Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Universal Sigh: Radiohead's Fusion of Nature and Culture

On March 28th and 29th, English rock giants Radiohead gave away free copies of a self published newspaper entitled The Universal Sigh in a number of major cities as a promotion for their most recent studio album, The King of Limbs released on February 18. The paper is comprised of a number of abstract drawings, poems, vignettes, and non fiction pieces by authors Robert MacFarlane (The Wild Places) , Jay Griffiths (Wild: an Elemental Journey), and a longer fiction-art piece by artist-cum-Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. All of the content of the paper delves either explicitly or implicitly into the topic of nature and humankind's relationship with it; MacFarlane's piece explores the aesthetics and recreation of tree climbing, while Griffiths' article chronicles the author's recovery from depression by journeying to the Amazon and rediscovering the wild spirit that he believes all humans possess and crave to let out through connection with nature. Donwood's Piece is a chilling global climate change allegory. The general takeaway message of The Universal Sigh seems to be that humankind is a part of the natural world, however destructive the former is of the latter. Furthermore, Radiohead seems to be advancing the idea that post modern life cuts us off from nature, the consequence of which is gradual spiritual atrophy. Heavy, compelling stuff.

View the PDF of The Universal Sigh here

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