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.
LOVE SONGS: THE HIDDEN HISTORY
by Ted Gioia
What critics are saying about
Love Songs: The Hidden History
WINNER OF THE ASCAP DEEMS TAYLOR AWARD
"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jealousy and hate, are never out of date.”
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
Songs 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,
"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."
"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!"
“In the past, [Gioia has] written a series of acclaimed books about jazz, but Music:
A Subversive History 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."
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
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."
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."
“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
"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.”
|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)