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Song and Circumstance


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Table of Contents

List of illustrations INTRODUCTION The world is a song Singer and conceptual artist Mythology and methodology Conceptual Romanticism The method of this book Part One: STRIPPING DOWN ROCK SONGS The tentative rejection of mimesis Cybernetics as inspiration The first years of Talking Heads Ethological and neurological aspects of music Experiments with rhythm, texture and persona Part Two: A WIDER MUSICAL COMMUNITY Music and dance as social exchange Isolated voices embedded in rhythm At the crossroads: "Remain In Light" Comparative studies of myth, archetypes and ritual Archetypal conflicts: "goin' boom boom boom" Speaking in Tongues: persona as ritual texture Part Three: RITUAL IN DAILY LIFE Introducing performance theatre A concert in the cinema: "Stop Making Sense" Music in context: "Talking Heads vs. The Television" "The Knee Plays", music for Robert Wilson "Little Creatures": television's naiveté "True Stories", a generic Gesamtkunstwerk A soundtrack for Mabou Mines' "Dead End Kids" "The Forest", a Byrne-Wilson piece "The Forest" as film script Part Four: ROCK STAR AND ETHNOGRAPHER The artist as ethnomusicologist "Naked", Talking Heads' most 'African' record "Ilé Aiyé": a musical ethnographic documentary "Rei Momo": incorporating Latin sensibility Soundtracks for ethnographic art documentaries Luaka Bop In the mirror: Sex 'n' drugs 'n' electronic music Critical responses Part Five: IN THE VISUAL ARENA The arena of visual communication Photographic repertoires "Strange Ritual": documents of sacralization The voodoo of the business world "The New Sins": a new mythology of chaos Dressed objects and other furniture Part Six: TROPICALISMO IN NEW YORK The singer as imaginary landscape "Between The Teeth" New York Tropicalismo TV presenter "Live at Union Chapel" Choreographed songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno History in the disco mirror ball Part Seven: AN EMOTIONAL EPISTEMOLOGY Cloud diagrams "Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information" Arboretum: the garden of correspondences The representation of politics Who owns our eyes and ears? Philosophy in installments Bicycle Diaries: a comparative mythology of cities Conclusion Acknowledgments Notes Discography and Filmography Bibliography of David Byrne writings General bibliography Index

Promotional Information

This is the first book to offer a full account of Byrne's sprawling artistic portfolio.

About the Author

Sytze Steenstra, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at MaastrichtUniversity, The Netherlands, and a freelance author/editor.


"If I ever need to remind myself what I was reading or mulling over at various points in my life I have only to look in this scrupulously researched and uncannily on-the-money book. Would that we all had references like this! It is for me a beautiful and narcissistically bizarre experience to re-experience my life through the series of ideas and the flow of connections I have made as they are reported and interpreted by Sytze Steenstra. The book is delightfully and unusually free of gossip and psychological assumptions and explanations (not that those don't also contain some truth); instead it focuses almost exclusively on what I've done, said or written—and comes to some conclusions that are (to me) surprising and unexpected. Sytze finds connections I wasn't aware of, and continuity and patterns where initially one might see randomness and chaos. This book makes me seem both smarter than I am and possibly stranger than I am." - David Byrne

"Like David Byrne, this is a very varied and colourful book. It covers all the artist's relative terrain, in such a way that's as equally as enthusiastic and passionate as he himself."Community College Campus News

"Song And Circumstance is an excellent read, of interest to the old school Talking Heads fan, perfervid David Byrne follower, or for readers of how music and philosophy work together."-KEXP Seattle

1000 word review in NRC Handelsblad, a prominent Dutch newspaper

"Sytze Steenstra's Song and Circumstance: The Work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to Present is a book that will engage even the most informed fans of his work...Steenstra's book is well worth it for the fascinating insights it offers into Byrne's work." -John McLeod, Flagpole Magazine, July 28, 2010

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