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Looper's Delight
Recommended Reading

Page compiled by Alan Imberg

Suggestions and comments by Dennis Leas, Tim Nelson,
James Pokorny, Andy Butler, Michael Peters, and Alan Imberg.

 This page consists of summaries of books recommended by members of the Looper's Delight Mailing List. Many of the books relate directly to looping and loop-related artists. Others titles are not directly related to looping but cover topics, both esoteric and common, that relates to the creative and listening process.


If you are interested in obtaining any of these books, please click to the link at the right or next to the book listing to make your purchase through Amazon.com. By purchasing through Amazon.com via this page, you help to pay for some of the cost of maintaining this web site. Some titles are rare so as much publishing information as possible are included with each recommendation.
In Association with Amazon.com


  • "Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound" - By Eric Tamm. Published by Da Capo Press © 1989 and 1995. ISBN 0-306-80649-5. Mr. Eno's musical history is detailed thoroughly in this book. Topics include Brian Eno's use of tape recorders as looping devices and how he introduced his looping techniques to Robert Fripp. Mr. Fripp would later adopt and expand this technique, dubbing it "Frippertronics". Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "A Year with Swollen Appendices" - By Brian Eno. Published by Faber and Faber © 1996. ISBN 0-571-17995-9. This book is a diary that Mr. Eno kept for most of 1995. There is nothing directly loop related but there are interesting personal accounts of Brian Eno's creative process. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Experimental Music (Cage and Beyond)" - By Michael Nyman. Published by Schirmer Books © 1974, ISBN 0-02-871200-5, Library of Congress Catalogue Card number 74-4848. A very thorough work by British composer Michael Nyman, tracing the history of modern "experimental" music (up until the early 70's). The work begins with descriptions of experimental classical music composers (Morton Feldman, John Cage, etc.) and continues with the Fluxus movement (60's avant-garde centered in NYC), early electronic music, and a good discussion of minimalists like LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, etc. A well-researched and well-presented work covering music that was largely ignored at the time of writing. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Chanting: Discovering Spirit in Sound" - By Robert Gass w/ Kathleen Brehony. Published by Broadway Books © 1999. ISBN 0-7679-0322-6. A discussion of the spiritual and cultural relevance of chanting and repetitive music. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "The Listening Book - Discovering Your Own Music" - By W.A. Mathieu. Published by Shambala Publications, Inc © 1991. ISBN 0-87773-610-3. Not directly about looping but wonderful for it's description of how to listen and respond to sound. Very warm and human approach to music. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Silence - Lectures and Writings by John Cage" - By John Cage; Published by Wesleyan University Press ©1939, 1944, 1949, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961. ISBN 0-8195-6028-6. This is required reading. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "More Dark Than Shark" - by Brian Eno and Russell Mills. Published in 1986 by Faber and Faber, London. ASIN: 057113801. A dark, eerie and wonderful collaboration between Eno and Mr. Mills, a visual artist. The book prints the lyrics (as well as some explanations) for all the "songs" on the first four Eno albums, accompanied by paintings (and mixed-media collages, etc.) inspired by each of these songs. In addition to the varied visual interpretations, there are excerpts from Eno's work notebooks, and three or four essays by Eno describing his work, his methods, theories, etc. Unfortunately very difficult to find. Hardcover, Buy it at Amazon.com. Or paperback, Buy it at Amazon.com.

