What is the meaning of life? David Bronson's collaboration with photographer Ben Goldstein on "Song of Life" just might have the answer.
Questions (2015), the new album by New York-based singer-songwriter David Bronson, is shaped by 11 songs. Midway through Bronson's collection of superbly crafted tunes, however, is the album's glistening cynosure, "Song of Life". From the opening line, Bronson creates a setting that evokes the tranquility of nighttime and becomes more vivid through each layer of instrumentation. His voice quietly climbs the scale during the chorus, gripping the listener and guiding them into the "night dream" of the song lyrics. The atmosphere is enhanced through guest appearances by vocal legend Robin Clark (Simple Minds, David Bowie, CHIC) and her daughter Lea Lorien, a familial pairing that underscores the sentiment behind "Song of Life".
Of course, several interpretations can be drawn from the lyrics but Bronson explains the song's genesis as "giving oneself over, and into, another. Essentially creating family, and through it, meaning. That's what those lines are about, and to me it's kind of the heart of the album, and the centerpiece of life, actually. Which is why, after debating whether or not to keep a title that's that kind of grandiose, I decided, of course."
Bronson has already filmed videos for several songs off Questions, including "Connect the Dots", "Songbird", "Life Is Long", and "Day By Day". The artist has taken a different approach in translating each song to film. The video for "Song of Life" is no exception. It marks a collaboration with photographer Ben Goldstein, whose extensive work includes portraits of notables ranging from Jay Z to Amy Poehler to Anderson Cooper. Bronson continues, “Ben is an old friend. We went to art school together. I gave him an early copy of the record, and a few months later he called me and said, ‘I can’t stop listening to this song. I think I have to do a video for it.’ It was a done deal. He told me his idea was to film real-life couples. I thought it was brilliant. Extremely clear, simple, and kind of obvious in that after-the-fact way, like the best ideas always are."
Goldstein's vision captures alternately playful, affectionate, and poignant moments shared between couples as they stand against a white backdrop. “I’ve been describing it consistently as a ‘portrait of relationships’ but it’s really more a portrait of couples," says the photographer. "It’s been interesting to see how different couples interact with each other. There’s a sort of trust you need to reaffirm with your partner during the filming, because it’s quiet and you’re somewhat exposed. So each couple handles that differently, and relies on one another in different ways. It’s not that dissimilar from building trust at the beginning of a relationship. So I would say it’s about coming together and the process of becoming a couple.” Goldstein's portraits also encompass how relationships reflect the cycle of life, from a couple embracing their newborn to a woman holding a framed photograph of a departed loved one. In conjunction with the video's premiere, Goldstein has uploaded a gallery on his website that includes a selection of stunning photographs he took during the video shoot.
Amidst footage of Bronson singing and playing guitar, and the different expressions of love documented by Goldstein, music icon Carlos Alomar also makes a cameo standing between Robin Clark and Lea Lorien. Following their appearances in Bronson's videos for "Songbird" and "Connect the Dots", the trio truly represents one of the great musical families of rock and R&B.
Ultimately, "Song of Life" is but one of many moods David Bronson explores on Questions yet its impact transcends the seamless 41-minute experience of the album. Goldstein's video is the perfect companion to the statement Bronson has made with "Song of Life". Through the lens and between the notes, love is the true meaning of life.
Splash and thumbnail images of Bronson by John O'Boyle.