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Danger Music

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From the former ABC Classic FM classicist comes a remarkable story about the power of music and courage to be one's self Eddie Ayres has a lifetime of musical experience - from learning the viola as a child in England and playing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic for many years, to learning the cello in his thirties and landing in Australia to present an extremely successful From the former ABC Classic FM classicist comes a remarkable story about the power of music and courage to be one's self Eddie Ayres has a lifetime of musical experience - from learning the viola as a child in England and playing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic for many years, to learning the cello in his thirties and landing in Australia to present an extremely successful ABC Classic FM morning radio show. But all of this time Eddie was Emma Ayres. In 2014 Emma was spiralling into a deep depression, driven by anguish about her gender. She quit the radio, travelled, and decided on a surprising path to salvation - teaching music in a war zone. Emma applied for a position at Dr Sarmast's renowned Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, teaching cello to orphans and street kids. In Danger Music, Eddie takes us through the bombing and chaos of Kabul, into the lives of the Afghan children who are transported by Bach, Abba, Beethoven and their own exhilarating Afghan music. Alongside these epic experiences, Emma determines to take the final steps to secure her own peace; she becomes the man always there inside - Eddie.


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From the former ABC Classic FM classicist comes a remarkable story about the power of music and courage to be one's self Eddie Ayres has a lifetime of musical experience - from learning the viola as a child in England and playing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic for many years, to learning the cello in his thirties and landing in Australia to present an extremely successful From the former ABC Classic FM classicist comes a remarkable story about the power of music and courage to be one's self Eddie Ayres has a lifetime of musical experience - from learning the viola as a child in England and playing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic for many years, to learning the cello in his thirties and landing in Australia to present an extremely successful ABC Classic FM morning radio show. But all of this time Eddie was Emma Ayres. In 2014 Emma was spiralling into a deep depression, driven by anguish about her gender. She quit the radio, travelled, and decided on a surprising path to salvation - teaching music in a war zone. Emma applied for a position at Dr Sarmast's renowned Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, teaching cello to orphans and street kids. In Danger Music, Eddie takes us through the bombing and chaos of Kabul, into the lives of the Afghan children who are transported by Bach, Abba, Beethoven and their own exhilarating Afghan music. Alongside these epic experiences, Emma determines to take the final steps to secure her own peace; she becomes the man always there inside - Eddie.

