26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
I Hear A New World,
This review is from: Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music (Paperback)
Irwin Chusid's first book is an extremely entertaining, inspiring, and well-deserved tribute to an assorted cast of musical curiosities. More than just weird songsmiths, and certainly way beyond alternative music, these artists defy description. Under the umbrella of 'outsider music' (coined by the author as the musical equivalent of outsider folk art), he offers up twenty intriguing examples for your consideration. Some of these individuals have already achieved a certain degree of fame (Capt. Beefheart, Syd Barrett, Tiny Tim), and some have gained notoriety through the underground community (Wesley Willis, Daniel Johnston, B.J. Snowden, Wild Man Fischer). Some may have been unlucky geniuses (Harry Partch, Robert Graettinger, Joe Meek), and some have stories that remain unresolved, with only the recordings left to speak for themselves (Jandek, Shooby Taylor, Jack Mudurian). All of them, however, share unquestionable sincerity and originality when it comes to their skewed takes on popular music forms. What separates them from other pop oddities like Frank Zappa, the Residents, or Barnes & Barnes is a lack of self-awareness in their work. They don't aim to be weird, but the end result inevitably gets received that way. Although he writes with a healthy dose of humor, he also displays a large amount of respect for them. Fans of way-out sounds may recognize Chusid's name. He's been shining spotlights on fringe music for years, penning liner notes and producing compilations for both Esquivel and Raymond Scott (he's also the director of the Raymond Scott Archives), as well as co-hosting the "Incorrect Music Hour" on the legendary free-form radio station WFMU in New Jersey. This wonderful book is by no means a comprehensive look at any of these names, but merely a well-written sampler that will hopefully inspire you to find out more. Closing out the book, there's a section of artists' discographies to provide an idea of what's out there (and you can marvel at the vast self-released output of Jandek, Johnston, and Willis), and a bibliography featuring plenty of sources for the intrigued reader to do further research (both in print and on the Internet). A fantastic companion CD is also available, featuring tracks by many of this book's subjects (which is highly recommended, in order to fully appreciate what they do).