  • "Sound and Symbol (Music and the External World)" - by Victor Zuckerkandl.
    Published by Princeton University Press/Bollingen Foundation © 1969. SBN 691-01759-X
    . This is a very interesting work of "musical philosophy." It does presuppose the ability to read music and a fairly thorough knowledge of the western classical music tradition. In spite of its scholasticism I found it interesting in its exploration of "non-musical" emotive states engendered by music. Some chapter titles: "The Dynamic Quality of Tone", "The Paradox of Tonal Motion", "Is Space Audible?", "The Placeless, Flowing Space of Tones", etc.. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Man The Musician (Sound and Symbol Volume 2)" - By Victor Zuckerkandl. Published by Princeton University Press/Bollingen Foundation © 1976. ISBN 0-691-01812-X (paperback) and ISBN 0-691-09925-1 (hardback). This delves further into the ideas discussed in Sound and Symbol, but applies his theories more concretely to musical examples by specific composers. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "John Cage (ex)plain(ed)" - by Richard Kostelanetz. Published by Schirmer Books © 1996. Biographical info, interviews, philosophy, etc. to let folks know that Cage did much more than 4'33"! Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "The Magic of Tone and The Art of Music" - by Dane Rudhyar. Published by Shambala Publications © 1982. ISBN 0-87773-220-5. Yet another pseudo-mystical, pseudo-philosophical, pseudo-musical book by an extremely non-mainstream composer. (BTW, I recently heard some recordings of his compositions on the radio and found them pretty interesting) Again, this leans towards what I think of as the "New Age/Make It Up As I Go Along/Worry About Factuality Some Other Time" school of musical thought. Not terribly highly recommended, but if you find it for 25 cents at a yard sale behind the crystals and Kitaro tapes, it's worth picking up. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Writings About Music" - By Steve Reich published by The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design © 1974. ISBN 0-919616-02-X, Library of Congress catalogue card number 73-87481. This is a nice collection of small essays, program notes, and descriptions of Reich's music and compositional methods. Definitely of interest to loopers due to the discussions of repetition, early work with tape loops going in and out of phase, etc. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Tuning the Human Instrument (Keeping Yourself in 'Sound Health')" - by Steven Halpern. Published by Spectrum Research Institute, distributed by Halpern Sounds / 1775 Old County Road #9 / Belmont, CA 94002. Tends to focus on the mystical/pseudo-psychological end of sound, how we perceive it, etc. Also seems to make all sorts of extravagant claims about the power of music, etc. Worth a read if you can find it used, but I wouldn't go to any lengths to find it.

  • "Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy (How Music Captures Our Imagination)" - by Robert Jourdain. Published by William Morrow and Company in 1997, ISBN 0-688-14236-2. More toward the cerebral (pun intended) side. Jourdain, a science writer and composer, explores the fundamentals of what makes up music as well as the neurological basis for why music is so universally appealing to people. A very interesting read for the discussions of how we perceive sound, how the brain processes it, etc. Although the work is laced with much scientific/medical/anatomical terminology it's pretty straightforward, pleasant reading. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "The Blues Alive: The Timeless Tradition" by Ed Flaherty. Published by Hohm Press © 1999. Of peripheral interest, this book has some interesting tangents dealing with musical shamanism and music-mysticism which are almost out of place in the context of the rest of Flaherty's book. I don't think it's that well-written overall, but the digressions are worth the read! (I'm not sure this one is actually available yet; I have an advance reviewer's copy...) Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer" - by Jonathan Cott
    ISBN 0 330 24165 6.
    Contains reference to looping and other tape-based techniques. As I remember it KS had a method for 'Frippertronics' using only one tape deck. A tape loop was used, but the order of the tape heads was changed from the usual erase-record-playback to playback-erase-record. So basically he then had a tape delay for the length of the loop, and by using feedback he had a looper. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Through Music to the Self (How to Appreciate and Experience Music Anew)" - by Peter Michael Hamel. Published in 1978 by Shambala Publications of Boulder, Colorado. ASIN 0877731446 (hardcover) and ASIN 0394736818 (paperback); also 1979 by Random House, ASIN 0394505239 (hardcover); 1993 by Harper Collins-UK, ASIN 1852301368 (paperback); . The author discusses modern and experimental European classical composers, then delves into "world" (i.e., non-European) musical traditions, some light theory on the harmonic series, as well as some New-Agey "effects of music on the body and the mind." He also looks at the work of Terry Riley and LaMonte Young (and of course tells us about his own compositions). Overall, a very worthwhile read for the looper or other "intuitive" musician.
    Harper Collins paperback: Buy it at Amazon.com.
    Random House hardcover version: Buy it at Amazon.com.
    Shambala harcover version: Buy it at Amazon.com. or paperback: Buy it at Amazon.com.

