Several of Running After My Hat‘s regular commenthood are overhauling what “home” means to them:
Nance — and Mr. Mature, of course — are caught up in readying their house for a (dearly longed-for) sale. Marta — amongst writing a flash-fiction story every day this month, and competitive skating, and teaching, and the gods know what else — has moved with her family into their first house, with all the attendant packing and unpacking, inspections, signings of documents, painting, arranging and re-arranging, and re-assessment of what counts (and how much). And in a turn almost unimaginable, at least to me — having followed his blog for four years — Brit ex-pat Froog prepares to leave China altogether, bound for… Lithuania? Uruguay? parts unknown (but presumably with no shortage of watering holes)?
From At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson:
Houses are amazingly complex repositories. What I found, to my great surprise, is that whatever happens in the world — whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over — eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house. Wars, famines, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment — they are all there in your sofas and chests of drawers, tucked into the folds of your curtains, in the downy softness of your pillows, in the paint on your walls and the water in your pipes. So the history of household life isn’t just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has happened. Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.
This record was born as a dinner conversation. While dining in New York with David and some other friends, I mentioned that I had accumulated a lot of music, which, despite my intentions, I had never formed into songs. David volunteered to give them a try…
Upon starting this project, we quickly realized we were making something like electronic gospel, music in which singing becomes the central event, but whose sonic landscapes are atypical of such vocal-centered tracks.
David Byrne himself adds:
The challenge was more emotional than technical: to write simple, heartfelt tunes without drawing on cliché. The results, in many cases, are uplifting, hopeful, and positive, even though some lyrics describe cars exploding, war, and similarly dark scenarios.
These songs have elements of our previous work — no surprise there — but something new has emerged here as well. Where does the sanguine and heartening tone come from, particularly in these troubled times? …some of my lyrics and melodies were a response to what I sensed lay buried in the music. My task was to bring forth into language what was originally non-verbal. In the end, we have made something together that neither of us could have made on our own.
This particular number, I think, doesn’t fall quite into the “electronic gospel” genre. There’s a nearly martial, rolling-snare-drum effect which plays well behind Byrne’s vocals, and that voice verges on strident. But the lyrics speak of both the universal and the deeply personal meanings of home. Especially when the song is overlaid (as here) by dozens of still photos of dozens of types of houses, it’s easy to imagine an utterly different performance: solo, acoustic, nothing at all electronic — a plucked string fastened at one end in the present day and at the other, deep in history.