In David's Words

From Brilliant Trees through Died In The Wool...

In David's Words

Postby Blemished on Wed Jan 13, 2016 8:54 pm

Some fascinating posts from David on Facebook (copied via the ever-excellent Davidsylvian.net) - he seems to be responding more to comments / questions at the moment.

On January 12th 2016 Eric Doyle wrote: does an occurrence such as this inspire you to revisit the past at all?

David Sylvian: not at all. i'm neither nostalgic nor do i find it constructive to look back / reflect, quite the reverse really.

Eric Doyle: I admire that position but, also find it upsetting. I discovered your work just as you began to go solo. Loved the later band work and loved the early solo material. I found it more and more difficult to understand where you were going with your music and as much as I'd like to say I love it all, I do find some of it hard to get my head around (cue everyone giving me a hard time!). I will end my days wishing I'd seen you perform the pieces that I really loved but, it will never happen. I did see you in Glasgow with robert fripp and that will stay with me forever. There hundreds of thousands of us that would love to see you playing the early works. I don't mean these comment negatively at all, its just that for 30 odd years ive been returning to music that i find really special and to know that the man who wrote them and performed them is still living in music but wont play them again sometimes makes me feel low. No bad comments from the fans please, I am a fan, have been for most of my life. I just miss the early material and get jealous when I hear of friends going to see bands that they loved and hearing the songs that make them smile.

David Sylvian: no offence taken. i’ve got to move on eric. it's a creative necessity for me or I'd stop making music entirely. this stand regarding my past is frequently misconstrued as a form of distancing, disownment, and/or dislike, but this is far from the case. what one does in any given period of one's life, regarding work, or any other aspect, doesn't necessarily resonate in the next. artists (lowercase) of all stripes should be allowed to mature and move on. we ask this of our writers, playwrights, auteurs, visual artists, and so on, but with music of all stripes we frequently ask for comfort, some form of nostalgia, to relive and recall moments we love(d), inspire(d) us. music and memory frequently overlapping. I get it. I personally don't choose to listen back to all that I've learnt from or enjoyed in the past, nor to my own works. I'm not certain I'd ever tour again but, if I were to, there's no telling what the content of such a tour would be. Much would depend on frame of mind and context.

Carl Franklin: You are an artist, David. Art isn't about standing still or liking back or making people happy. Don't stop innovating even if some of your works may leave people behind. I think in your own, quiet way you have broken so much ground and pioneered so much and I'm thankful for what you've given us. It's been a wonderful part of my life for 37 years. Best wishes.

Eric Doyle @ Carl Franklin: Hi Carl, my point was coming purely from the perspective of someone standing in the audience and buying music from someone they admire because they like it. You say art isnt about making people happy....Im not sure I agree. Surely art is something you make for people to admire or critique, whether is physical or musical (?) If not, why is is sold with merchandise and websites and staff. If I make it for myself, its for me and nobody else gets to hear it, if I put it out there for people to buy, then they can comment. Gone to Earth means as much to me as my favourite pictures and films. I still look at the old pictures and watch the old films, not to be nostalgic or hang on to the past, but because I think they are great and they make me feel good. David Sylvians early work makes a lot of people feel good in that way, as does his new material. I just dont think there is anything wrong with the occasional look over the shoulder, or tug of the forelock, to the past, especially when the material is so good. I would travel around the world to hear tracks from 'gone to earth', 'secrets of the beehive', Alchemy, Brilliant Trees and so on. Would it be even better with some interpretations of Japan material? of course. Im not sure I would go to that effort for the latest material, does that make me less of a fan? Are you telling me that any David Sylvian fan wouldn't love to hear him sing Methods of Dance, Red Guitar, Ain't that peculiar? Its a good thing we can have these discussions. Ive been a fan for over 30 years and its rare you can have constructive debate as there aren't many of us about!! All the best, Eric

