Been quiet for a while, but thought it is time I shared a bit on what I’ve been reading recently. Firstly the fascinating but rather scholarly biography of Alan Lomax – The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax. If you’ve not come across Alan Lomax and his father John Lomax, their contribution to music was the work to captured music initially in the US, but Alan also worked in Europe for a while. Their story starts out in the 1920s and 30s. Alan’s influence on music perhaps isn’t as widley appreciated, as more recent figures such as Berry Gordy, Jerry Wexler and so on. But actually it is astonishing, from the ‘discovery’ of Lead Belly; to breaking Jelly Roll Morton, setting Muddy Waters onto the road to blues fame; to introducing Dylan to early folk music.
The book itself is a substantial volume, and at times feels very scholarly in nature – but then Alan approached his subject in a manner that was scholarly. It does however make the reading a bit dry at times, but ultimately very rewarding. If you want to seriously understand some musicc history you can’t go wrong with this book.
In brilliant contrast is Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music – this is a great read, with Greg Milner’s writing and passion for his subject carrying you along – so much so you’d think you’re being carried along by a good thriller if you didn’t know better. The book is a lot less scholarly (but not light on fact) and focuses on key points and events in the evolution in the recording of music from the early days of Edison upto the digital age. Like Alan Lomax its amazing how one or two individuals can have such tremendous influence. Given the Lomax’s impact they also make a passing appearance in this book. But their contribution only covers a dozen or so pages rather than the 600+ of the biography.