May 2013

Italian translation of Song and Circumstance

An Italian translation of Sytze’s book Song and Circumstance. The Work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to the Present is about to be published by Odoya, in Bologna. The Italian title is David Byrne, la musica, l’arte.
For more information, see

May 2013

Josh and Sytze together edited the voice-over and subtitles for Dikla Zeidler’s documentary film Sister, Soldier (Dutch title: Mijn zusje, de soldaat). Two versions of Sister, Soldier have been made: one 70 minutes long, for cinemas and documentary festivals, and one 53 minutes long for television. The TV version has been aired on 8 May 2013, at 23:00, in the series Holland Doc with EO on Nederland 2. The film has been produced by BlazHoffski & Levy Producties, Amsterdam. (Zie ook

The film poster for ‘Sister, Soldier’

September/October 2012

In September and October 2012, Sytze taught the course “Introduction to Art: Representations, Performances and Interactions” at the University College Maastricht (UCM), the liberal arts college of Maastricht. Sytze replaced the regular professor, Christoph Rausch, because of the sudden and tragic death of his wife, Karen Pärna, who also taught at UCM. As Sytze had designed this course several years ago, he was able to take over the entire course (tutorial groups, lectures, coordination, tests) at a very short notice.

A group of students during a lecture

August 19, 2012

For Museum Schunck in Heerlen (NL), Sytze functioned as editor-in-chief for the new book on the museum’s collection. He edited the essays in Dutch as well as their English translations. Since 1945, Heerlen owns a collection of contemporary Dutch paintings, which were bought at first by the city itself, later by the Stadsgalerij and now by Cultural Centre (sometimes self-described as “Newseum” rather than “Museum”) Schunck. The book does not offer the complete collection, that overview can be found on the Internet. Instead, the book contains seven essays by curators, historians and writers, plus a photo section of highlights from the collection. ‘About the collection’ presents the history of the collection in revealing detail.

August 19, 2012

Sytze made three English translations for FLACC, Workplace for Visual Artists (Genk, Belgium): a long text that dealt with the workplace and its plans for the coming years, plus two short descriptions of artists’ projects. “Landscape of Images: A view on visual arts in Limburg” presents an overview of artists, art projects and institutions for contemporary fine art in Belgian Limburg. The book was made for the occasion of Manifesta 9 in Genk; it is the kind of collaborative book project for which the organisation is probably as complex and diverse as the works and texts that are included in the book. After completion of the translations, the number of pages of the book for which they had been commissioned was reduced by half. As a result, little or nothing of the three translations could be printed. Sometimes that is how it goes…

Landscape of Images: A view on visual arts in Limburg

July 23, 2011

Sytze’s book “Song and Circumstance” is now also available as e-book:


March 13, 2011

Saint Phalle Outside-In.JPG

A fortnight ago, the exhibition catalogue “Niki de Saint Phalle: Outside – In” was published by Museum Schunk in Heerlen, The Netherlands. For this catalogue Sytze translated two texts from French into Dutch, one by Niki de Saint Phalle herself and one text by Camille Morineau, curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He also translated and edited Saint Phalle’s biography.

January 26, 2011

PICT0209 Golub bijgesneden voor website.jpg

The latest issue of the Dutch magazine Museumtijdschrift (Jan/Feb 2011) has an article by Sytze on an exhibition of drawings by American painter Leon Golub (1922-2004) in museum Het Domein in Sittard. The exhibition is titled “Live + Die Like a Lion?” Golub said of the theme of his work:  “If I had to give a description of my work I would say it’s a definition of how power is demonstrated through the body and in human actions, and in our time, how power and stress and political and industrial powers are shown.”

November 25, 2010

For the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, over the past months Josh has been putting together a number of EndNote output styles. EndNote is database software used by scholars to enter their bibliographical information and to adapt it to the required referencing style. (Think of the footnotes and citations in scientific journals and books.) She made an information analysis of three manuals for legal quoting, to be able to apply standard referencing styles. She the programmed three styles: one based on the guidelines by Kluwer, for the Dutch market; one for the British market, based on OSCOLA; and a style that is based on BlueBook for the American market.
The project has been completed to full satisfaction.

