About Love Songs: The Hidden History: This book represents the
first comprehensive survey of the music of romance, courtship and sexuality,
and encompasses the complete story of the love song from ancient
Mesopotamia to Miley Cyrus. Scrupulously researched over a period of two
decades, Gioia's work will challenge many of the prevalent views of Western
music history, and unravel the surprising (and previously hidden) story of how
the love songs of our time were shaped by influences from Africa and the
Middle East, as well as by the outcasts and bohemians of European society.
Ted Gioia can be contacted at

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by Ted Gioia
What critics are saying about
Love Songs: The Hidden History


"Gioia’s book covers a tremendous amount of ground
and gives you something to remember on almost every
page. ....He invites the critic’s cliché 'wonderfully erudite',
and earns it, not to mention the even cheaper critical
term 'provocative', though he earns that, too."
The New Yorker

"Gioia has constructed a mind-expanding, deep-focus
piece of scholarship here, certainly the first book to
relate, longitudinally as it were...Gioia’s book achieves
intellectual liftoff, high learning combining with high
The Atlantic Monthly

“[A] richly researched and heartfelt song book of the
ages… Gioia boldly and brilliantly enters the space
between the noises of ancient fertility rites and the
sexualised music videos of YouTube to discover how
melody and love songs, like hearts full of passion,
jealousy and hate, are never out of date.”
The Times
Published by Basic Books (2019)
Music: A Subversive History
by Ted Gioia
Imagine a society in which the most important
aspects of music were ignored—because they
were considered too dangerous or shameful or
embarrassing. Even worse, imagine a musical
culture where this has happened for centuries,
with history books relying on censored or unreliable
accounts that deliberately hide the real sources of
creativity and innovation. As a result, visionary
artists are slandered or ignored, while
usurpers and pretenders are falsely honored.

Ted Gioia argues that we are victims of exactly
this kind of distortion. In his provocative new book
he offers a subversive dismantling of thousands
of years of music history. He casts light on hidden
currents and secret forces behind the decisive
breakthroughs in music, and shows how conventional
accounts have obscured or falsified the origins of
our most cherished songs.

Music: A Subversive History offers a bold alternative
view of the story of music —focusing on the power of
song as a force of social change and enchantment. It
explores how musical revolutions get assimilated (and
distorted) by the same mainstream institutions that
previously attacked them, and takes seriously aspects
of song that are seldom discussed in music history books,
including its deep connections to sexuality, magic, trance
and alternative mind states, healing, social control,
generational conflict, political unrest, even violence and

Music: A Subversive History is the result of more than a
quarter century of research. Gioia’s three previous books
on the social history of music—
Work Songs, Healing
and Love Songs—have each been honored with
the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award. But in this new work,
he takes an even more expansive view, covering the full
history of music from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify
and beyond. After you read
Music: A Subversive History,
you will never listen to songs the same way again.  

Note: Translations underway in Chinese, Spanis, Czech,
and Korean  
"I can't speak highly enough about Music: A Subversive History."
 Michael Dirda in Washington Post

“A dauntingly ambitious, obsessively researched labor of cultural provocation."
 Robert Christgau in the Los Angeles Times

"An entirely new way to look at how music evolved."
 The Atlantic

"One of the most perceptive writers on music has cut a wide swath down
the path of history, illuminating details often left in the shadows and
broadening our understanding of all things sonic. Gioia vividly points out
that the wheels of cultural advancement are often turned by the countless
unsung heroes of inventiveness. A mind opening and totally engaging read!"
 Terry Riley

“In the past, [Gioia has] written a series of acclaimed books about jazz, but Music:
A Subversive Histor
y is by some distance the most wide-ranging and provocative
thing he’s come up with.”
Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

“The highlights are too many to list, and mostly arrive via Gioia’s refreshingly
non-academic take on the subject – he knows how to tell a story in a way that will
keep people reading….He has a lovely light touch, a mischievous sense of humour
and a determinedly skewed take on how music has been chronicled.”
 Lloyd Bradley, The TLS

"In this excellent history, music critic Gioia dazzles with tales of how music
grew out of violence, sex, and rebellion. Crisply written with surprising insights."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gioia's sprawling and deeply interesting history of music defies all
stereotypes of music scholarship. This is rich work that provokes many
fascinating questions. Scientists and humanists alike will find plenty to
disagree with, but isn't that the point? 'A subversive history' indeed."
 Samuel Mehr
 Director, The Music Lab, Harvard University

“This book fells like the summation of a lifetime’s avid musical exploration and reading.
It has an epic sweep and passionate engagement with the topic that carries one
along irresistibly.”
 Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

"Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History is one of the most important and
welcome books I've encountered in the last decade. If ever there were a book
the world sorely needed, it's Gioia's."
 Jeff Simon in Buffalo News.

