Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Archive for the ‘Byrne, David’ Category

The human(less) condition

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Are advancements in technology primary aimed at improving the human condition — or eliminating human interaction?

David Byrne lays out an interesting argument that it’s the latter.

Here are just a few formerly human interactions that are now mostly replaced or on their way out:

  • Buying books — replaced by Amazon.com
  • Banking with a teller — replaced by ATMs
  • Grocery checkouts — replaced by self checkout or ordering online
  • Customer service phone calls — routinely handled by automated phone trees and responsive bots
  • Board games — replaced by video game consoles, online video games and smartphone apps

Byrne’s got a much longer list than this, which you can read here, along with his analysis of the situation.

As for my own brief list above:  I’m not missing my interactions with bank tellers; I alternate between buying books online or in person (at comics shops and book stores); I hate the automated telephone situation more than I can express; I still play board games with family (and card games), and also play on an xBox; and I make a point of having humans check out my groceries because it’s quicker than me at the self checkout and because I get to brag about how much I saved through coupons and also because I’m trying to help humans somewhere stay employed.

Because, unlike machinery, humans need to eat.

Today’s bonus music video

Monday, January 9th, 2012

And here’s the low-budget puppet theatre version. All I can say after watching this is: I’ve worked with smaller budgets.

Today’s music video

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Who doesn’t love that great Talking Heads song about babies, “Stay Up Late”? Especially when it’s played on accordion and tuba.

Musical insights

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I just found out about a great new music podcast, Sound Opinions, in which two very knowledgeable taste-makers bring a lot of insight to an hour-long discussion about music. Their range is wide and their taste is informed. On the most recent show, they discuss music with economist Paul Krugman, who notes that given the dire state of the world economy he needs music more than ever. Other discussions cover the music of Bob Dylan, R.E.M., Neil Young, and others.

Here’s a link to the page about their recent show with Brian Eno. Eno, it should be noted, is not in the studio with them — they’re in the U.S., and he’s speaking with them from England — but these guys are so natural, so comfortable, that it sounds like they’re all sitting together talking over tea. In this particular interview, Eno is given just credit as an early pioneer of important musical trends (new wave; sampling; spoken word over music; ambient music; using the synthesizer as an instrument; and many more), and is asked smart questions about how he chooses collaborators (David Bowie; David Byrne with or without Talking Heads; Robert Fripp; Devo; Bryan Ferry with or without Roxy Music; as well as a couple of bands I don’t care about, such as U2 and Coldplay). The interview is played against the backdrop of music they discuss, from Eno’s vast repertoire, in such a way that every bit creates a new and better understanding of connections and influences across his 40-year career. (In the process, teaching me something new about “America is Waiting,” a song of his with David Byrne that I’ve been listening to with great appreciation for 30 years.) If you’re at all interested in music — and musical trends — of the past 40 years, I highly recommend this interview.

Today’s music video

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Thirteen years ago, David Byrne’s performance on the show Sessions at West 54th Street proved definitively how much he didn’t need the other people from Talking Heads. This video of “Making Flippy Floppy” serves as Exhibit A. The band is electrifying: I think the backup singer is terrific, in energy, look, enthusiasm, and vocal colors, and the keyboardist brings several good new textures to the song, but then, every member sounds great. On a personal note, I have to say that David Byrne’s dance moves here speak directly to my soul. I encourage you to watch the entire video — including the final minute where he explains to host Chris Douridas his thinking behind the choice of those clothes. To this day, David Byrne is always thinking.

Today’s music(-related) video

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

In which David Byrne talks about his love for music, and his opinion that lyrics are overrated.

As someone who has been listening to Byrne’s lyrics for more than 30 years, I agree with him that it’s often the sound of lyrics (his lyrics, anyway), that’s more important than the meaning. That’s because the songs he’s done both with and without Talking Heads have been largely connotational rather than denotional — they connote a certain mood or situation, most often: a rootless anxiety. (Or, sometimes, a quirky sort of hope.) This displacement from his surroundings puts him squarely in the tradition of postmodern artists where, of course, meaning is less important than immediate impact. Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf and William Burroughs and Donald Barthelme were usually more interested in transmitting a feeling than telling a story. And that sounds like a close approximation of what David Byrne does in his songs.

Thanks to Paul Crist for alerting me to this video.

More songs about buildings

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Or, more appropriately, more songs made by buildings, as David Byrne’s new musical experiment allows you to “play” the Roundhouse in London.

Thanks to Paul Crist for making me aware of this.

Strange overtones

Sunday, March 29th, 2009


Brian Eno and David Byrne on their multi-decade collaboration, and why, for Eno, Frank Zappa provides an example of precisely what not to do in music.