Eternal Friendship of the Spotless Kind

I know this isn’t any sort of journalistic article, but I thought it fitting to post it. A poetic eulogy, of sorts, for a recently lost friend.

 

Today I lost a friend.
We hadn’t been friends for very long, but time doesn’t matter.
She came from up north, and the first time I saw her browny-blonde hair I fell in love. Not the sort of love where you talk, get together then split, but the sort of love that lasts a lifetime.
She was gorgeous.
I’ll never forget the look on her face whenever I made her a meal, the joy always made my day.
She was mad.
The kind of mad you discover in someone who loves the little things in life, always full of energy and forever waiting to discover new things. The best kind of mad.
She was a significant part of the reason my current partner and I are still together.
She made us realise that we did love each other, the blu-tac to our wall, the pastor to a wedding.
I don’t know what would have happened without her.
From the moment we met her we knew she was sick, but you never realise how sick someone is before they’re ripped from your reality by a cruel message.
I didn’t think she’d be gone so soon.
I’d made her lunch earlier that day.
As filled with regrets I am, as is always the case when something leaves, I’m even more filled with the most insurmountable appreciation I’ve ever felt.
I’ll never forget anything we did together.
I’m writing this just after I found out, so I would say that, but I solemnly believe it.
Where you are now, I’m sure you’ll do the exact same, you were never one to change who you were.
Goodbye best friend.
I love you.
I miss you.
I always will

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Eternal Friendship of the Spotless Kind

David Byrne: Not Just Another Talking Head

Introducing: David Byrne

 

Media and Communication are both ideas that are considered to be largely controlled by outlets such as Radio and Television, however some of the most potent and prolific communicators are ones in areas we overlook. One such man, who has continuously pushed the boundaries of how we receive things, is Scottish/American Musician, Actor, Filmmaker and Artist David Byrne. Born in West Scotland and emigrating to America during his childhood, Byrne established himself as a pioneer of Post-Punk before reinventing how the western world viewed world music. After a moving to New York he founded the band Talking Heads with whom he was the frontman between 1977 and 1991 (Byrne, 2012). As well as a commercially and critically lauded band (Rolling Stone, 2016), Byrne has had success in visual art, film direction and writing, earning an Academy Award, a Grammy, and Golden Globe awards along with a New York Times bestseller – his talents spread across multiple communicative media (Wikipedia, 2016).

 

Inspiring and Influencing

 

David Byrne was never one to stick to the status quo, writing pop music and pandering to the largest demographic didn’t interest him. As an artistic communicator, he borrowed and integrated ideas from styles worldwide, challenging what western audiences and society expected from music as a form of communication; Byrne emphasised the communicative values of the medium. To him, sound in whatever form communicated something. This was spoken word, music to evoke an emotional response, cultural integration of abstract or otherwise unknown sounds. Through all this he did what he wanted. When he heard a piece of Latin pop, he listened. The intricacies of European and African traditional music excited him. The pantomime acts of Asia gave him food for thought, and he assimilated this information and used it to create what he wanted, regardless of what 1970s and 80s America wanted. (Byrne, 2012)

As anyone who values self-expression in communication, Byrne is an inspiration. There was no other way to him than to communicate the way he wanted to. In today’s media landscape, with monopolies on what we can say and do, this self-expression – freedom to communicate your opinion, your thoughts, your ideas – is somewhat of a lost art form. Byrne is to the concept of sound as a communicative medium as Ebert is to Film, Christgau is to Music, and Frost is to Politics; a groundbreaker (Rolling Stone, 2016). As far as inspiration goes, there’s not much further to look than an innovator in his field – and for someone who’s voice is one of a highly opinionated and critical nature, Byrne is an obvious influence.

However a poignant feature of Byrne’s work is that he never credited invention. He merely reinterpreted ideas that have been in use for many a year, and credits the sources openly (Byrne, 2012). This humility is perhaps the most integral element that provides inspiration, as he does not seem to reside on a plane higher than that of any common bystander – rather as one of them who decided he wanted to do things his way, giving reason for anyone to believe they can do the same thing. This acknowledgement of influence doesn’t just stem from music, his books and films also make mention – implicit and explicit – of his wide-ranging influences.

