The Believer Music Issue

I recently read the July / August 2011 issue of The Believer magazine. It is devoted to music and it is spectacular.

The Believer is one the many productions of the Dave Eggers media empire. My understanding is that it is generally devoted to literature: book reviews, authors interviewing other authors, lists, poems, and columns are the regular contents, as well as some pop culture explorations. However, once a year, the magazine does an issue on film, an issue on art, and an issue on music. For people looking for thought-provoking discussion, excellent critical analysis, incredible writing, and great music, the 2011 Music Issue is for you.

I was particularly taken with the "conversations" as they were called. My favorite was David Mitchell in conversation with Brian Eno. I am a huge Mitchell fan for one thing, but for another, Brian Eno is a genius and has some keen insights on music, recording, and creativity. A must read. The other was David Byrne talking with Brazilian music icon Tom Ze, an impassioned and heady discussion, mostly devoted to music education. The "regular" interviews were all great too: Martha Wainwright (a great look at family dynamics), Trey Anastasio (very fascinating discussion on improvisation), and Julianna Barwick (enjoyed the bits on her recording methods). I would be surprised if you could find a stronger set of 5 interviews in any other publication this year. Excellent stuff.

But that's not all! In addition to some poems, comics, lists, and regular columns on the Nobel winners, what Nick Hornby is reading, and what Greil Marcus is into lately, there are some wonderful features. My favorite was probably "The Farting Bedpost: A Cultural History of the Bassoon." Others include a look at the Australian music festival scene, the failed attempts to put turntables in cars, an exploration of phones in songs, the connections between architecture and music via the mash-up, a profile of the band Salem, a look at the crazy world of Korean pop, and an inset graphic on Fast Food & music.

As if that isn't enough, the magazine comes with a free CD featuring a collection of modern composers. There are some names familiar to the indie rock crowd, like Own Pallett, Dan Deacon, and Bryce Dessner. It's an engrossing listen, full of diverse sounds. I was very happy to have this because it is something I know basically nothing about, but about which I often have curiosity. Meaning, just what IS our "classical music?" This playlist begins to answer it and provides the opportunity for a true expansion of one's musical horizons. Here's the last track: "Sing Along" by Judd Greenstein.

Judd Greenstein – Sing Along by merkinconcerthall

I urge you all to check this out, it is a fine volume of excellent writing and discussion on excellent, diverse music.  If you live in a city with an independent bookstore, they probably are carrying it. But if not, you can purchase it here (and read some excerpts if you aren't already convinced why you should get this).