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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

    Rosemary Atwell

    An Illuminating, thought-provoking and passionate memoir. This author unashamedly wears his heart on his sleeve and his tale is certainly none the poorer for doing so.

  2. 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.

  3. 5 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 live 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. 4 out of 5

    Susan Moore

    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. 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. 4 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 Ins ‘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

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lia

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

  7. 4 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 mu 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.

  8. 4 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) contempl 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.

  9. 4 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. 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.

  10. 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. 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.

  11. 5 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. 4 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. 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Beautifully written, moving and fascinating.

  14. 4 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 Newman

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

  17. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    This was wonderful. Just the kind of memoir I like. Very conversational and yet providing deep insight not only into their own life but into the politics and environment around them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Bauer

    Remarkable. Like nothing I've read before. I felt I knew Eddie Ayres from listening to him doing the breakfast program on ABC Classic radio for years. He was Emma then and I loved his encyclopedic knowledge of classical music, his quick wit, his sense of fun and his charm. I remember particularly during one of the Classic 100 countdown weekends, his clever and entertaining banter with Mary Nicholson. I felt they were my wonderful erudite and witty friends and they were so entertaining. Now Emma Remarkable. Like nothing I've read before. I felt I knew Eddie Ayres from listening to him doing the breakfast program on ABC Classic radio for years. He was Emma then and I loved his encyclopedic knowledge of classical music, his quick wit, his sense of fun and his charm. I remember particularly during one of the Classic 100 countdown weekends, his clever and entertaining banter with Mary Nicholson. I felt they were my wonderful erudite and witty friends and they were so entertaining. Now Emma is Ed and this book charts his transgender journey as well as his time teaching music in Afghanistan. As he states "Afghanistan overwhelmed me to my core. It fundamentally changed my view of the world. It was full of the best and worst of life and there was never any middle ground. I came from a temperate land and I needed something less manic, but this country had taught me to love intensely and not to be afraid of living at the extreme. I was like a Picasso painting, taken apart and put back together in a new, strange form. What a gift." It's been a while since I have read much non-fiction and certainly something as deeply felt and raw as this. I knew very little about living in a war zone, about Kabul, about Afghanistan, about teaching the cello and viola, about gender dysphoria and transgender issues so I'm quite a bit better informed. Thanks so much for sharing your story Ed Ayres!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt it was really well written and had a great mix of facts, emotions, scenarios, etc. and Eddie did a great job of painting a picture of life in Afghanistan with its struggles, customs, challenges, along with the beauty of things. It was fascinating to learn the backgrounds of done of the students and what they endured in a daily basis. We are so blessed to live where we do. Thank you Eddie for baring your heart and soul and sharing your journey with us. I lov I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt it was really well written and had a great mix of facts, emotions, scenarios, etc. and Eddie did a great job of painting a picture of life in Afghanistan with its struggles, customs, challenges, along with the beauty of things. It was fascinating to learn the backgrounds of done of the students and what they endured in a daily basis. We are so blessed to live where we do. Thank you Eddie for baring your heart and soul and sharing your journey with us. I loved your honesty and vulnerability living in Afghanistan along with your emotional turmoil as you transitioned. I wish you and Carole every happiness 💜

