David Byrne: ‘Do You Really Think People Are Going to Keep Putting Time and Effort Into This, if No One Is Making Any Money?’
David’s new book at Amazon: “How Music Works”
Byrne’s witty, deeply intelligent and engaging; even in the pauses when he doesn’t want to answer a question, his eyes do a gleeful, mischeivious dance. We spoke last month; the transcript has been condensed and edited.
Lots of us believe that musicians, along with other artists, are struck by inspiration and have this emotion which they must express and share. But you argue in your book that it is actually the opposite — that the idea of the songwriter pouring heart, soul and autobiography into his or her music is wrong-headed. “The accepted narrative,” you write, “that the rock and roll singer is driven by desire and demons, and out bursts this amazing, perfectly shaped song that had to be three minutes and 12 seconds. This is the romantic notion of how creative work comes to be, but I think the path of creation is almost 180 degrees from this model.”
Yes. I can elaborate on that. I’m not saying that the artist doesn’t put their feelings into it, or any part of their biography, but that there’s a lot of constraints and considerations and templates that they work with - unconscious decisions or constraints put upon them that guide what they’re going to do.
Otherwise, why didn’t people in the 14th century start writing full-blown operas with giant orchestras and whatever?” These things just weren’t available to them. Our imaginations are constrained by all these other things — which is a good thing.