Sounds, not Words: Same as it Ever WAs

CNN– David Byrne is fascinated by sounds, not words.

The former Talking Heads front man, who has spent decades writing and performing eclectic-sounding music, takes a realistic approach to song lyrics.

“People ignore them half the time,” he said.

It’s the unique sounds he hopes listeners will remember.

“In a certain way, it’s the sound of the words, the inflection and the way the song is sung and the way it fits the melody and the way the syllables are on the tongue that has as much of the meaning as the actual, literal words,” he said.

Byrne’s latest collection of sounds, an album called “Here Lies Love” that is a collaboration with Fatboy Slim, debuts Tuesday. Byrne met up with CNN at the recent TED Conference in Long Beach, California, a gathering of the world’s big thinkers sponsored by TED, a nonprofit group dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.”

Since Talking Heads called it quits in the early 1990s, Byrne has worked on numerous solo and collaborative music projects, as well as art installations, subway posters and a book, “Bicycle Diaries,” which is about biking through the world’s major cities.

In the CNN interview, a fidgety Byrne said he’s optimistic about the future of music, despite the fact that the Internet has shaken up the recording industry.

“Music is as healthy as it’s ever been, maybe even more so,” he said.

Byrne said he never intended to become a professional musician; he just wanted to play music for the joy and fun of it.

As a kid, he was inspired by a version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” played by the Byrds that he heard on the radio.

“The sound of it — it was the sound that struck me,” he said. “I’d never heard anything like that before in my life. … Somehow, it was shocking to me.”

These days, he’s more likely to turn to the Internet for new music recommendations, which he says are much easier to come by than in the past.

“I don’t listen to the radio very much,” he said, “but that could be because I don’t have a car.”

I have been saying this for years, but didn’t know someone as well-known, and as good at music, as David Byrne thought the same. Sung words are part of the sound of a piece of music to me. The actual meaning of the words, their import, almost not important at all.

Here’s a wonderful vocal piece, sung by Geoffrey Oryema, in his native Ugandan language, Acholi. I don’t have any idea what he’s saying, but it’s lovely:

I can’t resist. More Oryema, more Acholi. Market Day:

He also sounds good in English. Nomad:

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2 responses to “Sounds, not Words: Same as it Ever WAs

  • Laurie B

    “Do not hide your face from me when I feel sad”.
    Thanks for sharing Geoffrey Oryema with me.
    Safe travels, friend.

  • Laurie B

    I agree, the music is subtext. The words, the poetry, and the voice carry the emotion and message.

    David Byrne is brilliant but delivers “dis-ishness” to my life, discourse, dis-resonence, strife, upset brain patterns, life is noisy enough. I’m aware of that but he drives it home.

    Thanks again for sharing the voice and resonance of Geoffrey Oryema.

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