David Byrne on silence

Talking Heads co-founder David Byrne's new book, "How Music Works," is a combination personal artistic memoir and cultural/scientific exploration of music -- what it is, how it's made, and what it means. (Cory's review of the book is here.) Smithsonian has posted a fascinating excerpt from "How Music Works" that includes a riff on the beauty of silence (photo by Bart Nagel):
NewImage

In 1969, Unesco passed a resolution outlining a human right that doesn’t get talked about much—the right to silence. I think they’re referring to what happens if a noisy factory gets built beside your house, or a shooting range, or if a disco opens downstairs. They don’t mean you can demand that a restaurant turn off the classic rock tunes it’s playing, or that you can muzzle the guy next to you on the train yelling into his cellphone. It’s a nice thought though—despite our innate dread of absolute silence, we should have the right to take an occasional aural break, to experience, however briefly, a moment or two of sonic fresh air. To have a meditative moment, a head-clearing space, is a nice idea for a human right.

John Cage wrote a book called, somewhat ironically, Silence. Ironic because he was increasingly becoming notorious for noise and chaos in his compositions. He once claimed that silence doesn’t exist for us. In a quest to experience it, he went into an anechoic chamber, a room isolated from all outside sounds, with walls designed to inhibit the reflection of sounds. A dead space, acoustically. After a few moments he heard a thumping and whooshing, and was informed those sounds were his own heartbeat and the sound of his blood rushing through his veins and arteries. They were louder than he might have expected, but okay. After a while, he heard another sound, a high whine, and was informed that this was his nervous system. He realized then that for human beings there was no such thing as true silence, and this anecdote became a way of explaining that he decided that rather than fighting to shut out the sounds of the world, to compartmentalize music as something outside of the noisy, uncontrollable world of sounds, he’d let them in: “Let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for manmade theories or expressions of human sentiments.” Conceptually at least, the entire world now became music.

"How Do Our Brains Process Music?" (Smithsonian)

How Music Works (Amazon)

David Byrne and Caetano Veloso, live at Carnegie Hall

Ur-happy mutant David Byrne writes,

Back in 2004, Caetano Veloso asked me join him for a night during his residency as a Perspectives artist at Carnegie Hall. The concert was very stripped down and acoustic. Jaques Morelenbaum augmented us on cello and Mauro Refosco on percussion. This evening was pretty special for me. I was extremely nervous (there are flubs here and there), but I was also thrilled. Some folks thought we made a pretty odd couple, but we actually have a lot in common.

I keep asking myself, “Why didn't this come out sooner?” Um, good question. Record business nonsense. But anyway, it’s finally here, and you get a free download of one of the songs we did, Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses.

This is a song we wrote together for the Red Hot + Lisbon benefit album in 1998. The Red Hot folks suggested we do something together and I had a song I hadn't finished, on which I used a percussion loop from a Caetano song as an inspirational rhythmic bed. Since we already knew one another, the idea of finishing that song seemed obvious. I sing about a club kid, lost in the nightlife, and Caetano wrote lyrics about Carmen Miranda—who, as it turns out, isn't Brazilian (she's Portuguese!), which made it all the more fitting for that particular project. Somehow, juxtaposing these two very different women, separated in time and space, made a weird kind of musical sense.

Anyway—if you like this song, you might want to want to check out the rest of the album, which you can order today!

Caetano Veloso + David Byrne

David Byrne's fake iPhone apps

Weaselface

David Byrne made a bunch of fake screenshots for iPhone apps that don't exist. They'll be in an exhibit called "Social Media," at The Pace Gallery (510 West 25th Street) from September 16 - October 15.

Show description: "The exhibition focuses on contemporary artists exploring public platforms for communication and social networks through an aesthetic and conceptual lens. In an era of increasingly omnipresent new technologies, Social Media examines the impact of these systems as they transform human expression, interaction, and perception."

In addition to David Byrne's work, Social Media will feature work by Christopher Baker, Aram Bartholl, Jonathan Harris, Robert Heinecken, Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher, Sep Kamvar and Penelope Umbrico.

Social Media at Pace Gallery

See more of David Byrne's fake apps after the jump.

Read the rest