I’ve been reading/feeding on HOW MUSIC WORKS by David Byrne. He is the kind of writer that has a lot to say about a smattering of everything music or musical. I have been telling my friends about one chapter in particular—How to Create a Scene, which deals with how to create a space for people to create.
We all know art centers that feel dead, while across town on the wrong side of the tracks all the cool people are hanging out and making it fresh, making it alive. They’re all broke and struggling yet there is a there there.
Suffice it to say one of his main points was that on the Lower East side in the Village around the Bowery in the early to mid-70s RENT WAS CHEAP. Yeah, affordable housing tends to draw the starving artist, creating clusters of young people fresh out of art school seriously trying to make it. Places like Wicker Park, Logan Square (used to be) are.
Anyway, reading Byrne reminded me of his film True Stories which for me was a real touchstone. My friends and everyone I knew could recite whole sections of the movie. A dropped reference was immediately caught. Quoting dialogue became shorthand, expressing stuff I/we were thinking about. It’s amazing how validated one can feel—we always knew the suburbs were stupid and ran screaming from the malls and here was someone, the unidentified cowboy in the LeBaron convertible telling us we were right.
My favorite character was the lying woman. Her personal narrative was full of all sorts of crazy. A lot like the log lady in Twin Peaks.
I remember watching True Stories in a roomful of people because a lot of us back in the early 80s still didn’t have our own TV. Watching True Stories was a communal experience and I can only remember through that communal filter—how we are laughed because we totally got it—people like us, who answer the phone. People like us, now middle-aged, graying, balding, slumping, back pain, sugar spikes, falling asleep in our chair GROWING AS BIG AS A HOUSE. We don’t want freedom, we don’t justice, we just need someone to love.
Thank you David Byrne for the fantastic insights delivered in True Stories.