David Sylvian @ Eric Doyle: An indirect response: art is an act of communication, an attempt to communicate something real, possibly of cultural significance to 'now' (yes, the failure rate is high but still the attempt, if not consciously, should be made). Art isn't about pleasure unless you derive pleasure from the challenge to your own prejudices / biases / conceptions etc. see the comment posted below re: boulez and the resulting exchange. Music and memory have the good / mis-fortune, depending upon how you apply it in your life, to overlap. This often leads to a yearning for a repeat experience of that epiphanic moment of hearing a work for the first time (many are in constant search of this via work of a similar nature to that which gave them the 'high' in the first instance), a simple comforting pleasure of enjoying something you've always loved or liked, and/ or good old nostalgia. I fully recognize and appreciate that this is how many (most?) people listen to and derive pleasure from past work. The "feel good" element. I'd hope it's obvious I've no disrespect for anyone that enjoys listening to music in this fashion, we're all prone to using music in this way, one of its many diverse functions. But as one of the arts, music does have a higher function, a responsibility, to wake us from such easy options, to challenge our preconceptions, at least from time to time, or perhaps from particular artists from whom you've come to expect and desire that provocation or (dis)engagement. We respect this aspect in relation to most of the arts but many ask music be exempt from this responsibility because of personal attachment, because it most certainly can be comforting to tap into the known, the purely pleasurable. (ask modern classical composers how difficult it is to have their work heard / performed when someone such as Mozart still has the greater power to draw an audience). As someone who creates music (some might not even allow me to use that term in relation to recent releases) I can only pursue what interests me. This DOESN'T preclude the writing of songs in the traditional sense. Nine Horses is one such example and, although it's primarily viewed as a compilation (only), Sleepwalkers collects many recent songs that were written concurrently with albums such as manafon. The argument that I, or people working in areas that fall outside of traditional songwriting, have abandoned melody, or some such notion, really don't have the faintest idea what their talking about. It's a lazy, knee jerk, reaction to something they'll not give the necessary time required to access the more complex melodies and structures therein. There are others out there making a living off giving the public what's wanted/expected of me. They imitate my voice to perfection and place it in a comforting context with tasteful concepts tacked on for bonus points. It's an extension of bootlegging really in that they perceive a gap in the market and provide what's missing. I'm not speaking of the young and impressionable, we were all that at one time, but older, cynical, practitioners who should know better. But it's out there should you wish to find it. If I'm given the opportunity to work again, I'll pursue both or all avenues of my work to date including traditional songwriting. They're aspect of the same body of work, they fuel and inform one another. I can only give, in sincerity, what it is I care about and I care immensely about communicating something that I personally consider of greater importance (as i say, cultural significance is probably more than one can aspire to but it's not a consideration when creating work, neither is a perceived audience as that, if you pause to think about it, is beyond patronising and certainly not conducive to the necessary notion of complete independence and liberty to pursue what is it that fascinates enough to produce the material ), above and beyond the given desires of an audience, not to undermine or dismay but in an attempt to give more than is asked. (requesting I write something in the vein of Beehive or anything other from the past, doesn't pose a difficulty per se, it's simply undesirable / unnecessary. They already exist and were of their time). If that's not enough for most, I embrace the fact it's not, there's nothing more I can offer. as for live performance, that's another subject entirely. thank you.


Personally I have no desire to hear David sing Methods of Dance or Ain't That Peculiar live, so don't really agree with Eric's comments above. But very interesting to see David respond so directly and in such detail. I really am glad that David won't look back. Seeing a lot of the retrospectives discussing David Bowie's work after his sad loss has rammed that home for me. Part of Bowie's greatness was the refusal to rest on his laurels.

Encouragingly, David S. seems to confirm a desire to create new music - but talking about if he gets the opportunity to work again is interesting and troubling. Seems like he would need to find support from a label. Would that involve unacceptable compromises? Losing the Samadhisound studio really was a blow to his ability to produce music.

Finally, and on another topic, I am still amazed that ALL of his post-Virgin material has vanished from iTunes - one would think there was some way of getting a residual form of distribution?
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Re: In David's Words

Postby svendutchmountains on Thu Jan 14, 2016 3:41 am

Thanks for posting this. It is great to see him take the time and respond in a full and very eloquent way... certainly a change from the past when he was perceived to be a grumpy hermit refusing to engage with fans!

Regarding the need for support to perform or record, I guess it is all a matter of cashflow. Projects like PTS, Houses, Kilowatt Hour are great artistically and fuel creative needs: but they do not bring in a lot of money. A project like The Kilowatt Hour costs a lot of money, and the small Italian tour which followed can at best have been break-even. It really annoyed me when people slammed him for `making an easy buck`when they clearly do not understand the economic reality (Hi Chad!)

Just try to do the math: flying to the US to record Franz recite his lines, getting Stephen and Christian Fennesz in a room for a number of days (including flights, hotels, meals, recording studio time), flying to Kristiansand with several people including all the luggage and instruments, rehearsals etc. Booking the venues in Italy, travelling around with the team (including hotel expenses etc). All this time there is no cash coming in. You are busy for 3-4 months with no directly related income. The only money coming in were derived from the 500+ tickets sold at each of the 4 Italian shows.

The recent compilations will have provided some buffer but still... Say that for PTS, once you subtract the costs of travelling to Norway for a week or two, hotel expenses, recording expenses, cost of the packaging and CD, record label costs etc he still makes a 50% profit - that is 50% of GBP 9! With a run of 1500 copies that is GBP 6750 pre-tax profit!