 

These facets all come together in the person Byrne presents as a professional, and this positive manipulation and willingness to step outside of the norm while keeping humble is a definitive reason for both inspiration and influence.

 
Media Convergence and/of the World

 
First off, “Media” is the plural of “Medium”, as Oxford defines as “A means by which something is communicated or expressed”- meaning yes, art is media (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2016).

 

Other than the obvious fact that an entire 2 sections of Byrne’s How Music Works (of which I won’t make mention, more for reason of oversaturation and complication rather than relevance) are dedicated to the trend of media convergence and the influence technology has had on communication – especially his – his rise to popularity came at an integral time in the expansion of music as a form of communication; the 1980s gave birth to the golden age of MTV and the music video format. Up until the launch of MTV in 1981, music videos were more or less a band standing on a stage, lip-synching to a backing track – not a particularly powerful means of expression. This all changed when some Radio professionals came together and decided to create a channel dedicated to music videos. This form of media convergence dates back to the early days of film, where music accompanied the motion picture to add an added layer of depth – but seldom was the video the accompaniment to the music (Tannenbaum and Marks, 2016). Having seen how oriental theatre and African natives used the visual component of a performance to enhance what was being communicated, Byrne took to this trend of videography and created complementary short films as experimental and unique as Talking Heads’ music (Byrne, 2012). The 1984 musical documentary Stop Making Sense was the outcome. Besides being one of the most highly regarded concert films ever made, it managed to touch on elements of media convergence in a way that was modern. Of course we think of media being a purely technological idea, and the technology behind the film was impressive, however the convergence of the mediums of Theatre, Music, Oral Communication and Visual Communication were the keys here. Combining these elements into one film took expert skill, because the combination of these elements was only growing at the time. As the artistic driving force behind the performance, Byrne had to readily accept that what had been viewed as normal for the past decades was no longer – at least in his mind – and challenge the norm. Again, he never took credit for the decisions he made in gratifying the new media landscape, rather embraced the trend of media convergence – film becoming more and more associated with music – and if not for his willingness to experiment and push the boundaries, Byrne wouldn’t have had the opportunity to produce the film (Staff, 2011, Byrne, 2012).

 

The film medium might be a stand out, but without the global cultural landscape Byrne drew upon, it would have been nothing. As technology advanced in the late 1900s, it gave rise to the beginning of mass globalisation, from west to east as had not been so available until that point. Byrne didn’t go from west to east, he took a concerted approach to discovering what the rest of the world had to offer. It comes across is almost all of his musical works, from consistent afro-beats (derived from African percussion works discovered in his travels) to theatrical elements translated from Asian traditional performance arts (prime example is the Pho inspired “Mr. Big” suit seen on Stop Making Sense) – he used the world as his palette. He took a risk and used recordings of the Qu’ran, cut, rearranged and pasted to self-recorded music on the imaginatively titled track “Qu’ran” on his and producer/friend Brian Eno’s 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (a title borrowed from a Nigerian novel). Also included and reference points for his total embrace of globalisation are an American Radio broadcaster (also some blatant Media Convergence), Lebanese singers and gospel choirs. A continued interest in worldwide music seeped through into his music, his acquisition of Latin American vinyls prompting subtle inclusions in his records, as well as continuing love for polyrhythms and other assorted tribal percussion throughout his musical career. He even beat Paul Simon’s seminal Graceland to the African idea six years prior, Talking Heads’ 1980 breakthrough record Remain in Light popularising the use of tribal music yet not gaining quite as much attention or praise (Byrne, 2012). The ease in which technology could and did breach the gaps between nations and continents (however reluctantly at the time) allowed natural innovators such as Byrne to use the globalisation of media to experiment, and in terms of a creative individual consistently using the world as an influence, it’s hard to go past him.

