Learning from a Master at Work – David Byrne A Live Concert Film

David Byrne blog post Yesterday evening, after polishing off  a meal of Korean tacos from a local restaurant, my husband and I were settling down to watch “Ride Rise and Roar” A David Byrne Live Concert Film of his 2008 and 2009 tour. I was planning to do a little “multitasking” and browse on my new iPad while listening to the concert film and glancing up. That didn’t happen, I immediately was drawn into the film and I stayed there fully focused and attentive.

At one point early in the film , I casually said it is a pleasure to watch “a master at work”.  My husband said why don’t you make that your blog post this week.

Well here it goes…..I had been thinking about writing about the term the T-shaped person that I had just heard in a design webinar.  The term means a person who has both breadth and depth in their skills. The premise being that a creative designer should have knowledge of many topics and subjects as well as deep skills in a particular subject.  The benefit  for creative production teams is that the person with both breadth and depth will tackle problems from multiple perspectives and also work collaboratively. This is a valuable asset in a disruptive period where we are being challenged to work in new ways. Let’s keep thinking about breadth and depth and turn the discussion to David Byrne.

I gained a great deal of creative enjoyment from watching the film because I was watching a mature fully formed artist who was confident in his vision.  Pure Enjoyment! What hit me like a ton of bricks was his mastery of music but also how he creatively worked with his team.

Here are some things that watching a master like David Byrne can teach.

  • Taking risk/creative fearlessness
  • Being Collaborative
  • Being Cross-Disciplinary
  • Discipline, Dedication and Hard work
  • Put together a strong team

Taking Risks/Creative  Fearlessness

David Byrne’s manager at one point said that they didn’t know if the process that they were using was going to work. The idea for the tour  came after the album was produced which turned the typical business model for musicians upside down. They did it anyway and it’s succeeded.

Being Collaborative

David Byrne's studio David Byrne collaborated with a long time collaborator the artist and musician, Brian Eno for the music.
One scene showed him in his studio talking about how Eno would send him mp3 of tracks and how they would work together.

Another other thing is that Byrne asked dance choreographers whose work he liked to collaborate with him on producing movements for the show.  The interviews with the choreographers were excellent inside view of the process of designing motion.

So the lesson is that’s it’s helpful to work with long time collaborators that you trust but to also branch out and work with new collaborators.

Being Cross Disciplinary

Dancers were auditioned for the tour but also the chorus/backup singers for the tour were trained to dance. The trained singers jumped out of their comfort zones to make the concert an even more exciting experience.  There was a short behind-the-scenes interview with the chorus where one singer was mentioning that this was the first time, she had been trained to dance for a concert. It seemed that it was a very exciting process for every member of this creative team.

Also of note is that the director of the film,  Hillman Curtis is already well known in the design circles for his cutting edge web projects. Ride, Rise and Roar is his firstwork as a feature director.  I’ve used his books in my production  design classes and can say that they brought a new dimension to teaching experience.

Discipline, Dedication and Hard work

You couldn’t watch the film without seeing the amount of work that went into preparing the show. They worked hard and rehearsed often. It was interesting to see the scenes of the rehearsal and auditions inter-cut with the performances that were tight while looking effortless. The sign of a master at the top of their craft is when they can make their work appear effortless. It’s rare to be shown the work that goes on behind the scenes.

The Team

David Byrne assembled a creative team that contributed to the vision with their particular skills and qualities. It was neat to see the young dancers on stage with this experienced performer. They were engaged the zone and flow of the experience but also they each clearly had their own specific personalities.  It was a fusion of personality types and energy and it worked!

I definitely recommend spending as much time as you can looking at the work of creatives from worlds outside of your core discipline. They have a lot to teach us.  To be able to combine a pleasurable evening watching a film with a lesson in the creative process of a seasoned multi-disciplinary artist was optimal.

What artists and leaders in your field do  you check out on a regular basis? What do they teach you? Do you have fun with the experience?

I certainly did with Ride, Rise, ROAR.

Let’s Listen, Learn and ROAR some more.

Thanks for your attention and have a good and fun week!


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