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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $75.00
  • February 2015
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93725-1
  • 640 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

What's That Sound?

An Introduction to Rock and Its History

Fourth Edition


John Covach (Author, University of Rochester), Andrew Flory (Author, Carleton College)


The music—front and center.

The leading text in the market, What’s That Sound? strengthens students’ listening skills and deepens their understanding of rock, first and foremost, as music. New listening guides and author videos reinforce this classic strength, while also providing additional historical and cultural context that allows students to make connections between the music and the times.


Helps students become better listeners

The text is rich with tools to aid students in approaching music, including What to Listen for in Rock, a thirty-page minihandbook on rock elements, forms, and technology. Listening guides—12 new to this edition and including Frank Sinatra’s “All or Nothing at All,” The Who’s “My Generation,” Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”—present essential information, including the song’s chart ranking, form, rhythm, and instrumentation. “Viewing Rock” sections introduce students to the roles of rock music in several classic video performances, and “Sound Check” features span every chapter’s musical selections and detail each song’s primary characteristics. 

Historical and cultural context connecting the music to the times

New author videos trace historical developments across all chapters of the text. Topics include Race, Markets, and Crossover; Rock and Politics; Gender and Rock; Majors vs. Indie; Technology in Rock; and Changing Attitudes toward Ambition and Virtuosity. Every chapter opens with a preview providing students a checklist of primary historical and musical developments, and each listening guide is accompanied by a new introductory video introducing each song’s origin, form, and instrumentation.

Expanded chapter coverage and enriched listening guides

Coverage of the 1990s has been increased to two chapters and now includes Nirvana and Seattle grunge, metal extensions, indie-alternative, and female singer-songwriters. The text also explores the emergence of rock bands via new festivals, the return of folk styles to the mainstream, the continued success of indie labels, and the tracking of cloud-based streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, and iTunes Radio. Listening selections have been expanded to include songs by Foo Fighters, Alabama Shakes, Green Day, Beck, and Nine Inch Nails, and every chapter opens with a preview providing students a checklist of primary historical and musical developments. 

A media package that gets at the music through the music

A robust instructor support package features music playlists, presentation content, materials for assessment, and additional readings and resources to aid in lecture and course management. Students can access the music through our Spotify playlists, links to iTunes, and Amazon downloads.  

    Introduction: Studying Rock
    Chapter 1. Roots–1955, The World before Rock and Roll
    Chapter 2. 1955–1960, The Birth and First Flourishing of Rock and Roll
    Chapter 3. 1959–1963, The Demise of Rock and Roll and the Promise of Soul
    Chapter 4. 1964–1966, The Beatles and the British Invasion
    Chapter 5. 1964–1966, American Responses
    Chapter 6. 1960–1970, Motown Pop and Southern Soul
    Chapter 7. 1966–1969, Psychedelia
    Chapter 8. 1970–1975, The Growing Rock Monster
    Chapter 9. 1970–1980, Black Pop, Reggae, and the Rise of Disco
    Chapter 10. 1975–1980, Mainstream Rock, Punk, and New Wave
    Chapter 11. 1980–1990, I Want My MTV
    Chapter 12. 1982–1989, Heavy Metal, Rap, and Indie
    Chapter 13. 1990–1999 Alternative Rock and Rock Alternatives
    Chapter 14. 1992–1999, Widening Gaps
    Chapter 15. 2000–present, Rock Traditions and the Business of Change