The Public Sphere and Fourth Estate

It’s hard to understate the impact journalism media has had on society, and that’s no exception with the society Byrne was a part of. As a performer, much of the success attributed to Byrne and his endeavors is directly related to critical reception. With Talking Heads having been labeled “one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ‘80s” by critic  Stephen Thomas Erlewine (Thomas Erlewine, 2016) the success and longevity of the experimental work and boundary pushing music could not have been without the general praise of the (mostly print) media at the time and the concept of the fourth estate having social influence.

 

In terms of a public sphere, the band and Byrnes music itself wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for the uprising of the Punk subculture some years earlier. This movement, of course, is an example of the public sphere at work; clubs like the historic CBGB’s provided a public venue for the oppressed to discuss and create a culture thriving on being disenfranchised with the current state of society and government – Punk (and subsequently post-punk, in which the ‘Heads were a major player) (Byrne, 2012). While not the traditional model of the public sphere, it’s an example of a niche public sphere holding major power in creating social and political movements; perhaps more powerful than a broader sphere itself.

 

Conclusion

 

From the first Talking heads album he penned in the ‘70s through his illustrious art, film and writing careers and continuing to this day, David Byrne is a modern communication guru (Thomas Erlewine, 2016). Through his willingness to experiment and adapt to the changing social landscape through media convergence and globalisation, his acceptance of the public sphere created post-punk movement and continued success with thanks to the fourth estate, Byrne has utilised foundational communication theories to better himself and his role as a media professional. His continuing presence in the arts field will only add to this, and his achievements won’t be forgotten for generations to come.

 

References

Byrne, D. (2012). How Music Works (37, 42-43, 68-79). San Francisco [Calif.]: McSweeney’s.

Wikipedia. (2016). David Byrne. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Byrne [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Oxforddictionaries.com. (2016). medium – definition of medium in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/medium#medium__2 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Rolling Stone. (2016). Talking Heads – 100 Greatest Artists. [online] Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-artists-of-all-time-19691231/talking-heads-20110426 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Staff, N. (2011). The Golden Age of MTV — And Yes, There Was One. [online] NPR.org. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/06/141991877/the-golden-age-of-mtv-and-yes-there-was-one [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Tannenbaum, R. and Marks, C. (2016). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. 1st ed. [ebook] Penguin, pp.2,3. Available at: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=zrBolXPYq40C&pg=RA1-PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Thomas Erlewine, S. (2016). Talking Heads | Biography & History | AllMusic. [online] AllMusic. Available at: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/talking-heads-mn0000131650/biography [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

 

 

David Byrne: Not Just Another Talking Head

Facts, Opinions and Freedom of Speech

Don’t get me wrong, social media is brilliant. The manner in which it’s managed to reshape how we view communication is extraordinary. At the same time, it’s managed to skew the ideas we have, as a society, of fact, opinion, and freedom of speech.

From an honest standpoint, I’m one in the boat that facts are the most integral parts of the way the world works. Facts make up the basis of what we believe, of what we can trust, and of what we have the right to say.

I have no qualms with people expressing controversial opinions, in fact I encourage people to give opinions that might not be viewed in perfect light; but opinions need to be based on fact.

For instance, I can’t go around saying that everyone who will vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination is stupid. To do that, I would need definitive proof that every single individual who cast a vote was lacking in intelligence, or lacking in common sense. As someone who does not have the means to prove that that was the case, I would not say it.

People will disagree with me, saying that freedom of speech allows them to say what they want. That’s not the case. Freedom of speech allows any individual to express opinion or expression without interference, yes. What people don’t realise, is that no one will be subjected to treatment that is degrading (degrading being defined as causing a loss of self-respect; humiliation or degrade being to treat poorly or without respect).

What does this all mean? Well, in simple terms, if I call all Trump voters stupid it breaches their right to not be treated in a degrading manner, the insult having the ability to both A) damage self-respect, B) Humiliate and C) disrespect. This quite comprehensively breaches their rights to articles 18, 19 and 21 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

If it was fact that 100% of people who support trump fit the categorical definition of stupid, then there would be no degradation, because no argument could be made that it was damaging, humiliating or disrespectful, because it was an opinion based on a statement of fact.

