Music: A Fold-Out Graphic History

Music: A Fold-Out Graphic History
Nicholas O’Neill & Susan Hayes, illustrated by Ruby Taylor
What on Earth Books

This large format, concertina book is published in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Essentially it opens up the entire world of music to all whether or not they have a specific interest in music and is written by Nicholas O’Neill, himself an acclaimed musician and composer and author Susan Hayes. Together with illustrator Ruby Taylor, they present a superb illustrated timeline that unfolds to double-sided 2.5 metres beginning in prehistoric times with the use of bones, gourds, and hooves, and culminating in contemporary music of Björk, Adele, Beyonce and Grime artist Stormsy.

Pretty much everything one can imagine relating to music as well as more that you can’t, is included in the densely packed pages. Truly international in perspective, the presentation begins with a world map showing prehistoric sounds emanating not only from instruments from the aforementioned materials but also perhaps, from wood.

We meet music makers of all kinds – maestros and more – mainly in national or period dress. There are pithy paragraphs about such things as written music from 1000 CE, the first printed music (1501), styles of music, the use of technology in playing and recording

and various innovations including the Chinabot platform that showcases Asian music both modern and traditional, as well as MuseNet – an online tool that uses AI so create songs of different styles.

The book covers orchestral music, opera, rock -‘n’-roll, protest music and there are some lesser known mentions such as opera founder Wei Liangfu; and American composer Amy Beach and English composer Ethel Smyth whose March of the Women became the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement.

Some musicians have a paragraph,

while the Beatles have a whole page devoted to them, and there’s a double spread entitled the Royal Albert Hall of Fame.

There’s no way you can read, let alone digest, the entire contents of this inclusive and highly visual offering in a single sitting. It’s engrossing; and in addition to the index and glossary, the authors provide personal notes and even, a final playlist. All in all, a truly amazing collaboration and a book to add to primary and secondary collections, as well as family bookshelves.

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