People fret about the cost of Hypergraphica - but just try to imagine the costing: the designing, the printing, binding, laminating, foil stamping, Chris Bigg`s time and travel to the printer in Italy etc... This is a 676 page book! It is not something that gets done in a few days - you busy with this one and off for months!

All in all, I guess I am glad I am not David`s accountant! But I can see where he needs to be able to pick and choose his projects carefully...
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Re: In David's Words

Postby baht habit on Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:22 am

Thanks Blemished

"The argument that I, or people working in areas that fall outside of traditional songwriting, have abandoned melody, or some such notion, really don't have the faintest idea what they're talking about. It's a lazy, knee jerk, reaction to something they'll not give the necessary time required to access the more complex melodies and structures therein."

Due to the freedom accorded him by an absence of rigid chord structures, Sylvian actually exhibited more melody in his vocals throughout projects such as Manafon & Died In The Wool.
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Tin Bird on Thu Jan 14, 2016 11:23 am

I suppose in some ways, but it's really just a matter of traditional song structures vs. abstract improv.... I appreciate that David seems understanding of people's nostalgia for his past work. I don't think it's fair to describe one as "easier' to get than the other though...just different....
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Blemished on Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:26 pm

What I like about what he says is that he is quite clear that he has to keep exploring new things to keep interested; that replicating past successes would be pointless and hollow and that he did what he could with each 'version' at the time. Money or the approval of others is not the motivation at all, just being able to communicate whatever impulse is driving him at the time. He's also clear that songs can emerge just as much as more abstract work.

I think he's trying to demolish this - dare I say it 'Chad'-like - idea that he has been wilfully obscure and just needs to turn the clock back to 9H or Beehive and then all will be well. He's not a nostalgia act nor someone who will try and repeat himself. I think that's a mark of his greatness as a musician.

I do worry about whether he can find the space and support to release again in the post-Chadwick/Samadhi era, but am really happy that he still sounds engaged with music and seems to have a desire to create more. I hoped Schoolhouse wouldn't be the end - does little for me compared to other recent work - and this gives hope that it won't be.
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Re: In David's Words

Postby silentwings on Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:42 pm

More was added:

Eric Doyle:
'David, sitting reading through your comments tonight got me thinking. You explained a lot of what you feel as an artist. What are your expectations/likes/hopes/fears/desires (if any) from the audience/fans?'

David Sylvian:
"Eric Doyle i don't have any expectations where audiences are concerned (and they do tend to change and evolve over time), outside of the wish, regardless of scale, to be heard. The desire to create something is married to the desire to communicate. To do that one needs another to receive, absorb, and respond. Obviously we wish to reach as many people as is possible but not at the cost of the material, therefore little or no dilution, whilst erasing elements that tend to obscure or serve no real purpose. The wish is to be eloquent. This should present the work at its most potent. The alternative is to be subject to the artist's notion of lowest common denominator. This is what I mean by patronising, to second guess what an audience is capable of taking on or comprehending.'
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” att to Jack Kerouac
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Tin Bird on Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:05 pm

Now that's some really good stuff right there. Spoken like a true (honest) artist. Great to hear him communicating... While I've always appreciated that his work is very much an inner journey, with his talent, voice, and experiences, he has so much to offer...I'm glad that he has chosen to open up a bit. I'm not sure that he truly understands the love that many of his fans have for him. With his work having been so personal, we have come to somewhat know him as a person...so the love for many of us is not superficial or based on his latest hairstyle...it is being in love with the man's heart.
When I cannot sing my heart...I can only speak my mind...
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Re: In David's Words

Postby inkinthewell on Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:11 pm

Excellent.
There's a thing that Eric Doyle writes that gets my brains whirring (not necessarily against him, nor in his favour, just whirring), and it's when he says: "Gone to Earth means as much to me as my favourite pictures and films. I still look at the old pictures and watch the old films, not to be nostalgic or hang on to the past, but because I think they are great and they make me feel good.[...] I just dont think there is anything wrong with the occasional look over the shoulder, or tug of the forelock, to the past, especially when the material is so good. I would travel around the world to hear tracks from 'gone to earth', 'secrets of the beehive', Alchemy, Brilliant Trees and so on." In a way, I agree with him, there's nothing wrong in looking back, but I don't need/want/expect/ask Sylvian (or anybody else) to "play" his old material when I go to see him live. I'm there for the experience.
Eric says that he watches the old films that he likes, because they make him feel good. Strangely, that seems not to apply to listening to old records: he needs to hear them live. Yet, I suppose he would never ask a film director (or a writer, or a painter), to make a particular film (or book, or painting) again; you just accept his new work as it comes and like it or not according to your feelings and to who you are. But when it comes to musicians, for some strange reason, people feel they have the right to expect they should play their old stuff. One can WISH it, of course (and a musician CAN do it, if he wants), but I don't get it when one feels cheated if it doesn't happen. It's as if musicians, unlike other artists, were buffoons, made to skip and jig at anyone's behest.