Before people start thinking their opinions fit the bill of freedom of speech, realise that your freedom can not breach the rights of someone else, or to quote the commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. And yes, everyone is your neighbour.

Facts, Opinions and Freedom of Speech

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

If you ask me, or value my opinion at all, I’ll tell you that live theatre is going through one of the strongest resurgences of any art form. Yes, I can hear you telling me that vinyl has been *insert adverb here* successful since the hipsters emerged from their niche coffee holes, or that hard copies of books are wanted more and more by the day (because you can’t turn the pages of a tablet), but to me, that’s not as strong a resurgence.

What makes me believe (in my fairly limited yet highly opinionated manner) that live theatre is trying its hardest to be recognised as a legitimate and plentiful art form is purely down to the fact that it’s had to shake itself up. Books keep being books, even though we have kindle. Music keeps being music whether it’s digital or on vinyl. Theatre, however, seemed like it was falling into the trap of Shakespeare revival after Shakespeare butchery after Shakespeare musical. Indie films were taking all the glory of being a bit different and pushing the boundaries, but theatre, ESPECIALLY that of more alternative production houses has taken it one step further, and made it even better (here’s looking at you La Boîte)

You might have read the last thing I posted (yeah, sorry about that. Life gets int he way of things sometimes) and wondered if there was anything else Jake Connor Moss couldn’t make gratuitously real. Well, he did it to theatre as well.

Despite the name, “Is there Pussy in Heaven” is a one-man show that talks about far more than merely sex in the clouds, well, for the most part. Following a very similar trend to much of his published works, it delves into the oft taboo areas of mental health (yes guys, it does in fact exist), drugs, abuse, suicide and sex, and doesn’t hold back. The story loosely follows a main male protagonist dealing with life. No spoilers, theres a beautiful cohesive and ultimately revealing plot to the show.

As a one man show, you’d think it would be hard to define distinct characters, have a setting, a coherent plot, however Moss is just that good that nothing seemed out of place. First an foremost, the acting chops he showed were immense. He tackled various subtle and emotional characters and came out looking like Gary Oldman in each instance. He played obscenely exaggerated caricatures and made them fit without being cliched or over the top. Having written these characters and the related script himself, you’d expect him to know what he was doing, and he didn’t disappoint. The simplicity of both the costuming and the set design worked just as well to compliment the material. A hat, a few chairs, a pair of glasses and a desk was all he needed to set a scene that (bar a few references to Brisbane locales) could be inserted into virtually any western setting. Couple that with the lighting – all impressively manually worked – to prompt a scene change or change in P.O.V so succinct even Tarantino would have been impressed with the fluidity of the acting and the script, and you have a formula for solo success.

But really, the characters, the setting, the costumes and the lights were nothing compared to the pure, unadulterated piece of realism genius that was the script. I repeat a lot of what I mentioned in his Sooky Cunts book review,  that having an unapologetic and raw outlook to some usually untouchable ideas is just what we need. However the witty comedy, the make-you-cry monologues, the dirty jokes and the overarching story and plot twist were just so, so good that really, I can’t think of what more to say. The balance of comedy and drama was precise, giving you a hint of comic relief right when you needed it but not overshadowing the messages of what help really means. The anecdotes provides allow the audience to connect with a hard to grasp concept even if they can’t relate it to personal experience, and that’s something that doesn’t happen all too often. The way Moss embodies the words that he’s saying, whoever is saying them, whatever the situation, draws it back to the reality of the speech. The script has so coherently showed us that anyone can have issues. Anyone can be on the brink. Anyone can put on a mask. So don’t assume.

Yes, he’s done it again. Jake’s woo-d me with realism and freedom of expression just as I endeavour to freely express myself, no matter what. Not only that, but from both a critical and emotional opinion, works like this could very well change the dynamic and medium of modern theatre. I sincerely hope it does.