30 review for Danger Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    Emma Ayres was a well known host of an Australian-wide classic music station. Then as she approached 50 years of age she dealt with her demons of depression and self-loathing and started her transition to Eddie. And he did it while teaching cello to students in Kabul. The book is mostly about the love and power of music, the amazing students, teaching techniques and the wild ride of living in Afghanistan. Eddie's story is told almost in the background. Although there are mountains to climb, Eddie Emma Ayres was a well known host of an Australian-wide classic music station. Then as she approached 50 years of age she dealt with her demons of depression and self-loathing and started her transition to Eddie. And he did it while teaching cello to students in Kabul. The book is mostly about the love and power of music, the amazing students, teaching techniques and the wild ride of living in Afghanistan. Eddie's story is told almost in the background. Although there are mountains to climb, Eddie takes a modest, humble approach to his journey and puts the students in the front of stage. This is a rare tale as most books written by Westerners about Afghanistan today come from people who worked for a Government, NGO or some type of corporation. Eddie and the other teachers are Afghan employees without the benefits of living and/or working within a walled fortress. My favourite Westerner was the guy who came from Syria to have a break.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘I was twelve years old when I saw Afghanistan for the first time.’ Some years ago, when I set out to get fitter by walking for an hour or more each morning, I used to listen to ABC Classic FM. During the week, I listened to Classic Breakfast and enjoyed the style of the presenter: Emma Ayres. A few years ago, Emma left the ABC. I read her nook ‘Cadence’ (about her cycling journey from England to Hong Kong). I’d read, too, that Emma had gone to Afghanistan to teach at the Afghanistan National ‘I was twelve years old when I saw Afghanistan for the first time.’ Some years ago, when I set out to get fitter by walking for an hour or more each morning, I used to listen to ABC Classic FM. During the week, I listened to Classic Breakfast and enjoyed the style of the presenter: Emma Ayres. A few years ago, Emma left the ABC. I read her nook ‘Cadence’ (about her cycling journey from England to Hong Kong). I’d read, too, that Emma had gone to Afghanistan to teach at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Recently, I picked up a copy of ‘Danger Music’ by Eddie Ayres, and learned that Emma (now Eddie) has transitioned to male. This book is about the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), the Director Dr Sarmast, and the students and teachers who are part of it. This book also touches on Eddie Ayres’s very personal transgender journey. ‘When I realised I was transgender, it was a life-destroying moment. Because I knew from then on that I would never be happy until I did something about it. But to do something about it meant possibly losing everything .’ I can only imagine the challenges people face when they make the decision to transition gender. I can only imagine the pain associated with being trapped in a gender which feels alien. While Eddie Ayres gives some sense of his suffering in this book, it’s not the main focus. Instead, his personal struggle is part of the background of his life in Afghanistan: the disruption, the bombings, the students. Oh, and a very flexible goat! ‘Being transgender is like being on a tightrope, and I had to hope that the rope would slowly get wider and turn into a path, a road .’ Eddie describes the depression he fell into, both in relation to his own journey as well as because of the challenges in teaching at a school where students appear, and then disappear. There’s no certainty in Afghanistan, everyday life is challenging, and the beauty of music is not always enough. ‘I wrote this book because I didn’t want people to only read yet another glossy magazine article about ANIM. I wanted to show how these kids are, in so many ways, like kids all over the world. I wanted to show what they have to deal with and how their challenges and, yes, their failures make their successes even more glorious. And I wanted you, dear reader, to know the true challenges and therefore the true courage of Dr Sarmast .’ I was deeply moved by this book: by the courage of all of those trying to keep music alive in Afghanistan, but especially moved by Eddie’s courage and honesty. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jade

    What an incredible read! I am so grateful to have received an advanced copy of this book. Eddie Ayres has beautifully and so elegantly written his memoir in a way that completely captivates it's reader. Eddie, following his personal journey of depression and self discovery, finds himself living in the war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan teaching cello to orphans and street kids at ANIM. Eddie delivers an informative, educational and insightful perspective into the world of music and the life that is What an incredible read! I am so grateful to have received an advanced copy of this book. Eddie Ayres has beautifully and so elegantly written his memoir in a way that completely captivates it's reader. Eddie, following his personal journey of depression and self discovery, finds himself living in the war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan teaching cello to orphans and street kids at ANIM. Eddie delivers an informative, educational and insightful perspective into the world of music and the life that is lived in the chaos that is Kabul. He describes the lives of these young musicians and the reality of living in a war-zone, while fighting his own battle of depression and confusion over his own identity. Eddie has poetically written his story is completely heart-felt and emotional. I would love to recommend this book to all my friends!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a beautiful book. I didn't expect to like it but I was bowled over by the warmth of this memoir by Eddie Ayres,, who taught music to children for a year in war-torn Afghanistan. The danger, sorrow and joy of the place and the people is conveyed so sensitively by the author, whose own demons lurk in the background but do not take centre stage. Read this if you love teaching, music, children or want to know more about Afghanistan or what it feels like to be gender dysmorphic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lia

    My book of the year. It will be hard to pass this memoir. More cohesive thoughts coming.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Two things I didn't know or understand a lot about was the people of Afghanistan and Transgender transformation. I understood music. 'Danger Music' is a beautiful blend of all three. What a fundamental journey Eddie Ayres takes us with his writing. The richness in the telling, the stress, the children, the Afghan love of music, the constant danger, the devastation of a country, and the burgeoning of a woman into a man. 'Danger Music' is a must read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    One of the most remarkably personal and warm memoirs I've had the pleasure of reading. Danger Music is a journey through one's musician's year teaching in Afghanistan, depression, gender dysmorphia and transition, and the role music played in helping Eddie survive all three.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    Astonishing. A masterpiece. Eddie peers into his own soul and helps us examine our own. Oh-it's also about Afghanistan.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Daw

