10 Best Music Books of 2016

From the stage to the page: The year's best memoirs, essay collections and more

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'Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty,' by Ben Ratliff
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'Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty,' by Ben Ratliff

Traversing his music collection as though he were listening again for the very first time, former New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff not only tells you what to listen to but, more importantly, how to listen to it. In an era when a huge chunk of everything ever recorded is available to listeners via the cloud, Ratliff suggests a score of sometimes-idiosyncratic strategies to stimulate "encounter[s] with civilizations other than your own." In addition to drawing out new possibilities from such familiar touchstones as repetition, quiet, improvisation and virtuosity, Ratliff riffs adroitly on the "transmission" of extreme emotion in Sufi music, the "linking" of composers such as Henry Threadgill with listeners like yourself, and the subtle rhythmic "discrepancies" in the drumming of Japan's OOIOO, whose grooves "sound the way a three-legged dog looks when running." R.G.

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