I can’t Sleep

talking-heads-remain-in-light-1980Chalk it up to a number of things. Election results. Flying to the east coast the weekend Daylight Savings Time ended. A court date yesterday N & I spent a very long time preparing for. I fell asleep (maybe? never clear whether I was out or just trying to be) past 1:30 last night and woke up for no good reason at 4:00. Around 5:30 I got out of bed and went to read on the couch.

Right now it’s 8:15.

These days I’m reading a biography of Talking Heads. David Byrne has been a hero of mine at least as far back as my senior year of high school, when I wrote about him and Warhol and Picasso in a college application essay. The movie he directed, True Stories, and the overall embrace of pop culture that it and his music presented which somehow also made room for critiquing it,[x] is what helped me see DeLillo’s White Noise as a feeble thing written with the critical acumen of a dull pencil when assigned it in graduate school.

Talking Heads’ story is a sad one about three art school friends, two of whom get married after the third serially ditches them for collaborators he’s more excited by. Where I am in the book is they just put out Remain in Light, which is both their most collaboratively created record and the one (if their biographer is to be believed) with the skeeviest denial of credit-giving. Tina and Chris did the cover up at MIT, but all the credit went to the design firm that laid out the liner notes. After agreeing on a “Songs by” credit with all four members + Eno in alphabetical order, the first pressing said, “All songs by David Byrne, Brian Eno, and Talking Heads.” Even, you can see up there, their faces are masked.

It’s not my favorite of their records,[y] but it’s the one I’ve been listening to the most these days. I don’t have a point in this post. I just need to wake up to get my day started. I need to read students’ thesis work closely enough to understand what it’s trying to do and come up with constructive tips for revision. This is a kind of collaborative work.

I have periodically in the past collaborated with writers and artists. The Cupboard was created with the idea of being an anonymous collaborating collective, but that iteration never took off. What I like about collaboration is making something that’s mine and yet new to me, that’s something I wouldn’t’ve been able to make, stuck as I am in my own brain.

It is, though, a vulnerable place to put myself in. To have another person negate a thing I added in the pursuit of creation is scary, and when it happens it hurts and makes me feel stupider than I am. I imagine it’s like co-parenting a child. Maybe collaboration is a way to grow up.

I’m led, in the Heads biography, to sympathize with Tina Weymouth, who seemed only to want to make art with her friends for the rest of her life. Is it a form of arrested development? There’s a tie between collaboration and open relationships I could make if I were better rested.

Right now “Listening Wind” is about to end. Byrne is singing about the wind in his heart and the dust in his head. Once again he’s saying it better than I can.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. “I discovered that it’s more fun to like things, that you can kind of like things and still be gently critical, without blind acceptance,” Byrne told Time in 86.
  2. That would be More Songs About Buildings and Food.

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