Reviews of Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92


“A monumenal work,” Kris Needs

“The broadest and most insightful study of the whole musical [downtown] scene so far. [...] Russell has inspired a book that helps us understand a thrilling twenty-five years of American cultural history.” John Rockwell, Bookforum

“A vital document of the man and the times he lived in. It is nothing less than justice being done”, Bernard Keenan, The Quietus

“Written with crystal clarity but never overly dry despite Lawrence’s academic background, this is a gripping portrait both of a unique artist and a time of spectacular cultural flux”, Joe Muggs, Word

“Lawrence’s writing style mirrors Russell's musical approach, fusing divergent disciplines and catering to different audiences in a single work. Serious scholars and academics will be pleased with the depth of research, and fans will enjoy the illustrations and anecdotes of Russell's life”, Joshua Finnell, Library Journal

“With Hold On to Your Dreams, the outline of an outstanding and prescient artist can now be more clearly made out” Ken Hollings, The Wire

“Russell’s unprecedented genre-merging deserves this kind of exploration, and Lawrence approaches with a delicacy and direct intimacy reminiscent of the music itself”, Oxford American

“Elegantly composed, deftly researched [,] Lawrence’s writing is up to the task of telling this narrative in a way that makes the pathos of Russell's life a deeply compelling window onto the ‘Downtown’ music scene of the 1980s and 90s.” Gustavus Stadler, Social Text

“In his rigorously researched investigation of musician and composer Arthur Russell, cultural theory lecturer Tim Lawrence effortlessly explores his subject and in so doing shines fresh light on the darkened recesses of both New York’s downtown music scene and the popular cultural landscape of Russell’s times. And despite Russell’s relative obscurity, the book leaves you in no doubt as to how influential this maverick music figure has been.” Martin James, Times Higher Education

“A worthy addition to the legacy of this authentic, uncompromising and important sound experimentalist.” Alan Waters, Signal to Noise 

“Excellent” Simon Reynolds, Blissblog

 “Hold on to Your Dreams sets a new standard for musical biography by virtue of its research methodology and focus on seemingly minor figures. Lawrence makes a strong case for the importance of Russell’s music to our understanding of late-twentieth-century cultural life and, perhaps most importantly, shows the value of historical biography written with an emphasis on musical mediation and social networks." Ryan Dohoney, Journal of the Society for American Music


Arthur Russell recording music at Battery Sound in the early 1980's. Eric Muiderman, student of Peter Zummo and an apprentice of Arthur, stands on the right. Mark Freedman works in the adjoining room. Photograph by and courtesy of Peter Zummo.