Brian Eno Addresses Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Passionate Letter on David Byrne’s Website

Brian Eno is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

Brian Eno has shared his feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a passionate letter that has been published on David Byrne’s website.

“I received this email last Friday morning from my friend, Brian Eno,” Byrne wrote on his site. “I shared it with my office and we all felt a great responsibility to publish Brian’s heavy, worthy note.”

The artists have collaborated on such albums as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in 1981 and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today in 2008.

In the note, which can be read in full below, Eno questions the United States’ response to the violence, asking, “Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing?”

Eno also shares details about his 2013 visit to Israel where he witnessed brutal violence against Palestinians. “I kept thinking, ‘Do Americans really condone this? Do they really think this is OK? Or do they just not know about it?'”

Numerous musicians have spoken out against the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent weeks, including One Direction’s Zayn Malik, Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Eddie Vedder. Artists like Neil Young, Backstreet Boys and Paul Anka have canceled performances in Israel as well.

In a video released by freedom4palestine.org, a group including Eno, Chuck D, Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Desmond Tutu, Roger Waters, and Naomi Klein hold up cards with the names and ages of Palestinian civilians recently killed in Gaza. The UN estimates that more than 70 percent of those who have lost their lives in the fighting were civilians, including more than 220 children and 110 women.

 

Read Eno’s full letter below (via davidbyrne.com).

Dear All of You:

I sense I’m breaking an unspoken rule with this letter, but I can’t keep quiet any more.

Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He’d been shredded (the hospital’s word) by an Israeli missile attack – apparently using their fab new weapon, flechette bombs. You probably know what those are – hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was 4 years old.

I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.

Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won’t sign up to it.

What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But – for Christ’s sake! – it’s not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY? I just don’t get it. I really hate to think its just the power of AIPAC… for if that’s the case, then your government really is fundamentally corrupt. No, I don’t think that’s the reason… but I have no idea what it could be.

The America I know and like is compassionate, broadminded, creative, eclectic, tolerant and generous. You, my close American friends, symbolise those things for me. But which America is backing this horrible one-sided colonialist war? I can’t work it out: I know you’re not the only people like you, so how come all those voices aren’t heard or registered? How come it isn’t your spirit that most of the world now thinks of when it hears the word ‘America’? How bad does it look when the one country which more than any other grounds its identity in notions of Liberty and Democracy then goes and puts its money exactly where its mouth isn’t and supports a ragingly racist theocracy?

I was in Israel last year with Mary. Her sister works for UNWRA in Jerusalem. Showing us round were a Palestinian – Shadi, who is her sister’s husband and a professional guide – and Oren Jacobovitch, an Israeli Jew, an ex-major from the IDF who left the service under a cloud for refusing to beat up Palestinians. Between the two of them we got to see some harrowing things – Palestinian houses hemmed in by wire mesh and boards to prevent settlers throwing shit and piss and used sanitary towels at the inhabitants; Palestinian kids on their way to school being beaten by Israeli kids with baseball bats to parental applause and laughter; a whole village evicted and living in caves while three settler families moved onto their land; an Israeli settlement on top of a hill diverting its sewage directly down onto Palestinian farmland below; The Wall; the checkpoints… and all the endless daily humiliations. I kept thinking, “Do Americans really condone this? Do they really think this is OK? Or do they just not know about it?”.

As for the Peace Process: Israel wants the Process but not the Peace. While ‘the process’ is going on the settlers continue grabbing land and building their settlements… and then when the Palestinians finally erupt with their pathetic fireworks they get hammered and shredded with state-of-the-art missiles and depleted uranium shells because Israel ‘has a right to defend itself’ ( whereas Palestine clearly doesn’t). And the settler militias are always happy to lend a fist or rip up someone’s olive grove while the army looks the other way. By the way, most of them are not ethnic Israelis – they’re ‘right of return’ Jews from Russia and Ukraine and Moravia and South Africa and Brooklyn who came to Israel recently with the notion that they had an inviolable (God-given!) right to the land, and that ‘Arab’ equates with ‘vermin’ – straightforward old-school racism delivered with the same arrogant, shameless swagger that the good ole boys of Louisiana used to affect. That is the culture our taxes are defending. It’s like sending money to the Klan.

