The phrase “music history” likely summons up images of long-dead composers, smug men in wigs and waistcoats, and people dancing without touching. In this book, Gioia responds to the false notions that undergird this tedium. Traditional histories of music, Gioia contents, downplay those elements of music that are considered disreputable or irrational-its deep connections to sexuality, magic, trance and alternative mind states, healing, social control, generational conflict, political unrest, even violence and murder.
They suppress the stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. Here, Gioia attempts to reclaim music history for the riffraff, the insurgents, and provocateurs-the real drivers of change and innovation. In Music, Gioia tells the four-thousand-year history of music as a source of power, change, upheaval, and enchantment.
He shows how social outcasts have repeatedly become the great trailblazers of musical expression: slaves and their descendants, for instance, have repeatedly reinvented music in America and elsewhere, from ragtime, blues, jazz, R&B, to bossa nova, soul, and hip hop. A revolutionary and revisionist account, Music: A Subversive History is essential reading for anyone interested in the meaning of music.
Basic Books, 2021