Sytze has started to write a blog on the arts and philosophy: For the time being,the blog is written in Dutch.

Rick Poynor, an English design author and design critic, added Song and Circumstance tot he list of ‘Recommended Books’ by Design Observer, an elaborate and influential website about everything that is related (sometimes distantly) to design: and Circumstance: The Work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to the Present
Sytze Steenstra
Continuum, 2002
David Byrne can hardly contain his enthusiasm for this study, and no wonder. Dutch philosopher Sytze Steenstra, who wrote his doctorate about Byrne, has delivered a superbly wide-ranging, detailed and insightful analysis of the rock star, filmmaker, artist, and design collaborator’s multifaceted oeuvre. A discussion of Byrne’s book The New Sins, for instance, takes us to the German Romantics, Novalis, and Nietzsche. You emerge thinking that this much-celebrated pop-avant-gardist and bicycling cultural omnivore might even be a tad nderrated.


September 14, 2010

song and circumstance - talk

Sytze Steenstra during the successful presentation of “Song and Circumstance: The Work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to the Present” in Neale Williams Antiquarian Books in Maastricht.

The review of Song and Circumstance by  Clive Bell in The Wire has been copied by a website that is dedicated to Brian Eno, “More Dark Than Shark”.  The review in its entirety can be found at:

Filosofie Magazine, a Dutch popular magazine on philosophy, has an interview with Sytze on pages 62-63 of its September issue, titled Philosophy of Talking Heads. Here is a little bit in translation:

“Byrne is in the middle of the arts, between the low culture of pop and the high culture of conceptual art and the experimental theater of New York. As an artist he has always been interested in the question what art is and how it functions. […] When you’re able to show human routines and rules of behavior without taking them for granted, you can see them as they really are, or at least with greater attention. All details are still meaningful. […] You might call it Enlightenment in daily life.”

A Dutch blogger, Huub Koch, wrote a highly positive and long review of “Song and Circumstance”, titled “A many-faceted sensibility to the many shapes of reality”. The blog contains eight video-interviews with Byrne in English, giving a 45-minute overview of his career. Koch concludes his review:

Song and Circumstance is a magisterial book. Magisterial because it is one of those rare publications that one can reread time and again, finding deeper layers that disclose deeper meanings. A book that sets your head reeling, but one that stes you out whistling on the road to inspiration!”

To see the video inserts, go to

August 25, 2010

Book presentation of Song and Circumstance in Maastricht. Everyone welcome!

On Thursday, 9 September, at 8 o’clock in the evening, Sytze will present Song and Circumstance in:

Neale Williams Antiquarian Books
Maastrichter Heidenstraat 3A
Maastricht  NL
tel. 043-8513197

see also:

This month, Sytze’s earlier work is the subject of Neale Williams’ spotlight:

August 16, 2010

New reviews of “Song and Circumstance” from the UK and the US:

The Wire: “Before assembling Talking Heads in mid-1970s New York, Byrne dropped out of a couple of art schools and became fascinated by the Art & Language movement, a Marxist based critique of the consumption of art and culture. His ambition was to make his life into a work of conceptual art. But how? His first idea was to become an anonymous systems analyst, treating his life as an art project. In fact, Byrne became a far from anonymous rock singer, but Steenstra’s take is that the rest of his ambition remained very much in place, and that Byrne’s sprawling portfolio can best be understood as a high-profile and high-spirited, but essentially serious, romp through a series of conceptual art projects concerning mental dislocation. So, instead of the depressing ‘rock star takes some photos’ syndrome, with the underlying suspicion that no one would look at these artworks if the artist weren’t so goddamn famous, Steenstra highlights Byrne’s interest in, for example, issues of authenticity, and traces his thinking right through from early Talking Heads (critiquing Romantic rock authenticity) to his 2008 Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno tour… Clear, engaging and readable.”

