DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA and Expanding Our Thinking to Solve Problems

In This Episode

You might think David Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway is a concert. It’s not. Yet, it’s not exactly a play or a musical. It’s something else outside the box. The Talking Heads frontman— along with choreographer Annie-B Parsons’ and a band of international musicians, vocalists, and dancers—creates a show about exploring the unconventional, especially when it comes to unconventional thought and thought processes.


American Utopia made host Ruthie Fierberg wonder: How many solutions to society’s conflicts might we be overlooking because we think the way we have always thought? American Utopia performer Tendayi Kuumba and experts Dr. Vinoo Alluri and Dr. Alejandro Lleras join us to explore: What problems could we solve if we used more of our minds and used our minds differently? Could we achieve an American Utopia?


Listen to the album of David Byrne’s American Utopia.


Watch David Byrne’s American Utopia on HBOMax.


Create the Change


Referred to in this episode (in order of mention)


About Our Guests:

Ruthie Fierberg, Host


IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater

IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain


Tendayi Kuumba, Performer

A Spelman College 2010 graduate. She creates original performance work as UFLYMOTHERSHIP with Greg Purnell. Former touring member of Urban Bush Women, she’s a recipient of the third Bloodlines (future) commissioning program by the Stephen Petronio Company and will debut new UFLYMOTHERSHIP work for Fall ’22. @whostendayi


Dr. Vinoo Alluri PhD, musicologist and neuroscientist

Dr. Vinoo Alluri is an Assistant Professor at the Cognitive Science Lab at the International Institute of Information Technology-Hyderabad, India. She has a background in Electronics and Communication Engineering, after which she pursued a Masters in Music Engineering Technology at the University of Miami, and a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her work is highly interdisciplinary involving music psychology, music information retrieval, and neuroscience. She also has some formal training in the violin and piano. Currently she is working on projects that examine music listening habits on online streaming platforms and social media in relation to depression. In addition she is also working on determining how the brain processes musical features at varying levels of abstraction and how this depends on musical exposure, implicit learning, and enculturation.


Dr. Alejandro Lleras PhD, psychologist

Alejandro Lleras is a Colombian-American cognitive psychologist, with a Ph.D. from PennState. He is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a CAREER award recipient from the National Science Foundation. His work encompasses many subjects from visual awareness to problem solving and embodied cognition; from attention and distraction to the negative mental health effects of problematic internet/smartphone use; as well as other topics like time perception and the illusion of control. He is a founder member of the SPARK society, an non-for-profit organization aimed at increasing the participation and visibility of scholars belonging to historically-marginalized groups in the cognitive sciences. @alejolleras


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