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Sonata for Jukebox: An Autobiography of My Ears Paperback – April 26, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582433291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582433295
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

O'Brien, a poet and critic, narrates his life through the recordings he has listened to—45s, LPs, radio jingles—shaping his memoir as a sequence of musical madeleines. Moving chronologically, he expands on the assertion that "the age of recording is necessarily an age of nostalgia": the covers of jazz albums recall a childhood home where music was constant, even when it was "turned down so low it sounds like the scratching of a squirrel trapped in the walls" a Burt Bacharach song exhibits "well-bred melancholia, the hidden side of a Kennedy-era effervescence" and the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love?" incongruously takes over the lobby of a movie theatre in Osaka. But, for all the luxurious reminiscence, O'Brien is not merely a nostalgist, and finds the present as rich as the past—a healthy state for a critic, because, as he says, "you need ears cleared of that rattling debris to receive new signals."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Review

"Luxurious reminiscence." -- The New Yorker

"O'Brien evokes music's expanding infiltration of the world-a planet of lonely surfers floating in their own individually sealed soundtracks." -- Village Voice

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By gtra1n VINE VOICE on April 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is pretty much impossible to describe well and truly, but anyone who truly loves music and has found themselves, through the course of life, frequently lost in the act of listening, or reminscing about the experience of hearing particular music, is urged to read this brilliant, imaginative, beautiful and moving work.

O'Brien's book about the experience of movie-going, "The Phantom Empire," estabished him as one of the great, unique movie viewers, and this one does the same for his listening. And that is what this book is about, listening. This is not about music, and that is an important distinction! It's about the experience of listening, and how what we listen to is incorporated into our personal history. But it's also about much more than that: his chapter on American Folk Music is one of the most astonishingly brilliant pieces of critical thinking about music I have ever read, his section on ambient music is subtle, mysterious and extraordinary.

Most of his listening, at least in this book, is of pop music, jazz, rock and other popular forms. But regardless of your listening habits, this book will be a pleasure and a beautiful companion to your own love of music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Cherches on July 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everybody, well almost everybody, listens to music and loves some kind of music, be it what's hot at the moment or the sounds of one's childhood. Then there are "music people." Not necessarily musicians, but people for whom music is more than a soundtrack to life, it's inextricably intertwined with their lives. I'm one of those people, and Geoffrey O'Brien's book is by one of us for the rest of us. In lyrical prose O'Brien captures both the nostalgia for and the urgency of the music of/in his life. The author is a bit older than me, eight years, but we lived through the same musical times, at least starting in 1964, when Beatlemania turned an eight-year-old me into a music person. Rather than an uninterrupted through-narrative, the book contains a number of individual pieces using varying narrative strategies, some more effective than others. A blurb on the back cover makes an apt allusion to Proust, but for me the book's tour de force is the opening section, ostensibly a rumination on Burt Bacharach; its meanderings, along with its erudition, and that "how did he get there from here?" wonderment, suggests that this is, perhaps, how Montaigne might have written had he grown up with Top-40 radio.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ge on October 25, 2013
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This incredible memoir sparks one's earliest memories of listening to music, especially a baby boomer growing up in the NYC area
in the 50s and 60s. Although the author's parents were a lot more cultured and surrounded by the music and art world, he captures all the nuance and varied genres that affected his listening and continues into the later years of his life.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Kerr on December 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
The author had, I think but I'm not really sure, some interesting thoughts about memory and perception of music . Unfortunately, ,it is impossible to glean anything coherent out of this incredibly wordy, repetitive, vague, soup of stream of consciousness self indulgence . There are lots of words but the author never arrives at a clear, coherent point , and never says anything clearly . The book is dull and muddled. It's no mystery that this book is available for 1 cent and only has three reviews. Don't even think about it.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew C. Noone on July 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
While as an elementary music teacher and college piano professor I can appreciate O'Brien's love for pop music and his vast knowledge of it, I found the book to be unreadable. Imaginative writing does not include incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness lists of associations and trivia...I tried repeatedly to slog through it, but found it profoundly dull. And it's no small trick to make the Beach Boys and Beatles insipid.
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