"As a fan of 'big histories' that sweep through space and time, I gobbled
this one like candy as I found myself astounded by some idea, some fact,
some source, some dots connected into a fast-reading big picture that
takes in Roman pantomime riots, Occitan troubadours, churchbells, blues,
Afrofuturism, surveillance capitalism, and much more. A must for music heads."
Ned Sublette
Author of
Cuba and Its Music and The World That Made New Orleans

"In this meticulously-researched yet thoroughly page-turning book, Gioia argues
for the universality of music from all cultures and eras. Subversives from Sappho
to Mozart and Charlie Parker are given new perspective--as is the role of the church
and other arts-shaping institutions. Music of emotion is looked at alongside the
music of political power in a fascinating way by a  master writer and critical thinker.
This is a must-read for those of us for whom  music has a central role in our daily lives."
 Fred Hersch
“A sweeping and enthralling account of music as an agency of human change.”
 Booklist (starred review and selected as one of the 10 best arts books of 2019)

"Mr. Gioia’s alternative history of music is extraordinary, groundbreaking and bone-chillingly
 Washington Times

"A bold, fresh, and informative chronicle of music's evolution and cultural meaning."

“Thought-provoking….Gioia’s argument is persuasive and offers a wealth of
possibilities for further exploration.”
 Library Journal
One of the 15 Best Books of the Year (The Atlantic)
One of the 50 Notable Nonfiction Books of the Year (Washington Post)
One of 13 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Year (Christian Science Monitor)
Best Art Books of the Year (Library Journal)
Best Art Books of the Year (Booklist)
Ted Gioia articles available online

