Bob Dylan’s first book of new writing since 2004’s Chronicles: Volume One— and since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, The Philosophy of Modern Song, is a momentous artistic achievement. Though it is ostensibly about music, the book is really meditations and reflections on the human condition. Dylan’s unique prose is mysterious and mercurial, poignant and profound, and it is often laugh-out-loud funny.
In The Philosophy of Modern Song, Dylan offers his extraordinary insight into the nature of popular music. He writes over sixty essays focusing on songs by other artists, spanning from Stephen Foster to Elvis Costello, and in between ranging from Hank Williams to Nina Simone. The book is peppered with the intimately curated photos and a series of dream-like riffs that, taken together, resemble an epic poem and add to the work’s transcendence.
One of the major insights that Dylan offers in The Philosophy of Modern Song is about the trap of easy rhymes. He breaks down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song to its very lowest denominator, while also shedding light on what makes a good song truly great. Dylan is not afraid to criticize even his own work, and he points out the flaws in songs that have been previously hailed as his own masterpieces.
In addition to breaking down the mechanics of songwriting, Dylan also discusses how different genres of music are interrelated. For example, he explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal, and how different types of music have evolved over time.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of The Philosophy of Modern Song is the way in which Dylan weaves his meditations on music into reflections on life and the human experience. He writes about the power of music to connect people and bring them together, and he discusses the way music has shaped his own life and helped him make sense of the world.
Running throughout the book are nearly 150 carefully curated photos that add depth and dimension to Dylan’s prose. While some of the pictures are beautiful, others are haunting, and they serve to underscore the emotional intensity of the essays themselves.
One of the striking things about The Philosophy of Modern Song is how fully-formed Dylan’s voice is, even in the written word. His prose is as evocative as his lyrics, and he is able to convey a great deal of emotion and beauty through his words alone.
If you are a fan of Bob Dylan’s music and writing, The Philosophy of Modern Song is an absolute must-read. Even if you are not familiar with his work, you will find much to appreciate in the book’s insightful essays and reflections on life, music, and the human experience. With its unique blend of artistry and sincerity, The Philosophy of Modern Song is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
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(as of Mar 25, 2023 07:45:20 UTC – Details)