– AJ Lienert

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

Jake Connor Moss – Sooky Cunts Review

Let’s start off with a simple score, because those people who want to read this whole thing will, but some people want to see the opinion and leave. Quick and easy.

 

8.5/10. Or 4.25/5, because those smaller numbers look better.

 

I’ve put off reviewing my first book for a long while, not entirely sure why, but after reading sooky cunts by Jake Connor Moss I had to write it. Truth be told, until around a month ago I hadn’t the foggiest idea of who JCM even was. My partner and our best mate were talking about some book launch at Rocking Horse Records, and the term sooky cunts came up. I was completely lost. A couple of weeks passed, and Fawn ended up buying sooky cunts and one of his previous books trinder park, thus introducing me to this Brisbane independent artist.

 

I didn’t know what to expect, the name didn’t give an awful lot away, and the only thing I had to go by was the monochromatic cover art and a brief (however perfectly descript) blurb. What I finished reading in a matter of hours was perhaps the most uniquely and powerfully crafted novels I’ve read in years. The use of poems telling a fragmented story akin to a Tarentino film (both plot wise and language wise) is a masterclass in structure. It never takes you anywhere you don’t need to go, even the most seemingly inane poems end up providing an insight into the slowly decaying mind of one of the most purely realised human characters of any novel I’ve read. The coupling of abstract scribblings, sometimes poignantly eerie and other times exquisitely comical (everyone needs comic relief) is yet another tick in the creative genius box. There’s no romantic prose, there’s no overblown Tolkein imagery, and there’s no punches that aren’t thrown.

 

That’s the selling point of this work, the extreme realism. Connor Moss has no qualms with boldly and brashly tackling the most taboo subjects, and it’s refreshing. All too often do artists shy away from sex, drugs, rape, mental health, domestic abuse or violence, but in the world we live in these things do actually happen. Shock horror, I know. Look up from your tumblr once in awhile and realise the world actually does  exist, and you’re ignoring the bad things. Life is full of ups and downs, and sooky cunts puts in in a relatable pair of shoes. The narrator is the furthest thing from perfect, and that’s why I trust him so much. No one wants to heed words from Mr Darcy, because there is no real life Darcy (sorry Hugh).

 

However the novel isn’t perfect. For some readers it could provide triggers, or come across as grossly insensitive, but that is life sometimes. There’s also very little traditional structure, and as clever as it is, some of the characters get unneededly lost where some of them could have provided some more needed companionship to our antihero. It gets a bit muddled, and at times it’s even hard to know who the other names are, they seem like hastily added monikers given to avoid any more character description. This does work with the lonely, drugged themes of the poetic work, however it left me having to think more about who these names were rather than the profound themes of the poems.

 

Even so, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who has an artistic bone in their body. And a strong stomach. It’s not light, but it’s sure as hell a fantastic piece of expression.

 

Oh, and watch out for the final couple of pages. It’s remarkable.

 

-AJ Lienert

Jake Connor Moss – Sooky Cunts Review

When Good Bands Go Bad

Musicians live in one of the most cutthroat and competitive worlds one can possibly inhabit, yet there’s still an oversaturation of them; musicians and bands keep coming and coming. If there’s something to be said about musicians, is that they’re a clan, a family, a tribe. This nature makes them more valuable to each other than money or businessmen do, or ever will. Need a place to crash? Ask a musician friend, they’ve probably been there too. Need equipment for a gig? The band before or after will have no qualms about lending it to you. Need to try and make a break, start playing shows in bigger venues? Other musicians will be there for you, trying to do as much as they can. Unlike any other industry out there, the music industry is one of connections and giving instead of wheeling and dealing.

