Book review: Tia DeNora’s “Music Asylums”

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A book review (of Tia DeNora’s Music Asylums: Wellbeing Through Music in Everyday Life) I did ages ago has now been published online in Current Musicology. 

It might not look like much, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write, but it was worth it. The book itself seemed such an easy read first time through, but when I came to try and condense the main points for a review, it was a lot tougher. 

I was going through some kind of romantic phase at the time when I thought there must be something organic and better about making notes on the book as I read it  longhand. It’s true I did enjoy the feeling of the ink on the paper, but it was the biggest waste of time and effort: I’m now re-typing those handwritten pages into MaxQDA so I can make some use of them in my other work. 

Since reading DeNora’s wonderful metaphor of the future perfect (e.g. “I will have done”) in this book, I have thought about at least once a week in connection with some experience or other in life. Her point is that music therapy might not have immediate effects: the good that music does in a person’s life might come later. I feel that way about so much. Whenever people ask me if I enjoyed the three years I spent in Berlin, I have to try and explain that when I was actually there, I was often miserable—but it was one of the most enriching and wonderful periods of my life, from which I continue to draw so much from in different ways even today, It’s not retrospect or nostalgia, and it’s not the same as saying “it was awful, but it was good for me.” It’s a feeling that something is by nature good (not awful) in some kind of eternal time zone where when you are ready for it, you can draw on its goodness. 

 

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