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Song and Circumstance
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This is the first book to offer a full account of Byrne's sprawling artistic portfolio. The account of Byrne's career, while told in roughly chronological order, is ordered by choosing a specific abstract approach, or a combination of two approaches, for each chapter, discussing the parallels and contradictions between such approaches to benefit the interpretation of Byrne's art. This is the first book to offer a full account of Byrne's sprawling artistic portfolio. David Byrne's work functions almost completely through the mass media - in popular music, experimental theatre, film, television, fine art and writing. The underlying connection is a conceptual approach to both high and popular art. Byrne has always accompanied his work with a stream of conceptual reflections, by developing a loose theoretical patchwork of ideas on music, ritual, culture and myth, reading widely in anthropology, socio-biology, neurology, ethnomusicology, art theory, media theory, comparative mythology and more. Based on the fame he gained with his band Talking Heads (1977-circa 1989), Byrne is able to enter into collaborations with many artists, some of popular fame - Brian Eno, Jonathan Demme - many known best in more specialized artistic circles - Joseph Kosuth (conceptual artist), Caetano Veloso (Brazilian singer/songwriter of Tropicalismo fame). The map of collaborations, including the casual and incidental ones, reveals an ongoing effort to combine avant-gardism with popular appeal. While Byrne developed his career in a pragmatic way, grasping opportunities for collaboration when they presented themselves, this theoretical patchwork is a constant factor. The account of Byrne's career, while told in roughly chronological order, is ordered by choosing a specific abstract approach, or a combination of two approaches, for each chapter, discussing the parallels and contradictions between such approaches to benefit the interpretation of Byrne's art. As a result, the fertile conceptual brew that characterizes Byrne's way of making art is present from the beginning, while each chapter adds to a thorough insight.
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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION; Part One: STRIPPING DOWN ROCK SONGS; Part Two: A WIDER MUSICAL COMMUNITY; Part Three: MOVIES, TV AND THEATRE: THE RITUAL IN DAILY LIFE; Part Four: ROCK STAR AND ETHNOGRAPHER; Part Five: IN THE VISUAL ARENA; Part Six: TROPICALISMO IN NEW YORK; Part Seven: AN EMOTIONAL EPISTEMOLOGY; Conclusion; Appendices; Index.

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About the Author

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

Reviews

a superbly wide-ranging, detailed and insightful analysis of the rock star, filmmaker, artist, and design collaborator's multifaceted oeuvre. A discussion of Byrne's book The New Sins, for instance, takes us to the German Romantics, Novalis, and Nietzsche. You emerge thinking that this much-celebrated pop-avant-gardist and bicycling cultural omnivore might even be a tad underrated.--Rick Pynor, Design Observer, November 2010 "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 1000 word review in NRC Handelsblad, a prominent Dutch newspaper "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 "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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