But beyond this, what really troubles me is the bigger picture. Like it or not, in the eyes of most of the world, America represents ‘The West’. So it is The West that is seen as supporting this war, despite all our high-handed talk about morality and democracy. I fear that all the civilisational achievements of The Enlightenment and Western Culture are being discredited – to the great glee of the mad Mullahs – by this flagrant hypocrisy. The war has no moral justification that I can see – but it doesn’t even have any pragmatic value either. It doesn’t make Kissingerian ‘Realpolitik’ sense; it just makes us look bad.

I’m sorry to burden you all with this. I know you’re busy and in varying degrees allergic to politics, but this is beyond politics. It’s us squandering the civilisational capital that we’ve built over generations. None of the questions in this letter are rhetorical: I really don’t get it and I wish that I did.

XXB

Live Review: St. Vincent at New York’s Terminal 5 (2/26)

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Annie Clark celebrates her new Top Rated album with a sold out hometown gig.

Photos: Wei Shi

A St. Vincent concert is a great leveler—it reduces all of us, even Annie Clark—to mere specks in the universe that the music of St. Vincent has created. Giants like David Byrne appear alongside unemployed Brooklyners and haughty Manhattan socialites, all eager to bask in her enormous glow. The packed VIP section in New York’s shoddiest large crowd venue Terminal 5 can attest to this: We are all moths flitting toward the great white light of Annie Clark.

When the spotlight hit Clark, she belt out opener “Rattlesnake” with a sly grin, her spiny shadow looming nearby in the corner. She arrived in all reds and blacks, an almost cabaret outfit that flirted with the conservative side of sexy with stark lines. The crowd roared and hissed as they recognized her latest single, their vocals filling the cavernous warehouse of the venue with uncanny volume. Miraculously, most everyone honored the robotic plea issued just prior to the music: “Please refrain from digitally capturing your experience.” This made her message on follow-up song “Digital Witness” hang even heavier in the room: “I want all of your mind.”

St. Vincent is the perfect pop star candidate for our new millennial tastes, and the live show for her fourth and latest, self-titled record reveals this with crystalline clarity. More Bowie than Britney, she cherry picks from the drama and glitz of the ’80s with none of its tawdry, channeling the frisson of nostalgia with a cool elegance that’s decidedly of the moment. “I can’t see the future but I know it’s got big plans for me,” goes a line on “Laughing With a Mouth of Blood” a mid-set deep cut from her 2009 breakout Actor. Assured even in prescient incantations, she seems to speak her cultural import into being, predicting and creating her impact. Because she is a pop star maximalist, donning her guitar from a stagehand like a crown, prancing from center stage to some art deco, stark white boxes like a creature. She even adopts the pose of doe-eyed lounge singer for a sensual performance of another new one, the blasphemous defiance of “I Prefer Your Love.”

But she’s a pop star of her own design, existing within her own distinct confines. Clark bucks beauty standards with casual ease, willfully embracing the female dread of “grey hair” and assembles her locks with the ferocity of a lion’s mane. None of it is accidental, surely, but none of it feels put upon either. Clark is never contrived even when she is deliberate—she feels like Clark even when she’s channeling the star power of St. Vincent. Amid a generation desperately seeking to identify with aesthetic signifiers defined by their relationship to others, she seems strangely unconnected from her contemporaries.

It feels reassuring to see that Clark’s style is all her own. Even when her aesthetic nods to others, at the center of St. Vincent’s visual and aural identity we find the girl Clark and goddess St. Vincent casually interpolated across guitar solos, structured stage banter, and sporadic smiles. The staged, pre-composed banter she prepared to address the audience with has the warm feel of a mother reading a book she knows well to her children—there’s no rigidity in her preparation. Instead, the intermittent speeches reflecting on childhood joys and hopes that is seeking to connect Clark with her fans, comes across as a warm, hospitable foresight.

