The best books about sound, living, and experience

Who am I?

I am a professor of music at the University of Michigan, where I have taught theory, jazz, music composition, and music technology for 34 years. 


I wrote...

Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman

By Stephen Rush,

Book cover of Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman

What is my book about?

Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman discusses Ornette Coleman's musical philosophy of "Harmolodics," an improvisational approach deeply inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Falling under the guise of "free jazz," Harmolodics can be difficult to understand, even for seasoned musicians and musicologists. This book contains a long interview with Ornette Coleman, as well as many musical examples illustrating the principles that were behind his wonderful music.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness

Stephen Rush Why did I love this book?

She really gets at the heart of how Brown and Black bodies are seenand what is fascinating to me is the approach through current “technical art” and a good discussion of architecture. I had a class focus on her discussion—lengthy—about surveillance and race. It’s extremely poignant, and something whites especially just don’t think about. I will never again go through an airport without thinking about her book. 

By Simone Browne,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dark Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Dark Matters Simone Browne locates the conditions of blackness as a key site through which surveillance is practiced, narrated, and resisted. She shows how contemporary surveillance technologies and practices are informed by the long history of racial formation and by the methods of policing black life under slavery, such as branding, runaway slave notices, and lantern laws. Placing surveillance studies into conversation with the archive of transatlantic slavery and its afterlife, Browne draws from black feminist theory, sociology, and cultural studies to analyze texts as diverse as the methods of surveilling blackness she discusses: from the design of the…


Book cover of Silence: Lectures and Writings

Stephen Rush Why did I love this book?

I love John Cage’s book Silence so much. I find myself quoting it almost daily (honestly), and the “Lecture on Nothing” is a document that illustrates traditional sonata form, while using silence as content, repetition as meaning, and humor as power. I wish I had written it.

By John Cage,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Silence, John Cage's first book and epic masterpiece, was published in October 1961. In these lectures, scores, and writings, Cage tries, as he says, to find a way of writing that comes from ideas, is not about them, but that produces them. Often these writings include mesostics and essays created by subjecting the work of other writers to chance procedures using the I Ching. Fifty years later comes a beautiful new edition with a foreword by eminent music critic Kyle Gann. A landmark book in American arts and culture, Silence has been translated into more than forty languages and has…


Book cover of The 101 Best Jazz Albums: A History of Jazz on Records

Stephen Rush Why did I love this book?

Lyons' 100 Best Jazz Albums shaped my listening for a long, long time. His references to Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, and Art Ensemble were well-written and hugely informed. Some of the choices are now extremely dated, but it is a great overview of the history of jazz (up to the early 1980s). It could give even an experienced listener or artist some pointers about where to round out their listening. Jazz is twice as old now (as a genre) as it was when I was coming up, so there’s so much more to listen to, and so much more has happened. This book should be a listening test for every student and faculty member—especially everything Duke and before and after Monk.  

By Len Lyons,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 101 Best Jazz Albums as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 101 Best Jazz Albums


Book cover of 1Q84

Stephen Rush Why did I love this book?

It is a sprawling book—it’s very long but worth it. His approach to character development is unequalled by anyone other than Tolstoy, in my opinion. And yet, unlike Tolstoy, his characters shock, take deep dives into places unforeseen (magical realism), and have contemporary problems with guilt, purpose/meaning, and aesthetics.  

By Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (translator), Philip ­Gabriel (translator)

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked 1Q84 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo. A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her.

She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course…


Book cover of A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story

Stephen Rush Why did I love this book?

T.N. Krishnan’s book discusses Carnatic (south Indian) music in depth, sure. But more importantly, he discusses why music matters, what it’s for, emotion, and human existence. It’s a primer in art, philosophy, and intention. Read it along with Ramani Maharshi’s writings, and one is pretty much ready to be fully human. 

By T.M. Krishna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Southern Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


One of the foremost Karnatik vocalists today, T.M. Krishna writes lucidly and passionately about the form, its history, its problems and where it stands todayT.M. Krishna begins his sweeping exploration of the tradition of Karnatik music with a fundamental question: what is music? Taking nothing for granted and addressing readers from across the spectrum - musicians, musicologists as well as laypeople - Krishna provides a path-breaking overview of south Indian classical music.


You might also like...

The Olympus Project

By Zoe Routh,

Book cover of The Olympus Project

Zoe Routh Author Of The Olympus Project

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Leadership futurist Adventurist Former bellydancer Historical and speculative fiction nut Marathoner

Zoe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The future is uncertain, and the stakes are high. Climate change has wreaked havoc on the planet, and humanity is on the brink of extinction. The only hope lies in the Olympus Project, a plan to colonise the moon and build on the Artemis Base.

Led by three of the best and brightest--Troy Bruin, Xavier Consus, and Xanthe Waters--they must battle both winner-take-all competition and their own differences in order to save humanity from destruction. But even as they search for a way to reconcile, a secret organisation is lurking in the shadows, threatening to extinguish their efforts and ensure humanity's downfall.

A gripping tale of leadership, ambition, and the indomitable human spirit.

The Olympus Project

By Zoe Routh,

What is this book about?

***WINNER: GOLD MEDAL in Fiction - Thriller - Environmental, Readers' Favorite Awards 2023***

They are the best. The brightest. The hope of humanity.

And they might destroy us all…

The future. Climate change has rendered much of the world desolate. Crops are failing. Rising seas have flooded coastal communities. The earth is dying, and humanity careens toward extinction.

Enter the Olympus Project—a plan to colonise the moon, building on the Artemis Base, led by three of humankind’s best and brightest: Troy Bruin, Xavier Consus, and Xanthe Waters.

But even the best and brightest can fall prey to humanity’s failing. Soon…


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