I Love Lamp

A little while ago (I guess a bit more than that, actually), I saw David Byrne live in concert. I had a couple of "take-aways" from the concert to which I can honestly ascribe any sort of coherence. 1) David Byrne is, and will always will be, the only adult male I have ever encountered who can make pretenses at profundity while wearing an all - white, windbreaker, pant-suit. 2) I don't actually really know anything about modern, lyrical dance and choreography.

As both of these realizations are probably of little- to- no interest for anyone who is not my mom, I felt the need to do a bit of "youtube digging" in order to remind myself why I personally originally found meaning in Byrne's various performance-based intellectual inquiries. For this reason, and through some direction offered to me by a friend of mine, I draw your attention to an interview Byrne held sometime in the 1980's. (You should be able to find it at the end of this piece).

While this interview is chock- full of alternating sweet and savoury kernels of goodness, one of the quotes that particularly struck me is when the interviewer (Byrne the Interviewer) asks Byrne the Musician something like "Hey man. Why don't you write more love- songs?" To which Byrne replies, slowly, "Well, love is a rather big topic. I like to write songs about smaller things. Like tables. Or this lamp. That's why I wrote a love song. To a lamp." I'm paraphrasing, and certainly incorrectly, but I think you get the idea.

I like that. I wish it didn't take a whole paragraph of my insulting David Byrne in order for me to be able to even get to my point, but at least I remember why I keep going. Back to Byrne.

So here we go. Dealing with big ideas as opposed to small ideas in order to feel some level of closure when you finish dealing with them (ugh, I don't even want to read that sentence, it sounded ugly even in my head). Moving on. Big Ideas are beautiful, but, at the end of the day, it's important to feel as though you have done justice to the idea you are presenting to the world. Hence the reason why musicians practice the same scales and arpeggios hours and hours a day for years and years- to master one small technique. The beauty comes when that one small technique can be applied to a great many purposes. Hence the reason why algebra is the intellectual basis for the Calculus. Hence the reason why, in order to attempt to begin to understand the rather overwhelming topic of "Love," with a capital "L," one might begin by writing a love serenade for something rather "small" and domestic and, seemingly, the opposite of "romantic"- say, a lamp.

The generalities of this minor conclusion could be profound, or they could be like advice from old people- you don't really know what they are talking about, but you trust that whatever they are saying is coming from a place of experience and basically good intentions. It appears that Byrne's stated propensity to seek out and address smaller, more "manageable" (dare we say- domesticized?) topics is perhaps less simpleminded or straightforward than one might think.

Originally hearing the quotation, I took it at face value. I took it at face value, meaning that I assumed that there is such a thing as "smaller" or "bigger" ideas, and that the level of sophistication and complexity required to address such ideas must be therefore proportionate to the enormity of the question, or the idea, at hand. Simply put, the bigger the idea being dealt with, the more complicated it is going to be to break it down and master it. Regardless of whether or not this concept is even true, which I obviously don't know, I don't even know if I agree with it. And this is the gaping abyss, or the 'old people advice,' that Byrne opens up to us as he casually tosses up that (small) nugget of sticky - sweet goodness in his interview. But it's only a beginning.

And with that beginning to a small thought abruptly ended, this is the end of the beginning...


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