So that offers up the question, why do so many bands have unceremonious lineup changes through their history? Your favourite bands have probably had some sort of shift, just mention Northlane to any teenager nowadays and they’ll argue to the death about which frontman is better. Look at the storm that ensued when Queen toured with Adam Lambert instead of Freddie Mercury. Given, Mercury had been gone for a while and was replaced with another strapping young gay man with incredible vocals, so not all bad. But then you take a look at the big ones. The Clash, in 1982 they were on top of the world, the smash London Calling 3 years past and Rock the Casbah having just peaked in the U.S top 10, with the connected album Combat Rock going 2x Platinum. Topper Headon (Drums) had already been sacked prior to the alClash_21051980_12_800bums release due to a heroin addiction, but that’s not the worst of it. In 1983 founding members Mick Jones and Joe Strummer had had enough of each other, and Strummer promptly kicked Jones out of the band. Jones, who had convinced Strummer to give the punk band a shot, was no longer a member. Following this was the critical and commercial flop of Cut the Crap, thus cementing the end of ‘the only band that mattered’. From friends who shared the same views and love for music to the end of one of the greatest band ever, it doesn’t seem worth it, especially in the music industry. This is only one example, but Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers into blur and Oasis have had their careers all but ruined by needless chopping and changing of lineups. In a world where music should mean more to people than the money they make from it, why are there so many changes?

We need to take a step back. When music is one of the most powerful tools one has to produce something, express something and feel something, why do we not take into account friendship, mateship and our personal relationships with other musicians as much as we should. From a personal standpoint, music and friendship are two of the strongest forces in this world, so why throw one, or both for that matter for no reason. We’re a band of brother and sisters, not a group that fights it out and tries to compete with others for the sake of it. Come on muso’s, we’re better than that. At least some of us can be.

-AJH

When Good Bands Go Bad

Top 10 Multiple Melody Masterpieces (Well, a personal opinion)

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Top 10 Songs With Multiple Distinct Melodies

For something a little different, here’s an homage to those songs that get stuck in your head, then get stuck in your head for a second time due to their brilliant ability to craft multiple memorable melodies.

10. Paranoid Android – Radiohead

This is so low (along with the next 3 songs) due to the fact it’s technically in parts, which makes it slightly less impressive, but still an incredible melodic masterclass

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF8khJ7P4Wg

9. A Day In The Life – The Beatles

Another in the same boat is this wonderful Beatles track, with one of the most memorable bridges in music history

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-Q9D4dcYng

8. You and Me – Damon  Albarn ft. Brian Eno

There’ll be a theme of Damon in this list (purely because of personal bias) but this is another 2 part song, the second melody towards the end is as catchy as it is emotional

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7XdqfD9xSY

7. Sunset – Kate Bush

One you may not have heard, but this 6 minute long gem has a gorgeous up tempo melody change towards the end of the song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqBOJUeGJCk

6. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

Don’t believe me? Just listen. The verses have a hook, the pre-chorus has a hook, this whole song is hook after distinct hook. Pop gold.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0

5. With or Without You – U2

We all know and sing the title lyric time and again, but the repeated hook of “and you give yourself away” is perhaps even more catchy to those who know the tune

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmSdTa9kaiQ

4. Sweet Song – blur

A sad song by Damon about sacked guitarist Graham Coxon, and the verses have a beautiful melodic quality, but it jumps to a new level once we hit the conclusion of the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSq6P-WeFSg

3. The Lady Don’t Mind – Talking Heads

David Byrne has proven himself to be a musical genius, and this hodge-podge of sounds and noise is glorious, but the nerd in every music lover can do nothing but admire the 2 or 3 completely addictive vocal melodies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3WdLZGMeqA

2. Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz

Surprise, Damon again. This time it’s a well known song, with the rapped lyrics being melodic, the bass line and “feel good” are even more so, and the slower soft interlude is the icing on the cake. Perfection

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8Qp38qT-xI

1. Girls on the Avenue – Richard Clapton

This was the inspiration for this list, it’s quite marvellous. From line to line in the chorus the melody changes, and the verse is just as catchy. A bit of a golden oldie but catchy as anything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kknV4BRq8yU

-AJ Lienert

Top 10 Multiple Melody Masterpieces (Well, a personal opinion)