    Wow ! If you want to escape from your world for a bit and really experience life from another point of view, this is the book for you. Wonderful on so many levels, the language and ideas delight, confound and confront. It is all the more inspiring for being written by an Australian at a time when we're perhaps feeling a tad morally lost. This book sets the compass for finding hope in challenging situations or times. Eddie Ayres (formerly Emma Ayres, a successful announcer on Classic FM) Wow ! If you want to escape from your world for a bit and really experience life from another point of view, this is the book for you. Wonderful on so many levels, the language and ideas delight, confound and confront. It is all the more inspiring for being written by an Australian at a time when we're perhaps feeling a tad morally lost. This book sets the compass for finding hope in challenging situations or times. Eddie Ayres (formerly Emma Ayres, a successful announcer on Classic FM) contemplates a sort of reincarnation, whilst teaching music in Afghanistan. You won't be disappointed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Beautifully written, moving and fascinating.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    What an amazing journey. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was devastated when it was finished. I did not want the story to end. It opened my eyes to another world and am truly grateful for this beautiful country we live in. I hope that Eddie continues to tell his story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie Garner

    Words cannot describe how good this book is. Eddie shares with us something extremely personal and very foreign to the majority of the population. He has packaged it all up in a book that is easy to read and explains in very simple terms things that would usually be hard for us to understand. For example, the removal of ALL music from Afghanistan he compares to removing ALL sport from our lives here. Nothing hits harder than this description as you can see and understand a little more what it Words cannot describe how good this book is. Eddie shares with us something extremely personal and very foreign to the majority of the population. He has packaged it all up in a book that is easy to read and explains in very simple terms things that would usually be hard for us to understand. For example, the removal of ALL music from Afghanistan he compares to removing ALL sport from our lives here. Nothing hits harder than this description as you can see and understand a little more what it must have been like for the Afghanis. What a brave person and beautiful soul to move to this foreign and dangerous world in order to help people understand that even in the ugliness of their world there is beauty to be found. I laughed (and cried) as Eddie shared stories about the kids and adults in his life at the school. I cannot, for one second, imagine what it was like when a favourite student was there and then the next day just gone. To be experiencing this unknown, whilst also acknowledging some truths about self and finally beginning that journey towards freedom is a courage that most of us would not accept. Eddie, YOU are an amazing man and I think that there are many people who can learn wonderful things from your words and your compassion but most importantly, your courage. Thank you for sharing this part of your world.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Davison

    What a book. Though to be honest I'm giving the stars more for the amazing school that ANIM is and for the stories shared about the students, teachers and principal, I'm not suggesting that the writing is worth five stars. In my mind I'm imagining Eddie Ayres telling us this incredible story and it's so first person real and gutsy and brave that I feel like I'm there in Kabul with all its terror and injustice and beauty as well. Listening to the playlist adds another wonderful dimension.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Easy to read and moving account of life in Kabul. A powerful backdrop for gender dysphoria and transition of FTM, told with a lot of wicked humour. Who knew Eddie had such a potty mouth?!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nat

    I was desperately in love with Emma Ayres, and I am equally in love with Eddie. This is not the most beautifully written book, but it is very honest and stark, and, well, I cried more than once.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pharlap

