’s career as session player, Yes stalwart and ice-favouring solo adventurer. And yes, he does reveal the truth behind those infamous ‘booting Salvador Dali off-stage’ and ‘eating a curry during Tales From Topographic Oceans’ incidents.

In fact, 2008 has been a vintage year for music (auto)biographies, with other choice picks including Crystal Zevon’s compelling/disturbing account of late, great US singer/songwriter Warren Zevon (I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of_ (HarperPaperbacks)), producer Joe Boyd’s sprightly White Bicycles (Serpent’s Tail), and Floyd/Roxy session musician Guy Pratt’s surprisingly-near-the-knuckle My Bass & Other Animals (Orion). Former KLF/Justified Ancients of Mu Mu co-honcho Bill Drummond’s extended rumination on the possible demise of recorded music, The 17 (Beautiful Books), is also recommended.

Finally, PSNE editor Dave Robinson has confirmed that his holiday read of choice will be none other than Stephen Miller’s Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton (Omnibus Press). The first major biography of the pop-country performer for more than 15 years, Smart Blonde_ is billed as “a unique portrait of a strong woman who came to town looking like a burlesque hooker but who took control of her life, her music and her career with resolute determination.”

More festive favourites next week!


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