Did the Love Song Originate in Africa & the Middle East?
The Rise of the Fragmented Novel
Why are Music Scholars Ignoring the Evidence for Musical Universals?
The Adventurer's Guide to Finnegans Wake
Notes on Conceptual Fiction
Has Music Criticism Turned Into Lifestyle Reporting?
Schopenhauer for Millennials
Vladimir Nabokov, Sci-Fi Writer
How Sartre Cured Existential Angst with Jazz
Bach the Rebel
If John Coltrane Had Lived
Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
The Decline of Satire
Music as Cultural Cloud Storage
My Year of Horrible Reading
The Backlash Against Jazz
The Con Man Who Invented American Popular Music
The Bumbling Shostakovich
The Rise of Artisan Music
The Year American Speech Became Art
What We've Learned About the NSA
The 8 Memes of the Postmodern Mystery
Ted Gioia Interviews Composer Terry Riley
Four Essays on Leo Tolstoy
Why the Fuss About Jonathan Franzen?
Slaves for Love: How Bondage Shaped the Love Song
A Conversation About Jazz with Ted Gioia
The 100 Best Recordings of 2018
The 100 Best Recordings of 2017
The 100 Best Recordings of 2016
The 100 Best Recordings of 2015
The 100 Best Recordings of 2014
The 100 Best Recordings of 2013
The 100 Best Recordings of 2012
The 100 Best Recordings of 2011
Franco: The James Brown of Africa
How Alice Got to Wonderland
Does the Music Industry Need Musicianship?
The King of Western Swing
The Weirdest 1960s Novel of Them All
Post Cool
The New Revolt of the Masses
How to Fix Online Music
The Year of Magical Reading
Why Music Owernship Matters
The Tragic Story of America's First Black Music Star
Frank Sinatra at 100
Ella Fitzgerald at 100
Is There a Biological Link Between Music and Violence (video talk)
What is the Clumsiest Classic Novel?
The Crisis in Music (podcast)
The Best Online Essays of 2015
The Best Online Essays of 2016
The Best Online Essays of 2017
The Best Online Essays of 2018
The Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
My 10 Favorite Novels on Music
A Conversation with Ted Gioia about Love Songs
The Music of the Tango
The Letter That Changed the Course of Modern Fiction
The End of the Angry Guitar
Is Miles Davis's 'Kind of Blue' Really the Best Jazz Album Ever?
How Joan of Arc Conquered Mark Twain
The Most Intriguing Musicians of 2017
A Look Back at Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook
Do Blues Musicians Need to be Really, Really Old?
So it Goes: The Unconventional Sci-Fi of Kurt Vonnegut
Twelve Essential Tango Recordings
Alan Lomax and the FBI
Robert Musil and The Man Without Qualities
A History of Cool Jazz in 100 Tracks (Part 1) (Part 2)
Lecture on the History of Love Songs
Henry James, Horror Writer
Why Only Revolutions Will Not Be Televised
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
The Crisis in Music (video lecture)
How Good a Singer Was Dean Martin?
How Music Videos Changed Love Songs
Why Bessie Smith Matters
The Zombificaction of Popular Music
Were Ambrose Bierce's Ghost Stories Inspired by Agoraphobia?
Apple's New Paradigm for Music
Fix-Up Artist: The Chaotic SF of A.E. van Vogt
Jazz Vocals in the New Millennium
A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks
The Making of Ulysses
The Great American Novel That Wasn't
In Search of Dupree Bolton
Gulliver's Travels and the Birth of Genre Fiction
Five Essays on Novelist John Fowles
Where Did Our Revolution Go?
How Lester Young Changed the English Language
The Reinvention of the Cowboy Novel
The Many Lives of James Joyce
The Complex Gender History of the Love Song
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
5 Lessons the Music Biz Should Learn from TV
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch
When Science Fiction Grew Up
The Most Influential Film of the 20th Century Lasts Just 27 Seconds
12 Memorable Works of Hispanic Fiction
Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice
Fear and Self-Loathing in Scandinavia
The Alt Reality Nobel Prize
The Decline of a Great Jazz Record Label
Don DeLillo's Underworld
How NY Became the Center of the Jazz World
Milton Nascimento: 12 Essential Tracks
Is Sleep Music a Real Genre?
Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections
Curse You, Neil Armstrong!
Bill Evans: 12 Essential Tracks
Early Vintage Wynton Marsalis
Remembering Cordwainer Smith
My Favorite American Novel
Q&A with Ted Gioia
The Jazz Pianist JFK Saved
Martin Gardner: The Most Interesting Man in the World
Robert Heinlein at One Hundred
The Fourteen Skies of Michael Chabon
Is Bird Dead?
Philip K. Dick's VALIS
Why Lester Young Matters
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
Making a Case for Clark Ashton Smith
Italo Calvino's Winter's NIght
Hipsters: The New Scapegoats
B.B. King's Best Performances
The Most Mysterious Woman in Science Fiction
Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude
Could Chet Baker Play Jazz?
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow
The Jazzy Side of Frank Zappa
Fritz Leiber at 100
Günter Grass's The Tin Drum
John Coltrane: Prophet and Seer (video)
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
Harlem Jazz: 12 Essential Tracks
Mark Z. Danielweski's House of Leaves
The Postmodern Mystery: 50 Essential Works
Art Tatum at 100: 12 Essential Tracks
Fringe Guitar
J.G. Ballard's Crash
Interview with Dana and Ted Gioia
Robert Johnson and the Devil
Herbie Hancock: 12 Essential Tracks
Remembering Drums of Passion
Three Existential Horror Novels
Keith Jarrett: 12 Essential Tracks
In Defense of The Hobbit
Brad Mehldau: 12 Essential Tracks
David Foster Wallace's The Pale King
The South Asian Tinge in Jazz
The Puzzling Case of Robert Sheckley
Assessing Brad Mehldau at Mid-Career
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian
Can Clubs Legally Ask Musicians to Play for Free?
Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones
Lennie Tristano: 12 Essential Tracks
Virginia Woolf's Orlando
Why Cool is Dead
A Tribute to Richard Matheson
The Pianism of Denny Zeitlin
The Chronicles of Narnia
David Bowie's Jazz-Oriented Valedictory
Tito Puente: The Complete 78s (1949-1955)
Toni Morrison's Beloved
The Tragedy of Richard Twardzik
Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue
The Science Fiction of Samuel Delany
Can Tarzan Survive in a Post-Colonial World?
Duke Ellington's Sacred Music
Ian McEwan's Atonement
Can a Dictionary be a Novel?
New Details About the Young William Gaddis
Interview with Ted Gioia (on Delta Blues)
William Gaddis's JR
Roberto Bolaño's 2666
Talking to Myself About the State of Jazz
Harper Lee and Her Great Southern Novel
Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain
Philip Roth's American Pastoral
Italo Calvino's Neglected Sci-Fi Masterpiece
Ken Kesey's Novel-in-a-Box
How I Learned I Was a Jazz Fan