How Music Works by John Powell

Filed under:Art,Technical — posted by Randolph on March 27, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

How Music Works by John Powell
This book is a technical book about music, how it works and what it is.  It discusses the physics of music in very non-technical and easy-to-understand terms.  It also covers some of the history, and why things are the way they are.
According to the author, the target audience is everyone, whether a neophyte to music or an aficionado.  I disagree with this assessment.  I found the book interesting, but low in information density and primarily of use to those who haven’t studied much music.

The book does cover all the major details of music.  I also felt the author does a good job of making it understandable. Even though I have studied music, I felt John Powell helped me solidify my understanding of a number of topics.

John Powell also interjects his humor into the book, making it more palatable for those who already know the information he is covering.  However, I felt he went overboard and could have used a lot less.  At times, it got rather old.

Due to the low density of information, the book is a fairly fast read without sacrificing the ability to retain information.

The book also includes a CD.  The CD contains sound tracks that compare different elements of music.  For instance, one of the tracks compares and discusses the sound from a guitar string played from different positions, focusing on the quality and timbre of the sound.  The CD is short, but has a few interesting elements to it.  You will probably listen to it once and forget about it.

If you don’t know much about music, this book would probably be a good place to start.  Otherwise, I don’t think it provides much value.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 4, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
Dr. William Huber is a psychiatrist working in Portland, Oregon in a crowded, polluted, and hot future.

George Orr is a man with bad dreams, and he believes the dreams affect reality. George has been using more than his allotment of pharmaceuticals, so he is sent to Obligatory Therapy under Dr. William Huber.

While George is in Dr. Huber’s care, Dr. Huber is able to see the world change during George’s dreams. He tries to use the ability to manipulate reality. It isn’t clear what is goals are, nor if or even how he should be stopped.

The book was written in 1971 and set in the early 21st century. It doesn’t use much technology, but explores the relationship between Dr. Huber and George Orr. It seemed to be an allegory for the silver bullet that technology is always promising. In this way, Dr. Huber keeps trying to create his version of Utopia, but cannot succeed, as he encounters problems, getting closer at each attempt.

The book is sprinkled with allusions to 1984. It is clear the initial setting is strongly influenced by this work. It was fun watching for what might appear.

The Lathe of Heaven is a short and fairly quick read that can be quite thought provoking.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace