|David Byrne at the Future of Music Conference in 2006. (Photo: Fred von Lohman, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)|
One thing that helps give Byrne's post the detail that others have lacked is something anthropologist Clifford Geertz calls "thick description," a field research technique that stresses not only observable activity but context as well. Byrne was here for the better part of a week and spent a good bit of time tooling around the city using what's become a major mode of transportation here, a bike. (An avid cycling advocate, Byrne's recent book Bicycle Diaries is just out in paperback.) He took in the city in slo-mo working from a street-level view. He was one of some 3200 people who took part in Tour De Troit last Saturday.
One of Byrne's projects for Sorrentino's film was an installation of his piece Playing the Building, which in this case used the old Michigan Theater to capture atmospheric and architectural vibrations and convert them into ambient music by hooking up sound feeds from various parts of the structure into a keyboard apparatus. While it bears obvious reference to the work of avant-garde composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage as channeled through Brian Eno, Playing the Building has a site-specific aspect and musical genealogy that is strictly Byrne. Click here to download a free podcast from iTunes of Byrne's TED Talk on the influence of architecture on music.