A short anti-historical novel that I have been posting, in installments, to the Huffington Post.
"Speculative fiction made to seem as real, and as tersely eloquent, as ancient pottery dug out of the Judean desert."
The Recording Angel
Music, Records, and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa
(Yale University Press, June 2005)
First published in 1987 and now considered a classic, The Recording Angel charts the ways in which the phonograph and its cousins transformed our culture. Music became a thing — an object to be fetished and hoarded. The social ritual of music collapsed. Oral tradition became global (and century-spanning) rather than local. Phonography — the making of music on record — emerged as an art in its own right, as different from live music as film is different from theater.
In a new afterword, the author shows how digital technology, file trading, and other recent developments are accelerating — or reversing — these trends. He then offers vivid sketches (like the profiles that punctuate the original text, but entirely fictional) of people inhabiting alternative futures of music — parallel worlds that may, in fact, intersect.
Influential and provocative (and widely translated), The Recording Angel is essential reading for anyone who cares about the effect recording has had — and will have — on our experience of music.
Praise for the first edition
“Witty, perceptive, informed, and dazzlingly allusive.”
—David Hamilton, The Nation
“An excellent work… Eisenberg explores so much uncharted territory… Long overdue.”
—Michael Kimmelman, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Eisenberg’s scholarly and entertaining book is the joyous celebration of a mystery … the magic liberation of music from the strictures of time and space.”
—New York Times
“A marvelous book, unlike any other.”
The Ecology of Eden
A mountain peak, a rolling pasture, a boulevard alive with sound and light—each of us carries, deep inside, a dream of paradise. In this magisterial contribution to the literature of ecology and the environment, our nostalgia for the myth of paradise—the primeval, self-sufficient, nurturing garden where mankind was born—is the starting point of a brilliant inquiry into what our place in Nature has been and ought to be.
Writing in lively, imaginative prose and drawing deftly upon disciplines as varied as biology, geology, anthropology, history, physics, and music, Evan Eisenberg examines the ways in which people have envisioned and tried to re-create the earthly paradise even as they have dealt with the often disastrous effects of their increasing manipulation of the environment. An encyclopedic survey of efforts to heal the dangerous rift between culture and nature, The Ecology of Eden is a landmark work that is enormously suggestive, informative, and a joy to read.
"It's a question many writers have tackled, from Paul Ehrlich to E. O. Wilson: How can we survive while population grows, resources dwindle . . . and the threat of global climate change looms ominously? Few have explored it with more originality or historic sweep. . . . A rich harvest, filled with many kernels of wisdom about the future of our elusive Eden.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Eisenberg traces the story engagingly, energetically, with a remarkable breadth of learning and a metaphor-maker's eye... A vision of substance and genuine insight.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review