The Trouble With Music

The Trouble with Music

Mat Callahan

Publisher/Distributor: AK Press
216 pages
ISBN: 1-904859-14-3
Price: $15
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There is a crisis facing music. The signs are everywhere, from the saturation of public space by tuneful trivia to the digital downloading controversy. Quantity has replaced quality. The number of units sold is now the criteria by which music is judged and high-gloss, mass-produced, low-content music is everywhere. You can’t shop, eat, ride a bus or see a movie without hearing it as each day you are inundated with enticements to buy it. Like the replacement of essential nutriment by junk food, music lovers are expected to surrender their critical faculties and consume the phony McMusic that can be more effectively controlled and profitably sold than the genuine article.

Callahan unravels and elucidates the crises facing music as well as its liberatory potential. The Trouble with Music includes discussions of: technology and its effects on music making and listening; superabundance and the absence of critical thought; the development of radio; music criticism; copyright; the digital domain and the internet; labor and music making; and the special relationships between words, dance, politics, and music. A large segment of the general public seeks a relationship to music, which turns an exceptional profit for those who own and control it. Callahan provides a means of evaluating music and a powerful critique of the music industry. Whether you whistle at work, sing in the shower or conduct concertos, this book will challenge and enhance how you think about music.

Includes a foreword by Boff, from the multi-million selling group Chumbawamba.

The Trouble With Music


Mat Callahan

Illustrations by
Mariann Müller

This book is the work of several years. It’s author conceived of a literary expression of ideas previously brought to audiences through music because the texts themselves, standing apart from music, made a compelling statement in their own right. The book consists of seven chapters and an introductory essay. Taken together they represent a coherent critique of current social relations and raise incisive questions about the meaning of change.

The texts are accompanied by vivid drawings which seek to illuminate and expand upon the written word. They attempt to bring attention to the necessity of dialogue both as the inevitable result of any expression and as a desirable goal of all who seek to understand.

The book’s title, Testimony, was chosen for the legal and religious implications of that word. The author envisions the world as both the scene of a crime and the site of a sacred duty. The chapters are entitled: Power, Gender, Work, Migration, Love, Laughter, and Transformation. Instead of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ there are the seven portals through which to enter discussion of the underlying themes of suffering and injustice. In short, this is a presentation of evidence and a statement of purpose.

The Trouble With Music

Sex, Death &
the Angry Young Man

Mat Callahan
Publisher/Distributor: AK Press

For those who have read The Chalice and the Blade, an update; for those who have not, an introduction…

What needs to be illuminated are the myriad ways in which our experience and aspirations are bound together. How our common interests are marginalized and buried beneath a mountain of rotting garbage. How quickly gigantic changes can happen in an unstable system. What place reason has in the life of the people and how we are discouraged from using it. Who “we” are after ten thousand years of domination.

It is in this spirit that these conversations took place and are to be shared. If they raise more questions, good. If they help to inform action, better. But beyond dogma and orthodoxy lie experiment and understanding. And, if we do well, then beyond the time of the dominator may lie the time of transformation for our species.

Mat Callahan, from the Introduction

“I can honestly say that this is the most stimulating and intelligent interview I have had.” – Riane Eisler