Dissertation Index

Author: Steenstra, Sytze G.

Title: We Are The Noise Between Stations: A philosophical exploration of the work of David Byrne, at the crossroads of popular media

Institution: Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Begun: unspecified

Completed: June 2003


"We Are The Noise Between Stations" first of all offers an overview of the work of New York-based artist David Byrne (1952), emphasizing its conceptual and theoretical underpinnings. Byrne has produced an extensive and truly heterogeneous oeuvre. In the 1970's and 80's he gathered worldwide fame as singer and artistic leader of the pop group Talking Heads. Next to that, he collaborated with leading artists such as theatre maker Robert Wilson, visual artist Joseph Kosuth, theatre groups Mabou Mines and the Wooster Group, composer/producer Brian Eno, and many others. Apart from his popular music Byrne directed feature films as well as an anthropological documentary, collaborated in theatrical projects, showed photography in galleries and museums, makes books, and manages his own record label Luaka Bop, which presents the worldwide diversity of contemporary pop music. Characteristic for all these media is that Byrne does not approach them as a means for individual expression, but as miniature 'Gesamtkunstwerke,' as meeting ground for different forms of artistic mimesis. Byrne's work functions in the popular mass media, where every product, whether a film script, a clip, or a song, has to comply with strict formal standards of unity and direct recognition. Nevertheless, it successfully applies within these formats the methods that were developed in conceptual art and in performance theatre: methods of experimenting with accepted mimetic standards, and of developing a reflexive perspective on these standards.

Keywords: popular music, reflexivity, mimesis, performance theory, conceptual art, Gesamtkunstwerk, anthropology, poetics, philosophy


1 Introduction

Part I: Conceptual work in the mass media
2 Music as a mimetic arena
3 Film and performance theatre
4 Anthropology and music
5 Photography and books

Part II: Theories of performance
6 Exploring the foundations of performance
7 Performance theory in the theatre
8 The anthropology of performance

Part III: A poetics of reflexivity
9 Towards a philosophy of mimesis
10 The model of early Romanticism
11 Benjamin and Adorno on the myths in modernity
12 The Gesamtkunstwerk as laboratory


dr S.G. Steenstra
Faculty of Arts and Culture, Universiteit Maastricht
P. O. Box 616
6200 MD Maastricht
phone: [00]32-43-3882525

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