    Danger Music - I understand it as a music accompanying danger and I think this role it plays in the book. There are two dangers - life in Afghanistan in years 2014 - 2o15 and author's own battle with her/his own sexuality. Both surrounded by music. Emma Ayres is a musician (viola, cello), was a very popular music presenter in ABC Classic and music teacher in Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM). Teaching music in Afghanistan is the core of the book. Well, the best I can say about it is - it is Danger Music - I understand it as a music accompanying danger and I think this role it plays in the book. There are two dangers - life in Afghanistan in years 2014 - 2o15 and author's own battle with her/his own sexuality. Both surrounded by music. Emma Ayres is a musician (viola, cello), was a very popular music presenter in ABC Classic and music teacher in Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM). Teaching music in Afghanistan is the core of the book. Well, the best I can say about it is - it is extremely honest, and as for me - very, very depressing. Kaleidoscope of students' names and stories and none of them ends well. Afghan war lasts already over 3 times longer than a 2nd World War and, at least in 2015, the general situation in the country was worse than before. Cost of the war goes into trillions of dollars. Author of the book mentions, that USA alone spent 100 billion dollars for help to Afghanistan - outcome - NIL - all money stolen, mismanaged, wasted. Someone would think that the school of music, generously supported by many international organisations, would be a beacon of light and hope. It is not. Firstly students, specifically female, must fight all the time with their families. There is not a one case mentioned of parents supporting music study of their child. Quite opposite, some children do their musical studies secretly, some are constantly punished for their passion (by extra load of work at home), all are aware, that any minute their family may stop their education. It applies specifically to girls, for whose parents the highest priority is marriage. Secondly, the students are not much different than the surrounding world. Gossip, cheating, bullying, sexual molesting. All this happens in the school and in most cases goes on unpunished. The only "positive" stories are those about students, who managed to go overseas to study. I put positive in quotes because at the end none of them returned to Afghanistan. Creator of the school, Dr Sarmast, expected, that the graduates will take positions of music teachers in the school and after few years there will be no need to employ teachers from overseas. Nothing like this happened. I have to admit that before reading half of the book I felt very tired and depressed. I knew, that nothing good will happen and continued reading only from loyalty and sympathy to the author. The other danger - man's soul in wrong body. This subject is quite alien to me, but I appreciated Eddie's honesty in presenting his very personal suffering and fight. I wish him all success.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    For six years I delighted in the warm hospitality of Emma Ayers as she presented the breakfast program on ABC Classic FM. She left the program to re-emerge some time later as Eddie Ayers, and this is his story, of spiralling into depression and learning to live with it while taking up a teaching position at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. His descriptions bring the school, students and country vividly to life, depicting great cruelty and terror along with considerable passion and For six years I delighted in the warm hospitality of Emma Ayers as she presented the breakfast program on ABC Classic FM. She left the program to re-emerge some time later as Eddie Ayers, and this is his story, of spiralling into depression and learning to live with it while taking up a teaching position at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. His descriptions bring the school, students and country vividly to life, depicting great cruelty and terror along with considerable passion and beauty. I was particularly struck by his passion for music and his teaching methodology in incredibly difficult circumstances; the daily threat of bomb blasts, the constant use of gunfire, the at times moral ambiguity, not to mention the overwhelming poverty of some of the students. Amidst this there is the joy of seeing his pupils learning to love music and performance, not to mention his deep love and compassionate understanding of their difficulties while dealing with his own depression and gender dysphoria. Eventually he reaches the stage where he's able to begin the transition. It's not easy letting go of a place that's played such a huge role in shaping him, but he learns that it's OK to move on. This book was a truly wonderful read. As on air, Eddie brings a strong sense of hospitality in his writing to the reader and I was able to feel like I was part of the unfolding narrative.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Danger music is the powerful memoir of Eddie Ayres, a talented ABC broadcaster, and cello and violin teacher. Eddie uses his life in Afghanistan as the backdrop for his inner battle and fight to become the man he was always meant to be. Within the landscape of Afghanistan, a country tormented and deeply troubled, we journey through Eddie's story. Eddie chronicles his struggle of depression, self acceptance and gender transition with incredible bravery. His sense of vulnerability is admirable and Danger music is the powerful memoir of Eddie Ayres, a talented ABC broadcaster, and cello and violin teacher.  Eddie uses his life in Afghanistan as the backdrop for his inner battle and fight to become the man he was always meant to be. Within the landscape of Afghanistan, a country tormented and deeply troubled, we journey through Eddie's story.  Eddie chronicles his struggle of depression, self acceptance and gender transition with incredible bravery. His sense of vulnerability is admirable and gives his book value and significance in 2018. He doesn't shy away from sharing the most difficult of his life. Eddie authentically shares that, when he accepted that he was transgender, it was life destroying because he knew that to find happiness he would have to do something about it. Afghanistan in 2014 is dangerous, confronting and heartbreaking. Questioning his role in Afghanistan, Eddie asks, "What could music do in the face of such intergenerational suffering?" As the reader we can see the impact that Eddie has sown into so many young people through sharing his life and expertise with them. Giving them a hope and a future.  Danger music is a book that is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming. It is full of BB courage and strength but doesn't shy away from exposing the wrestle and fight it takes for the light to shine through.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Matthews