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Danger Music is a very difficult book to review, it’s a very complex memoir and I have so much to say about it. Firstly, this memoir is absolutely beautiful. There are so many memoirs and biographies available these days, very few are written with as much heart as Danger Music. Eddie Ayres writes of tremendous hardships, unfathomable in many ways, with humour and most importantly, with understanding. This book is a personal journey of Eddie Ayres from when he first moves to Kabul to teach the cel Danger Music is a very difficult book to review, it’s a very complex memoir and I have so much to say about it. Firstly, this memoir is absolutely beautiful. There are so many memoirs and biographies available these days, very few are written with as much heart as Danger Music. Eddie Ayres writes of tremendous hardships, unfathomable in many ways, with humour and most importantly, with understanding. This book is a personal journey of Eddie Ayres from when he first moves to Kabul to teach the cello, (as well as various other musical and non-musical lessons) to the teenagers at ANIM, The Afghanistan National Institute of Music, until his departure a year later.In this book, Ayres, amongst sharing the tales of life as a foreigner in Kabul, also tells of his struggles with transitioning to become a transgender man. The balance is fantastic, and the two struggles, living in Kabul, and the move to become physically who Eddie had always seen himself as, marry beautifully into this memoir. Often times memoirs are boring, simply because, nobody want’s to read a boring book about the life of a person who is not always as captivating as they may think themselves to be. I went into this book not knowing who Eddie Ayres (or Emma Ayres, the name Ayres went by up until 2016) was in the slightest. I was captivated. Ayres' writing is honest, raw and personal, his anecdotes are interesting and serve a point to being written in the book and everything was laced with humour. Strange as it may seem the two issues are not forced together, they come in the most natural of ways. This book is so interesting, the understanding I got from reading about the challenges that plagued not only the students, school and teachers but also the city of Kabul was fantastic. The appalling terror and ongoing hardships that the students face, mostly the young women who Ayres dedicates the book to, (‘the lost girls’) is exposed in ways that the media fails to do so often. This book is interesting, absolutely, but also utterly heartbreaking. Ayres, as mentioned, writes to make you laugh but he also writes to make you cry with wholehearted truth and unforgiving honesty. Ayres never sugarcoats the true harshness of Afghanistan. The elements of self discovery and transformation, in this book were portrayed so well. Ayres struggles with being transgender and transitioning to this reality, physically and emotionally is insightful and genuine. The emotional shift from that Ayres writes of from his depression to his rebirth to become who he had known himself to be was astounding. You’re taken on this journey with Ayres, from depressed and desperate to this immense joy and hopefulness for the future. Honestly this book is one of the best memoirs I have ever read, it was captivating, moving and relevant. I received and ARC of this book so I didn’t see the photos in the middle that is included in the final copy. However, I was in the bookshop the other day and had a flick through and they are so beautiful and really make the stories and people so much more real.

  21. 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 be 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.

  22. 5 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jacqui Mckenzie

    On many levels, this is such an important book. I Love the list of music at the end . I found it moving to listen to some of these pieces after reading about them in the book. A highly recommended read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melina

    This was a truly stunning book - the kind of book which needs space to breathe when you finish it. It touches on difficult topics with a lightness which allows you space while still allowing you to feel sad and angry. I can't recommend it highly enough This was a truly stunning book - the kind of book which needs space to breathe when you finish it. It touches on difficult topics with a lightness which allows you space while still allowing you to feel sad and angry. I can't recommend it highly enough

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bec74

    I really really liked this and found it a fascinating insight into a foreigner’s experience in Afghanistan (interwoven of course with his transgender journey). By turns beautiful, funny, tragic & depressing... however his love for music & teaching shine through.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    A remarkable tribute to the ANIM and its students and director under very difficult circumstances. Also a gentle realisation and assertion of individual will under the straight-jacket of conformity.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cate

    Fantastic read. I was curious about the school Eddie taught at having seen a documentary about it. It was a richer read when combined with the first hand accounts of Eddie juxtaposed to his personal struggles of gender dysphoria. Highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kellie Hoffman

    Some people lead amaZing lives; this is one of them. Primarily focused around a year in Kabul that results in an epiphany, Danger Music forces you to appreciate what you have & never give up on striving for what it is that you want.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ann Tonks

    The "voice" in this memoir rings so true. A moving and engaging and thought provoking book about kids and music and being transgender and friendships and religion and power and discrimination and....the list could go on. But most of all, it's just a beautiful true story. The "voice" in this memoir rings so true. A moving and engaging and thought provoking book about kids and music and being transgender and friendships and religion and power and discrimination and....the list could go on. But most of all, it's just a beautiful true story.

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