David Rowell explores the essence of music’s meaning with a vast spectrum of players, trying to understand their connection to their chosen instrument, what they’ve put themselves through for their music, and what they feel when they play.
This quirky and delightful book of music writing, from Washington Post Magazine deputy editor David Rowell, defies categorization ... Most music writing is so formulaic and dull that encountering good examples of the genre carries a jolt of freshness and pleasure. Rowell’s central strategy is to nose up to some weird instrument or character...and then give it a full, thoughtful, journalistically impeccable treatment, leavened by touches of dry wit ... Rowell’s book is a peerless seminar in long-form journalism; the fellow writer or aspirant critic can only marvel at his command of his métier ... 'In music the distance between sorrow and joy can be surprisingly narrow,' Rowell writes. This book finds that narrow distance and sings there, sweetly.
Too often, reading about people performing music is as unrewarding as reading about people performing sex. Readers generally would prefer to be engaging in the act themselves. Most authors simply cannot capture and convey the passion that makes such acts so vital. David Rowell’s Wherever the Sound Takes You is a happy exception ... somewhat oddly, considering his primary focus on unknowns, Rowell includes two acts — Peter Frampton and Yes — that were tremendously popular in their day but who have since fallen out of the pop conscience, yet continue to record and tour. I suspect they’re here because they are among his personal favorites ... One can imagine our ancient ancestors picking up two pieces of stone and smacking them together to obtain a fine cutting edge, only to realize that the rhythm they produced was pleasing to the ear and the soul ... David Rowell does a superb job of reminding us of this universal and basic truth.
...a wide-ranging exploration of the hold that music has on so many of us, from the esoteric instruments to which some devote their lives to the musicians who inspire loyal obsession long after their popular heydays ... Readers who have had any sort of musical passion should find these stories compelling.