Periodicals Granta 76: Music

ISBN 13: 9781929001064

Granta 76: Music

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9781929001064: Granta 76: Music

Published in the U.S. since 1979, Granta is a handsomely illustrated paperback featuring outstanding articles that illustrate a theme. The Music issue examines how music is made and what it means from plainsong to bounce. Contributors include Philip Pullman, Luc Sante, Nicholson Baker, Robyn Davidson, Amit Chaudhuri, Daniel Menaker, Ian Jack, Richard Sennett, and Andrew O’Hagan.

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Review:

Blithely ignore the dictum (usually attributed to Elvis Costello) that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," Granta 76: Music is all about music. The range of musical styles tackled by the contributors is wide--from New Orleans Bounce Rap and Debussy to Bob Dylan and Kathleen Ferrier--though curiously no one has chosen to write about jazz. (There is Richard Williams's excellent piece on Frank Sinatra's mob-funded hotel, the Cal-Neva, but that hardly counts.) The most apposite, if a little trite, way to view this collection is as a kind of literary version of the mix tape. Nick Hornby, no stranger to chronicling the delights of mix tapes, writes about them again here. Like the scads of anthologies or greatest-hits packages available, mix tapes usually have a distinct whiff of nostalgia about them.

The majority of articles in Granta 76: Music are autobiographical, but they manage (largely) to steer clear of misty-eyed reflection or sentimentality. Andrew O'Hagan, for example, movingly pays tribute to his aunt Famie and her favorite song "Cecilia," while Craig Brown resurrects the odd moment from his childhood when "Gin gan gooly" suddenly made more sense than "I am the Walrus" (goo-goo-ga joo). This volume is not without its fast-forward moments (Philip Hensher's gauche and flabby "Brandy" for one), but with such delights as Greil Marcus's profile of the American folk archivist Harry Smith and Julie Burchill explaining why she never wants to hear Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" again, it's more "Blood on the Tracks" than "Self-Portrait." --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk

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