Paul Simon Takes Us Back: Under African Skies

Paul Simon Takes Us Back: Under African Skies

Under African Skies is a brilliant, must-see documentary by the renowned filmmaker Joe Berlinger, which was created on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Paul Simon’s seminal album Graceland. The documentary won the 2012 SXSW Audience Award in the 24 Beats per Second Category and is the only music film to win an Audience Award. Berlinger intertwines both sides of a complex story as Simon returns to South Africa for a reunion concert with the original Graceland musicians, which unearths the turbulent birth of the album.

Paul Simon’s historic Graceland album sold millions of copies and united cultures, yet it also ended up dividing world opinion on the boundaries of art, politics and business. Despite its huge success as a popular fusion of American and African musical styles, Graceland spawned intense political debate. Simon was accused of breaking the United Nations’ cultural boycott of South Africa, which was designed to end apartheid.

While the album went on to be widely celebrated for its revolutionary mix of musical styles and for bringing the extraordinary gifts of under-exposed South African musicians to the forefront, many of the questions Graceland raised in 1986 remain. What is the role of the artist when society is in upheaval? Who does music belong to? Whose rules, if any, should artists play by? Do cultural collaborations matter? And what will be the legacy of Graceland’s indelible songs in a world that has since been politically, and musically, transformed?

Read more about Under African Skies in The New York Times here.

Paul Simon Takes Us Back: Under African Skies

Paul Simon: The Story of Graceland

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Beep-Beep, Toot-Toot: David Byrne Plays the Whole Building

David Byrne: Playing the Building

New Yorkers would be quite willing to pay good money to silence the daily Manhattan Symphony, which is a cacophony of sounds composed and performed by the din of garbage trucks, car speakers, bus brakes, warped manhole covers, knocking radiators, people yelping down from high windows and the racket of numerous blaring television sets.

But in a paint-peeling hangar, the old Great Hall of the 99-year-old Battery Park Maritime Building (a former ferry terminal) at the very foot of the Manhattan, David Byrne, the avant-garde artist and musician, is purposefully making such music, although many might not call it that.

David Byrne’s Playing the Building is a sound installation in which the infrastructure of The Maritime Building has been converted into a giant musical instrument.  Devices are attached to the building structure, to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes, and are used to make these things produce sounds.  Pressing the keys of a beat-up Weaver pump organ, its innards replaced with relays and wires and air hoses, activates three types of sounds: winds, vibrations and strikings.  The devices do not produce the sounds themselves, instead they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument: a gargantuan cast-iron orchestra.

Playing the Building: A Tour

Installing “Playing the Building” at The Battery Park Maritime Building

More here.

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