It’s the moments of animal abandon that really make the live show a spectacle though. Her guitar solos recall why we used the word “shredding” at all to talk about sounds that guitars make. They’re Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, or Poison in nature and fervor, but mashed up against intricate, balanced organs and harmonies and strewn with her compelling yet child-like lyrics. Her freedom onstage seems tied to the reality of her social restraint. Dancing like she’s giving birth or heaving in sickness on “Every Tear Disappears”, or doing a corpselike ballet during the languid, high-register breathiness of “Surgeon”, she seems unlocked, revealed. For “Cheerleader”, she clambered to the highest shellacked white box of the tower to unleash a guitar solo that sounds like a VCR eating the old magnetic tape of a beat-up VHS. As if the reified role of female as sexually suggestive sidelines spectator would itself jam in the machinery of our society and cease to ever be played out again.

These images conflict with the kind but closed-off portraits we get of her in overly-lengthy and wide-eyed profiles, or even photographs of her. The hype wearies us even as we seek to know her more, but this dichotomy also speaks to our continued fascination. Hence her popularity and the all-around-din of her celebrated genius: She knows herself, and she’s assured enough in that knowledge to keep it under the lock and key of her watchful, careful dialogue with the public.

Her prepared monologues make one thing clear, though, which is that Annie Clark is a great lover of the unceasing awe of childhood hopes and dreams. For an encore, a solitary, stripped down version of “Strange Mercy” from 2011’s record of the same name soothes like a lullaby, encouraging impossible dreams with a peculiar insistence. “I’ll be with you lost boys/ sneaking out where the shivers won’t find you” goes the Peter Pan-invoking refrain. Clark invites us to re-stoke the embers of our imagination, before we learned it wasn’t cool to dream big, whopping guitar-solo energy into the tiny, extraordinary hopes we had for ourselves. Before we learned that mercy is indeed strange, and rare in our encounters with the injustices of reality, law, and hierarchy. So she sings us the lullabies and livid, seething rock songs to soothe our embattled hearts. We can never be children again, but in the flicker of her looming shadow, we find a blind belief in recapturing innocence. Whether it’s a losing battle or not, Annie Clark stands as a witness that this battle is not futile.

David Byrne blasts music streaming sites

David Byrne

David Byrne

The Talking Heads man says that free music streaming sites are bad for new artists

David Byrne has laid into online music streaming sites in a new opinion piece.

In the blog, which was published by The Guardian, the former Talking Heads man says that the ‘pittance’ paid by sites such as Spotify to artists means that new and upcoming musicians won’t be able to survive without supplementing their income in other ways and focusing less on making music.

Byrne writes: “I could conceivably survive, as I don’t rely on the pittance that comes my way from music streaming, as could [Thom] Yorke and some of the others. But up-and-coming artists don’t have that advantage – some haven’t got to the point where they can make a living on live performances and licensing, so what do they think of these services?”

He added: “What’s at stake is not so much the survival of artists like me, but that of emerging artists and those who have only a few records under their belts (such as St Vincent, my current touring partner, who is not exactly an unknown). Many musicians like her, who seem to be well established, well known and very talented, will eventually have to find employment elsewhere or change what they do to make more money. Without new artists coming up, our future as a musical culture looks grim.” Read the full piece here.

In another blog post earlier this week David Byrne claimed that the wealthiest section of New York’s population has crushed the city’s creative energy. He expressed his feelings in another opinion piece published by The Guardian. In the article, Byrne said he fears that New York is becoming increasingly dictated by wealth and not culture, adding that he will leave the city if he perceives that is is getting worse.

David Byrne’s most recent musical project is a collaboration with St Vincent. The pair released their debut album ‘Love This Giant’ in 2012 and headlined the End Of The Road festival in August of this year.