    I really wanted to like this book and although I was interested in his experience and I appreciated Ayres' honesty, directness and humour, the book just failed to engage me. Ayres shares his twelve-month experience working as a music teacher at ANIM in Afghanistan, shedding light on the difficulties of living in a worn-torn country as well as the challenges confronting the school, the staff and its students, especially the young female students. He also shares his personal experience of living I really wanted to like this book and although I was interested in his experience and I appreciated Ayres' honesty, directness and humour, the book just failed to engage me. Ayres shares his twelve-month experience working as a music teacher at ANIM in Afghanistan, shedding light on the difficulties of living in a worn-torn country as well as the challenges confronting the school, the staff and its students, especially the young female students. He also shares his personal experience of living with gender dysphoria (and he was living as a woman while in Afghanistan). He shares the journey which resulted in him making the decision to transition into the man he always knew he was. I stopped reading biographies a long time ago because I found I would often not engage with them, needing the intrigue and creativity of a narrative, so I don't know if the rating is a result of my own inability to enjoy a biography or whether it is because Ayres is essentially a musician, not a writer. However, despite my disappointment, given the content, I still recommend it as a worthwhile read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Monks

    A very interesting autobiography. Eddie is a Brisbane writer and musician who goes and works in Kabul, Afghanistan as a music teacher. The reader is given a palpable feel for the difficulties experienced by people living in that troubled country. When the Taliban took over, most musical instruments were destroyed, and Afghani music was at risk of being lost forever. Thanks to some brave individuals, who managed to hide their instruments and knowledge of Afghani music, the musical culture was not A very interesting autobiography. Eddie is a Brisbane writer and musician who goes and works in Kabul, Afghanistan as a music teacher. The reader is given a palpable feel for the difficulties experienced by people living in that troubled country. When the Taliban took over, most musical instruments were destroyed, and Afghani music was at risk of being lost forever. Thanks to some brave individuals, who managed to hide their instruments and knowledge of Afghani music, the musical culture was not totally lost. The reader sees how difficult it is to be a musician in such a place, and even more difficult to be a female musician. The author's own personal struggles are touched on as well. Eddie was originally Emma, and we are given an insight into how difficult one's life can be if you need to change your gender. The emotional and physically changes are enormous issues to have to deal with. I felt quite privileged to be given the opportunity to be allowed to experience some of the struggles both in Afghanistan and in Eddie's life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    If you are old enough to remember being able to drive from London to Delhi across Afghanistan in a kombi van and you love music, you will like this book. Of course the contrast with that long ago Afghanistan and the country it is today is tragic, but beautifully portrayed. It is also insightful for those of us who know little about being transgender and the toll it takes on one's psyche. Emma Ayres who wrote that wonderful book Cadence about her bicycle trip from London to Hongkong will find the If you are old enough to remember being able to drive from London to Delhi across Afghanistan in a kombi van and you love music, you will like this book. Of course the contrast with that long ago Afghanistan and the country it is today is tragic, but beautifully portrayed. It is also insightful for those of us who know little about being transgender and the toll it takes on one's psyche. Emma Ayres who wrote that wonderful book Cadence about her bicycle trip from London to Hongkong will find the new and much happier Eddie Ayres come forth in this book. Eddie is once again presenting music on ABC Fine Music station. I especially liked the playlist at the end of the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Felicity

