David Byrne, Choir! Choir! Choir!, David Bowie, “Heroes”: Metamodern?

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Here’s one that we want to call metamodern, and yet are challenged to explain why it is metamodern. David Byrne  is a guest participant in this Choir! Choir! Choir! performance of David Bowie’s ““Heroes”.” What Choir! Choir! Choir! does is teach audiences – with no required background in music – to sing fairly complex choral arrangements of popular songs, usually within the space of a couple hours. The performances are professionally recorded and video’d to be shared on the web.

While this video/project is, we feel, sweet, moving and uplifting, that alone is not enough to qualify something as metamodern. Here’s what might be pushing us to put in that category, however:  The structure is postmodernly disruptive of the expected artist-audience relationship, while delivering a feeling of unity through its – in a sense – modernist message. And then there’s the fact that this powerfully earnest delivery (of a song whose original version many hear as ironic) is provided by David Byrne, who for at least part of the hey day of his band Talking Heads could well have been described as an avatar of postmodern ironic distance*. The braiding of these seemingly opposed sensibilities is a hallmark of metamodern work, in this case serving to give expression to the interior felt experience of both audience and performer. Metamodern? Probably? Beautiful and boldly cathartic? Definitely.

*And yet, of course, certain Talking Heads songs like “Creatures of Love” and “And She Was” – well, just about all of Little Creatures (1985) or True Stories (1986) seem so dang proto-metamodern but we’re not going to deal with that right now, except to say that Talking Heads were always ahead of the curve.


For more on thoughts on metamodern reclamations of ‘felt experience’ in music, check out our earlier posts on CocoRosie or Bill Murray and Paul Shaffer’s “Happy Street”.

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