On the Periphery

David Sylvian: A Biography

— The Solo Years

At last, the definitive biography of David Sylvian is available. This book — which has taken 3 years to complete — tracks the period of Sylvian's solo career from 1982 to 2015.

As well as being one of popular music's most innovative and influential composers, Sylvian is an enigmatic and complex man, and the musical, personal, and spiritual journey he has undertaken over the last three decades is profoundly fascinating.

The book begins as Japan — the band that Sylvian fronted in the late 1970s and early 1980s — broke up. As Sylvian embarked on his solo career, few would have appreciated the extent to which innovation and improvisation would become the central focus of his work.

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Available as an Ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and SmashwordsSlider image

Publisher: Malin Publishing Ltd
Language: English
Kindle - ISBN 978-0-9927228-2-1

Barnes & Noble - ISBN 978-0-9927228-3-8
Smashwords - ISBN 978-0-9927228-4-5
Price: $9.99 / £7.50 / €8.90


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On the Periphery covers the entire course of David Sylvian's solo career, knitting together the story of his musical, spiritual, and personal growth from 1982 to 2013. The book covers all Sylvian's solo and collaborative works in this thirty-year period, including detailed analysis of the making of, meaning behind, influences on, and messages contained within:

Solo Works: Brilliant Trees; Alchemy; Gone to Earth; Secrets of the Beehive; Dead Bees on a Cake; Everything & Nothing; Camphor; Blemish; When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima; Manafon; Sleepwalkers; Died in the Wool

Group Collaborations: Rain Tree Crow, Nine Horses, The Kilowatt Hour

Individual Collaborations: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Holger Czukay, Sandii & the Sunsetz, Virginia Astley, Mick Karn, Hector Zazou, Russell Mills, Robert Fripp, Nicola Alesini & Pier Luigi Andreoni, Andrea Chimenti, Readymade, Tweaker, Christian Fennesz, Blond Redhead, Takagi Masakatsu, Punkt, Steve Jansen, Joan as Policewoman, Arve Henriksen, Land, Jan Bang & Eric Honoré, and  Stephan Mathieu.

The 384-pages hardback book is split into three parts.

Part 1 deals with the period 1982 to 1987. This was a relatively prolific time for Sylvian, and there was some coherence between the main compositions produced, Brilliant Trees, Alchemy, Gone to Earth, and Secrets of the Beehive.

Part 2 deals with the period 1988 – 2002, dominated by a number of joint-venture projects, leading into his next solo work, Dead Bees on a Cake, and culminating in the release of retrospective compilations (Everything and Nothing and Camphor) associated with the split from Virgin.

Part 3 takes us from 2003 to the present day, beginning with Blemish, working through the Nine Horses period, Manafon, Sleepwalkers, Died in the Wool and more recent works with Jan Bang and Stephan Mathieu and Christian Fennesz and Franz Wright.

The book interprets Sylvian's music as a reflection of his personal life and spiritual evolution. Chapters and titles for the three parts are:


About The Author

Christopher E. Young

Chris Young was born in 1966, and has been a professional writer for over 25 years. A former journalist with the Sunday Times, he has written for numerous newspapers, magazines, and on-line media all over the world.

A long-standing follower of David Sylvian's career and music, he was prompted to write a book about the composer by his now late father, a classical musician and PhD in musicology, who had a profound interest in Sylvian's more recent compositions, and especially his work in the area of free improvisation.

Chris travelled the world while researching this book, and was in Tokyo at the time of the devastating earthquake in March 2011. Being in Japan at this time had a profound impact on him, as he witnessed first-hand the plight of so many people in the country.

As such, a proportion of the royalties from the sale of On the Periphery will be made to the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund. Individual donations can be made at www.japansociety.org.uk/earthquake

Chris lives in Heswall on the Wirral Peninsula, and is married to Marie.

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(3120 James Avenue South, Hennepin County, Minneapolis 55408, the house that David Sylvian and Ingrid Chavez lived in together in the early to mid-1990s. The attic room on the third floor was Atma sound, and it was here that Sylvian lived while working on various projects with Robert Fripp, and on Dead Bees on a Cake. © Chris Young 2013)


(The view from outside 3120 James Avenue South, Minneapolis that would have greeted Sylvian and Chavez whenever they left the house and took to the road. © Chris Young 2013)


(Lake Colhoun, just round the back of 3120 James Avenue South. A place where Sylvian and Chavez would have spent many a night walking and taking in the peaceful sights over the lake. © Chris Young 2013)


(1346 Napa Road East, Sonoma CA, the place where Sylvian and Chavez eventually settled when they moved to the West Coast from Minneapolis in the late 1990s, before moving to New Hampshire. © Chris Young 2013)


(The road that took Sylvian and Chavez too and from Sonoma (about a mile away) from their house on Napa Road East. © Chris Young 2013)


(The road "yellow"-lined and tarred going past Sylvian and Chavez's house in Napa Road East and away from Sonoma town to a dead end just out of view in the distance. © Chris Young 2013)


(Sonoma Town Centre, CA. A bustling little town in the Napa Valley where all the shops and amenities that Sylvian and family would have needed were to hand. The house in Napa Road East is about a mile up the road past the domed building in the background. © Chris Young 2013)


(Senator Tobey Highway, New Hampshire right outside Sylvian's house and Samadi Sound studios, in the shadow of Temple Mountain.)


(Willard & Cournoyer. The general store in Temple, less than a mile from Sylvian's house and Samadhi Sound. © www.templenh.org 2013)


(The Tokyo P3 Gallery at 14 Saman-cho, Shinjuku-hu, the venue for Sylvian and Fripp's installation – Redemption Approaching Silence, September 1994. Situated by a former graveyard, Sylvian was struck by the venue which he felt had a powerful energy, and he wanted to create a work that was in keeping with that. © Chris Young 2013)