TARP No. 14 – ‘Fear of Music’ by David Stubbs

fear if music

Who? David Stubbs, Oxford-educated music journalist who sounds very much like he should present a sideline on BBC 6 Music. Perhaps with Stuart Maconie.


What? A short treatise on why people appreciate and pay exorbitant sums for modern art, but don’t like it when a ten-piece German psychedelic prog-jazz ensemble hit their guitars against anvils for twenty-five minutes, then await applause.


When? 2009, or Year One in the calendar of Our Lady Susan Boyle, grossly-overlooked by Stubbs.


How? Briskly, stomping through the history of experimental music in the past hundred years or so with a few swipes at the adjacent modern-art-gallery-industry along the way. Also with sweeping statements about art/music’s relationship to culture, which leave a few brief moments of collar-pulling.


Why? As an introduction to experimental music, highlighted by Stubbs’ exceptional knowledge of it and passion towards it, Fear of Music is an absolute success. His forming of the musical-historical narrative is fresh and clear, even if muddled by the odd fantastical speculation about race or class. His argument about the difference in reception between art and music is, I think, weak, except in his astute analysis of the industries’ relationship with money. However it may sound, the book is fun, genuinely fun. As fun as experimental music! Anybody? Guys? No?


Fear of Music is available as a lazily-formatted Zer0 Books paperback.

10 March 2017

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