Black Inc. February 2015
Andrew Ford’s new book, Earth Dances: Music in search of the primitive, shows how composers through history have made their music less sophisticated in order to revive it. From Dunstaple to Bo Diddley, Stravinsky to Scott Walker, Peter Sculthorpe to Pussy Riot, musicians have invoked the demotic and even the barbaric, admitting drones and drums to their work, simplifying (in some cases, infantilising) their techniques. The result has often been renewal. Threaded through Ford’s chapters are new interviews with six composers: Richard Barrett, Martin Bresnick, Brian Eno, Liza Lim, Pauline Oliveros and Karin Rehnqvist.
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Download podcasts of Andrew Ford’s ABC radio series Earth Dances
As an example of the breadth Ford brings, his chapter on grief and music, ‘Crying Out Loud’, traverses the Beatles, Van Morrison and Maria Callas en route to Karelian lamenting, which is a structured sort of keening from Finland that lasted to the mid-20th century. From there he discusses Stravinsky and Bartok before moving to Yoko Ono and Diamanda Galas, then to . . . Bob Dylan . . . A little like Beethoven with the Diabelli variations: [Ford] takes a slight theme and creates a work of high craft and interest. [Earth Dances] is filled with insightful musical analysis made accessible for a general audience. Perhaps the best measure of success is the way Ford inspires curiosity about many obscure composers, works and bands, which challenges listeners to follow up his discussion. Thank goodness for Youtube.
Barney Zwartz, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald
A vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance.
James Tierney, Kill Your Darlings
Earth Dances is an enjoyable read and full of very interesting things that not even a music specialist might know about.
Michael Hannan, The Music Trust
The book’s great strength is Ford’s dexterity in jumping from example to example, which inspires the reader to situate their own musical world between intellectual and corporeal poles.
Matthew Lorenzon, Partial Durations
When Ford writes about music, it dances off the page. His detailed descriptions are evidence of his musical ability as a composer. He is able to provide information with ease and clarity so that the most advanced connoisseur or eager novice could gain pleasure from it.
Samuel Cottell, Cut Common