  • "The Mysticism of Sound" / "Music" / "The Power of the Word" / "Cosmic Language" - A four-book (some only 50 pages or so) grouping by Hazrat Inayat Khan. Published in 1979 by International Headquarters of the Sufi Movement, Geneva (Switzerland). Library of Congress number ISBN 900-6077-569-4. (Please note: the publication page also lists "Published by Servire BV, Secr. Varkevisserstraat 52, 2225 LE Katwijk aan Zee, Netherlands.") As I recall, I had to order this separately since it was part of a 12-volume hardback set of the works of Hazrat Inayat Khan. It took a long time to arrive, I had to go to New York to get it, but it was worth all the effort. There have been some recent postings (mine included) on this book so I imagine it's available again. Hazrat Inayat Khan was an Indian Sufi who came from a musical family (although NOT the legendary musical Khan family of sitarists). This is one of the best works I've ever read on music. I admit to a certain bias, having been a very long-term student of Indian classical music. But Khan's work goes beyond the boundaries of musical "systems" or styles, and I think that his thoughts are applicable to all types of music. Like some of the works I've mentioned above, this tends to lean very heavily towards the mystical end of music, sound, etc. and may put some readers off. But I've passed this book along to many musicians working in many different styles of music, and everyone has gotten "something" from it. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "New Sounds: A Listener's Guide to New Music" - By John Schaeffer. Published in 1987 by Harper and Row, ISBN 0-06-055054-6 (hardback) or ISBN 0-06-097081-2 (paperback). I came across this book at my local library and didn't expect much but was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of topics covered. Schaeffer begins by discussing electronic music and branches out from there to other areas such as minimalism, "world music," "new music from the concert hall," "electro-acoustic music," etc. Of particular interest to loopers is the chapter on "process music" including discussions of Alvin Lucier, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Fripp and Eno, etc. Excellent discography and suggestions for listening at the end of each chapter. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"- by Douglas Hofstader. Published by Basic Books; ISBN 0465026567. Hofstadter ties together the work of mathematician Godel, graphic artist Escher, and composer Bach. Buy it at Amazon.com

    Also see this nice detailed table of contents from Michael Hoffman:
    html version | Word version (best formatting)

      Michael says, "This detailed outline, unlike the high-level Contents, reveals his emphasis on mathematics as a pattern system and the driving interest in ego or self as a strange loop. I recommend printing out the Word version, folding it in half, and storing it in the book."

  • "World Music: The Rough Guide" - Published in 1994 The Rough Guides Ltd. (Revised edition 1999) This one is just plain encyclopedic. It's HUGE (I'm not sure about the revised edition, but the 1994 one is 700+ pages). It's jam-packed with interesting, well-written essays about all kinds of music that a Westerner might not have ever heard of. It covers the usual trendy stuff as well as the more off-the-wall things. It should come with a warning label, however, since reading this book will increase one's spending on obscure CDs! To make it a bit more on-topic, one of the four primary editors is Dave Muddyman (aka Jamuud of Loop Guru). Buy it at Amazon.com.

    Also the newer versions publised in 2000, now in two books: "The Rough Guide to World Music: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific" (Buy it at Amazon.com) and "The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East" (Buy it at Amazon.com)

  • "Free Play : Improvisation in Life and Art" - by Stephen Nachmanovitch. Paperback Reprint edition (June 1991) Published by J. P. Tarcher; ISBN: 0874776317. Guide to creativity in art. Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "A Guide to Electronic Music" - by Paul Griffiths. Published in 1979 by Thames and Hudson; ISBN: 0500272034. Out of Print. Recommended by Michael Peters in his essay "Birth of Loop." Additional reviews of this book are appreciated! Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Tape Music Composition" - by David Keane. Published in 1980 by Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0193119196. Out of Print. Recommended by Michael Peters in his essay "Birth of Loop." Additional reviews of this book are appreciated! Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Software for People: Collected Writings 1963-1980" - by Pauline Oliveros. Published in 1984 by Barrytown/Station Hill Press; ASIN: 0882680218 (hardcover) or 088268020X (paperback) or 0914162594 (unpublished edition). Recommended by Michael Peters in his essay "Birth of Loop." Additional reviews of this book are appreciated! Hardcover: Buy it at Amazon.com. Paperback: Buy it at Amazon.com. Unpublised edition: Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Robert Fripp, From King Crimson to Guitar Craft" - by Eric Tamm. Published in 1990 by Faber and Faber; ISBN: 0571129129. Recommended by Michael Peters in his essay "Birth of Loop." Additional reviews of this book are appreciated! Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Minimalism: Origins" - by Edward Strickland. Published in 1993 by Indiana University Press; ISBN: 0253213886. Recommended by Michael Peters in his essay "Birth of Loop." Additional reviews of this book are appreciated! Buy it at Amazon.com

  • "Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sounds, and Imaginary Worlds" - by David Toop. Published in 1996 by Serpents Tail; ISBN: 185242382X. Recommended by Michael Peters in his essay "Birth of Loop." Additional reviews of this book are appreciated! Buy it at Amazon.com

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