    An interesting story an interesting person and when I think about it, an amazing life. Eddie has lived with more emotion than most people would expect to have to deal with in their lives. Gender complexities, depression, doubt in his self worth and extremely dangerous conditions while living in Afghanistan, teaching at a music school for a year. His love for music and the underprivileged kids he taught at this school are two things that helped him survive the intensity of that year, another An interesting story an interesting person and when I think about it, an amazing life. Eddie has lived with more emotion than most people would expect to have to deal with in their lives. Gender complexities, depression, doubt in his self worth and extremely dangerous conditions while living in Afghanistan, teaching at a music school for a year. His love for music and the underprivileged kids he taught at this school are two things that helped him survive the intensity of that year, another thing was luck! Thank you Eddie Ayers for telling your story, it can't have been easy and I'm sure you have left a lasting influence behind in Kabul.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heather Boundy

    I really loved the book Cadence written when Eddie was Emma, and I found Danger Music was written with courage and strength. My only gripe is that her passion for her students and their stories, while heart-breaking in many ways, detracted from the story I really wanted to hear about, which was her decision to make the transition form female to male. Perhaps it was all too painful, and too recent to write about in detail, and we certainly get a feel for her agony, but this is the real story I really loved the book Cadence written when Eddie was Emma, and I found Danger Music was written with courage and strength. My only gripe is that her passion for her students and their stories, while heart-breaking in many ways, detracted from the story I really wanted to hear about, which was her decision to make the transition form female to male. Perhaps it was all too painful, and too recent to write about in detail, and we certainly get a feel for her agony, but this is the real story here....

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    Eddie Ayres was teaching cello in war-torn Afghanistan when his gender dysphoria led to the brave decision to finally transition to the male body he knew he should have had. It’s an incredible tale, of his students, the country and ultimately himself. Like with many memoirs I did find it lacked a bit of the narrative arc the story needed and became bogged down in parts but it’s also a unique and truly fascinating story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catriona

    I am not typically a reader of memoirs/autobiographies. But there was something about this one that raised it above what I often find to be a painfully self indulgent genre, probably the immense insight into the lives and experiences of self, of others, of music and of a whole country, or the effortlessly readable style. It made me laugh, and in places almost brought me to tears. Loved it!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Mackay

    You had me at the first chapter Eddie! I loved this book, it was so easy to read and follow. After reading a few mediocre and disappointing books in a row I felt this book pull me out of the hole I was in and revive me. It was uplifting, raw, honest and heart wrenching in places . Thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the read. Thanks to Allen and Unwin as I won it in a competition.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roz Naughton

    I thought this book was wonderful . The absolute Horror of war among the most wonderful music played by young budding musicians was superb. The author’s transition from woman to man and his struggle to achieve this. It was very honestly told and what a difficult path it was for Eddie.I would recommend this book just to see what life is like in Kabul. We are so lucky in Australia.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ernest

    Ayres’ memoir tells the story of teaching music to children in war torn Kabul, Afghanistan together with a deeply personal story about depression and identity. The aspects of life in Kabul alone would have made the book fascinating, but with everything that the book covers, it becomes instead heart-felt, full of failures and successes, of challenges and courage.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    I enjoyed the book, however the real story was transitioning and I felt this wasn’t the focal point. I found the long passages about music theory and instruments lost my interest somewhat. The stories of students lives and struggles were heartbreaking and details of life in a war zone interesting.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lynette

    Such a courageous and honest account of Eddie's transformation, but also an amazing story of the Afghanistan Institute of Music and Eddie's role in helping young Afghans transcend their lives through music.

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