Andy Battaglia

  • culture November 21, 2013

    Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter by Alyn Shipton

    Harry Nilsson was either a self-sabotaging musical savant, or a savvy, scheming genius. Perhaps that's why his legacy, like his career, has flirted with obscurity, even as the music retains a cult following.

    Harry Nilsson was a ramshackle musical savant with a weakness for misbegotten life decisions and career-sabotaging swerves. Or maybe he was a scheming genius whose monastic devotion to idiosyncrasy made him a visionary in ways that have not yet been fully revealed. Either way, he was maybe the most innately talented rock star of the 1960s and ’70s— among stiff competition—as well as an enigma who jams the signals of standard stories of rock-star rise and fall.

    As told in Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter, the artist’s story follows a long, curving, more or less conventional arc with

  • culture December 08, 2009

    Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction by Caleb Kelly

    Music has been made by means of technology for nearly as long, if not exactly as long, as music has been made. Except for the voice (as well as the effects of clapping, slapping, and snapping), the sounds we agree to designate as musical rely on the use of tools, whether those tools be sticks, synthesizers, banjoes, electric guitars, or flutes carved from the bones of whales. The contemporary question of what kinds of music rank as technologically borne, then, is less a matter of provenance and more a matter of what kinds of sounds—and what types of tools—we choose to class as musically germane.

  • syllabi August 20, 2009

    Future-Shock Music

    Serious music fans fetishize moments of future-shock rupture—those moments of fruitful confusion and ecstatic release that attend the arrival of new movements and new sounds. Whether charting the erratic patterns of pop novelty or the ideological progress of the art-music impulse, a significant body of music literature works to survey the conditions and consequences of future shock. These books organize histories forever in flux and push music in new directions. The best among them teach us how to listen—and think—anew. The following books are essential reading from future-shock music literature,

  • Broadcast Hues

    Television has been omnipresent for so long that it’s hard to conceive of a time before it existed, much less one when art and design weren’t inextricably linked to the all-inclusive mess we know as TV culture. But such a time did exist, and the realms of television and art weren’t necessarily fated to be so closely allied.

    Charting the way they came together is the aim of TV by Design. Focusing on broadcasting’s formative era, the ’40s through the ’70s, Lynn Spigel, a professor of screen cultures at Northwestern University, upends talk of early television as an empty enterprise and looks

  • Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste

    It would seem to be a novel stunt: A working music critic, versed in historically vested value systems and steeped in sub­cultural arcana, stoops to listen to a colossal pop star and pledges to dissect the cult she inspires. The scenario only ripens when the pop star in question is Céline Dion, an enigma who tends to be critically regarded with a mix of contempt and confusion when critically regarded at all.

    Not so, when the critic is Carl Wilson. A music writer for the Toronto newspaper Globe and Mail, Wilson begins Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste with an honest and

  • Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae

    As befits a music invested in wiping itself away, the story of dub has been chronicled in an erratic fashion. Often cited as a precursor to just about everything musical since the 1970s, dub nonetheless subsists officially in the form of footnotes: as an adjunct to reggae, as a foundation for techno and house, as the fundament of a remix culture so pervasive as to go almost unnoticed in the present day.

    In Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, Michael E. Veal, an associate professor of music at Yale University, offers a corrective that focuses on dub as a distinct musical