Record Collector: “The author shadows Byrne’s every idiosyncratic step, bringing context and clarity to a body of work that would have overwhelmed lesser writers.”
Full review:

Flagpole: “David Byrne has always had a devoted audience that skews to the intellectual. Sytze Steenstra’s Song and Circumstance: The Work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to Present(Continuum) is a book that will engage even the most informed fans of his work.”
Full review:

July 11, 2010

Book launch in Paradiso, Amsterdam

Continuum editor David Barker added two photos of the book launch for Song and Cirucmstance to his blog on Continuum’s 33 1/3 music series: see To see more photos of the successful launch, check the Dutch version of this site.

New book review:

by Chris Estey on his blog for KEXP, a Seattle-based radio station: “David Byrne and the Dadaist Disco of Song and Circumstance”: “Reading the just-published Song and Circumstance: The Work of David Byrne, From Talking Heads To The Present (Continuum) is a wondrous experience, more a sublime diagram of Bryne’s aesthetics than a rock biography.” Estey ends his review with the conclusion that  ‘Song and Circumstance” isn’t just for Talking Heads fans and for those who followed Byrne’s career, but for anyone who is interested in the connection between popular music and philosophy. See

June 11, 2010

A pleasant surprise: we’re on the poster for a photo exhibition in Berlin. Josh Moll and Sytze Steenstra “in 3-D”, or better: in a fairground  3-D cinema, some twenty years ago.

Photo exhibition: “2wei”, double portraits by Lothar Schmid,
To see the exhibition:

May 17, 2010

More early reactions to “Song and Circumstance”, now from the UK as well as from the US:

“Steenstra argues that Romanticism first begat avant garde, and more recently post modernism, and places Byrne as being directly influenced by these movements. Steenstra may not specifically articulate it, but one gets the sense in reading his books that Byrne is actually trailblazing a “post post modernist”, “post avant garde”, and post Romanticist genre with his own art. […] Great book if you’re interested in learning more about what makes this endlessly multi faceted and fascinating artist really tick.”

 “Wordmule”, customer review:

“It’s as much an education, as it is assimilation through the rites of Byrne’s intellectual initiation, as it is a translucent and absolutist study of a unique artist. […] Like David Byrne, this is a very varied and colourful book. It covers all of the artist’s relative terrain, in such a way that’s as equally as enthusiastic and passionate as he himself. From the exceptionally incomparable Talking Heads right through to the present — via Byrne’s many collaborations —“Song and Circumstance” is both a terrific and constant read.”

David Marx;

A book review in four twitters:
1.      “beautiful and narcissistically bizarre experience to reexperience my life…reported and interpreted by Sytze Steenstra” 5:00 AM Apr 30th
2.      this was David Byrne blurbing his own biography; there is really no better introduction to Byrne than him dispassionately reviewing himself 5:01 AM Apr 30th
3.      not a traditional biography, talks about Byrne’s readings in ethnography, cybernetics, psychobiology, Conceptualism…really well-researched 5:03 AM Apr 30th
4.      was trying to explain how delightful I thought it is that said publisher plastered the Byrne blurb on the cover, cashier didn’t quite follow 5:06 AM Apr 30th

Maureen Miller;

May 11, 2010

Some of the first responses to “Song and Circumstance”, found in the blogosphere:

Song and Circumstance is one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve come across in the field of media theory. Steenstra writes with alarming clarity, and supports each statement made with thorough research and thought provoking reasoning.”

Aden Jordan – blog “Aden Dreams of Pavement”

“A wide-ranging overview of David Byrne’s wide-ranging work. […] An impressive book covering the art (mostly music, but by no means exclusively) of David Byrne. The book follows a roughly chronological path, but connects each section/part/era to conceptual themes.[…] There are strong connections made throughout the book.”

Michael A. Duvernois, review on

“Great read!”

‘Ruben’ on Talking Heads-net bulletin board

April 8, 2010

Launched in the U.S.A., within two months in the Netherlands.

Song and Circumstance Song and Circumstance. The work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to the present.
New York and London: Continuum Books, 2010.“Scrupulously researched and uncannily on-the money” – David ByrneFor “look inside”