Tin Bird wrote:I'm not sure that he truly understands the love that many of his fans have for him.

Don't know. Sometimes a fan's love does not come out as intended and can be perceived as ungracious and rough. It depends a lot on the receiver. Maybe David is just the kind of guy who would better appreciate a "Hey!" and a knowing nod to a "Ohmygoditsdavidsylvian!!!" or "Dude, you changed my life/you're a genius."
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Tin Bird on Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:51 pm

I'm pretty sure I said something like "Dude, you changed my life/you're a genius" when I met him after the Slowfire show in DC. :oops:
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Re: In David's Words

Postby inkinthewell on Thu Jan 14, 2016 7:09 pm

Tin Bird wrote:I'm pretty sure I said something like "Dude, you changed my life/you're a genius" when I met him after the Slowfire show in DC. :oops:

:smt018
:lol:
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Re: In David's Words

Postby missouriman on Fri Jan 15, 2016 8:43 am

Just curious, but who do you think David is having a go at? These older people who rip off his "voice". These bootleggers.

"There are others out there making a living off giving the public what's wanted/expected of me. They imitate my voice to perfection and place it in a comforting context with tasteful concepts tacked on for bonus points. It's an extension of bootlegging really in that they perceive a gap in the market and provide what's missing."
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Tin Bird on Fri Jan 15, 2016 11:24 am

This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=511sd_tvLyQ

came to mind...but I have no idea who he is referring to.
Last edited by Tin Bird on Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Halloway on Fri Jan 15, 2016 12:52 pm

Tin Bird wrote:This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=511sd_tvLyQ

came to mind...but I have no idea who he is reviewing to.


Oh my word, that is almost criminal!
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Re: In David's Words

Postby Foales Arishes on Fri Jan 15, 2016 3:12 pm

Halloway wrote:
Tin Bird wrote:This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=511sd_tvLyQ

came to mind...but I have no idea who he is reviewing to.


Oh my word, that is almost criminal!


:lol: wow... when I first read that part of the reply I though it might just be David being an ass* (it has happened :twisted: ) but this guy is basically doing what he said. There was a guy a few years back doing the same with Hollis/Talk Talk... it was quite good, but essentially just a rip-off. I'm all for influence and nicking bits and bobs, but it has to evolve into your own style rather than being a fake.

Anyway, away from the negative... what I've read above he has mostly covered before, and as far as I'm concerned he must keep doing what he's doing, and therefore only do what interests him, regardless of fan reaction or monetary (Well, until the cash completly runs dry, and he does the Japan/Sylvian tribute tour, with Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet :P) concerns... there lays the path of the true artist. And I'll follow him down those paths for good or ill... I will draw the line at Samba or Rap though :lol:





*ass ... I love the swear filter here. For booty read 'bottom' or as I originally put it, another word for a donkey :twisted: hang on!!!... I can say 'arse' though :smt005 sorry for any offence :oops:
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Re: In David's Words

Postby silentwings on Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:11 pm

More..

I appreciate the sentiment of David's words in this whole exchange, and hope that he continues to follow his muse, his path..

Eric Doyle:
'David Sylvian I would be interested to know what you mean, and what you would wish for, in terms on the 'response' from the audience. You say the alternative to presenting the work at its most potent is to be subject to the artist's notion of lowest common denominator and that its patronising to second guess what an audience is capable of taking on or comprehending. I guess, in the absence of feedback, you too are guessing what the audience can take on (?). It could also be said that to make the decision that the audience can 'take this on' and comprehend, could also be patronising. This dicsussion has cleared a lot of fog for me. I had wondered if you'd abandoned the past and closed the door, you clearly havent. As an artist, do you think you are at the highest point, the peak of where you can take it or, are there routes you still have to explore further?'

David Sylvian:
'Eric Doyle no, i don't wonder what the audience is capable of taking on. I give my best and put it out into the world. it may sound self indulgent, (who'd ever accuse an 'artist' of self indulgence? : ) but this is what most 'artists' tend to do. you only have yourself as your guide as to what works and what does not. you work in isolation for the most part with intuition as your touchstone. If something mirrors back to you the emotional impetus for the work then it's successful on its own terms and that's all one can ask for and hope and presume that someone out there may 'get it' . you can't patronize an audience but giving them something from the heart. you patronise by looking down, playing down to an audience. That's the nature or meaning of the word surely. : to behave in an offensively condescending manner toward: Am I at a peak of where all of this leads? it would be presumptuous and preemptive of me to conclude that's the case. we'll see where it all leads. Thanks for the exchange eric. going to take a break from FB for a spell. wishing you well. ds'
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