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Byrne, David

music dance album composer

Byrne, David, Scottish–born American musician; b. Dumbarton, May 14, 1952. He was taken to the U.S. when he was 6. In 1970–71 he attended the R.I. School of Design, where he developed his dominant conviction that dance, song, instrumental music, drama, and cinema were parts of a total art. As his own medium he selected modern dance music and vocal works, stretching in style from folk music to rock. He frequented the popular cabarets and dance halls of N.Y., where he absorbed the essence of urban folklore and the rhythmic ways of natural musicians. He joined the group Talking Heads in 1975 as lead singer, guitarist, and composer, which made a specialty of exotic rhythms, especially Caribbean dance tunes, merengue, salsa, bomba, and cha–cha; from Colombia they took cambia; from Brazil, the classical samba. Much of the music that Byrne concocts of these elements is multilingual; one of his albums is titled Speaking in Tongues (1983). Byrne also favors African sounds, such as that of the Nigerian juju. The titles of his own songs are fashionably nonsensical, e.g., “Stop Making Sense,” which seems to make plenty of sense to his public. He is an accomplished guitarist, and as a performer displays unbounded physical energy, allowing himself a free voice that ranges from a hiccup to a cry, while urging the accompanying chorus to intone such anarchistic declarations as “Don’t Want to Be Part of Your World” The devotion that Byrne has for modern dance is exemplified by the remarkable score he wrote for The Catherine Wheel, choreographed by Twyla Tharp; it possesses the widely differing ingredients of new–wave rock and spiritual soul music, masculine and rough on the one hand and elegiac and devotional on the other. The resulting complex has also the additional element of African percussion. Taken as a whole, it represents a synthesis of urban beat and a largely unrelated Eastern rhythms. Talking Heads disbanded in 1989. His 1989 album, Rei Momo (promoted in concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the New Music America Festival), consists of songs that, backed by a 16–piece band, combine Latin and pop styles. In 1992 he brought out the succesful album Uh–Oh . It was followed by his David Byrne album in 1994. There is a hypnopompic quality in his inspiration as a composer, asymptotically lying in both reality and irreality, like a half–waking state.

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