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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Musical Interlude

(For politics, please scroll down)

Enjoy "Ur" from The Forest by David Byrne (hat tip to Warren, who introduced me to this modern work):

Listen to all the movements of The Forest HERE.

About The Forrest:
It has been said that a myth is a dream that helps us find our place in the world. To me, The Forest is less a piece than a process. A process of discovering what it is we are made of. What kinds of ideas, what prejudices, what propaganda fills us up, what we think is beautiful and what we think is ugly, what we consider Nature and what we think is God.

The process has been a bit like diving into the unconsciousness of the historical (hysterical?) European Mind in the hopes of discovering what kind of animal we are evolving from. Music tells us these things in the manner of a dream that we, in most cases, don't understand, at least not with our waking minds.

I know I don't understand much of what it is that fills me up, and that much of the work on this project, or any project, is a process of trying to discover what is inside yourself. And half the time the work itself tells you, but you don't understand what it's saying until many years later, which is okay. I'm not saying it's ahead of its time. It's probably just about on time, but none of us have any perspective on what we are doing, or why we are doing it, until years after the fact.

When I first began this work, I was reading a lot of myths. I had, and probably still have, the possibly naive assumption that these legends and myths might function as kind of primal stories, from which all contemporary movies, TV sit-coms and novels emerge. It is the oldest story known to us, the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, and it struck a resonant chord in me. This tale is sexy, action-packed, mysterious, gentle, brutal and spiritual. It speaks of, among other things, relationships between nature and culture, people and civilization versus animals and nature and about immortality and death. The old story dealt with many of these themes simultaneously in a way that seems very contemporary, in a way that has a lot of relevance to a lot of things that we're thinking about now.

Many of these concerns came again to the surface and were widely discussed during the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America. It seems to me that this was a period when most of the ideas that we live with now, most of the concepts and feelings we think are so "modern" — like nature being beautiful and cities being ugly, like the assumption that God is a part of Nature, and Man not being a part of that Nature — once again become common currency. Out ideas about the concept of progress, about work, machines, sex, love and the spirit were largely generated during the advent of machine culture. It's strange to see that we believe most of the same things now, even though this industrial culture is on its way out. It's even to the point of being preserved in museums.

We've moved on to an "information culture," a "software culture," or whatever it is. But it's not really a culture of big machines anymore, We think of them as relics. And yet we still live the biases, assumptions and beliefs that come out of this age. We are filled up with these ideas in our schools, through out newspapers, our televisions, our music, art and literature.

One of the personal discoveries I made while working on this project is that we're a lot less "modern" than we think we are. For the most part, we're living and breathing in a new world, while thinking and feeling in an old one. We need to take stock, to become aware of our prejudices and biases, before we can take the next step.

So my attempt at taking stock has been to write music evocative of this period in our history. I've tried to write music that draws a lot from the Romantic composers. I wanted to be able to sympathize with those who feel the romance of the factory. The beauty, the power, the possibilities of the machines that would change the world.

David Byrne February, 1991


  1. I'd like to learn more about Mr. Byrne's background, where originated, and from whom he got his education and musical training?

    This passage leapt out at me, as I read "about" the piece:

    ". . . Many of these concerns [about the ultimate meaning, aims and purposes of life, human desire, and the relative value of human accomplishment,etc.] came again to the surface and were widely discussed during the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America. It seems to me that this was a period when most of the ideas that we live with now, most of the concepts and feelings we think are so "modern" . . . [came to the surface]

    Sure, but as Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun." I would add "only a continual grinding, refining, repurposing, refashioning with different ways of combining of the elemental materials God gave us when He created the Cosmos.

    The music is an honest attempt to say something meaningful through the media of tone colors and varying sound textures, but I have to say I found it too STATIC tonally and too repetitive harmonically to hold my interest enough to want to hear it again.

    Yet it DOES suceed in evoking an aura of primaeval majesty, –– almost a feeling of being present at The Dawn of Creation –– with hints of the splendor, challenges, fascination –– and MENACE –– yet to come.

    I'd like to know more about Mr. Byrne, and hear other music he may have comosed subsequently to see how he may have developed since this appeared in 1991

    I must congratulate him too on having been able to get competent instrumentalists, and some expressive human voices to record the work. That in itself is no small accomplishment..

  2. @ Franco.
    Several years ago, very early one morning, I was driving through a virtually deserted stretch of highway through the Smoky Mountains headed toward Charleston S. Carolina. The sun was just starting to show at the tops of the mountains. It was Fall and the leaves were at their full Autumn colors of red and gold.
    I reached over and put my new, unplayed CD album in the stereo just as the sun peeked over the mountainous horizon.
    The beauty of the reds and golds as they shifted in the breezes sparkled in contrast to the dark shadows of the deep valleys. The morning sun arose over the eclipsing mountain peaks and the valley shadows were pushed and chased away. Mr. Byrne's "Ur" was the soundtrack for those deeply moving, seemingly few moments. Whenever I hear that album, my memory and the majesty of the moment is evoked anew.
    As far as I know, Mr. Byrne, has no formal musical training and is best known for his musical group of several years ago "The Talking Heads", then considered New Wave Rock. "The Forest" draws on the Romantics.
    His Wiki Bio

    1. Thanks, Warren. Your poetic description of the way you became acquainted with this work on your journey through the Great Smokey Mountains is beautiful. I can understand better now why you would think favorably of the work.

      Tell me one other thing –– if you know, please. Is there any special significance to having Byrne's apparent use of both FOREST AND FORREST in connection with the piece?

      I'm aware than in SHAKESPEARE'S time using as many variant spellings of words in common use was considered a mark of extreme CLEVERNESS and ERUDITION.

      That changed, of course, once spelling of Englis words became standardized, and I, myself, have been a stickler for both correct spelling and proper pronunciation since childhood –– probably because it was drilled into me even before I went to school by my parents, a cousin, an honors student at Barnard College with graduate degrees in social work and child psychology, and a wonderfully dynamic aunt who hppened to be an elementary school principal!

      At any rate such thngsinterest me, so if you have an explanation, I'd love to know it.

    2. @ Franco:
      David Bryne, has rather eclectic tastes and I believe that he has a reason to use the two different spellings but I do not know how to interpret them.
      AOW and I had a similar discussion on other facets of this album. I don't believe we came to a conclusion. Many of the thoughts he expressed about "Ur" seemed contradictory to the emotional tember of his music.
      Warren - from my cell phone

  3. AOW, thanks for posting this. I am well acquainted with Bryne's tenure in the Talking Heads....but haven't kept up with him, and had no idea he was this talented in other musical aspects. Pretty good work.

  4. Replies
    1. That's just abso-bloomin'-lutely Jim Dandy, as long as it's not WAHHABI.


    2. @ FJ:
      I hadn't thought of it in that way but I believe you are correct.

  5. Thanks for the post... I was not acquainted with the work.....beautiful.


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