Laurie Anderson on Music As Emotion – Sensoria 2012

There seems to be few areas of art in which Laurie Anderson hasn’t worked.
I’ve just been to her presentation in the glorious surroundings of Sheffield's Upper Chapel to hear her talk about her life, her work, and her views on creative art in all its many forms. The strand which struck a chord with me was about music (no surprise there I suppose). If you remember her hit single ‘Oh Superman’ hit single 1981, you’ll know she’s a little bit different. That song was championed by John Peel and despite getting to number 2 in the charts, was also voted the most annoying song of the year. Me? I loved it, and have just dug out my vinyl copy and given it a play. If anything it sounds more innovative now than it did then, but I digress…
Her thoughts on music chime in with what I’ve always thought. Music is too emotive and all involving to be confined to a pair of headphones, but today, for so many of us, that’s all it ever is. Music should be released into the wild, and inhabit your room, coming from a half-decent set of speakers, not playing inside your head. Music should surround you, move around you in the air, and fade in and out as you go and make a cup of tea. And don’t get me started on compression. The mp3 has revolutionised music I agree, but they have also homogenised it by squeezing and squashing ‘real’ sounds into a bland, inoffensive mush. Music has to exist in the real world. Recorded music takes on the sound characteristics of the room in which it was being played, and that was what you got when you bought it, took it home and played it. Today, so much music has never existed outside a computer, and then it gets played in your head, and so never gets the chance to exist in a real space.
That was just one of the threads she touched upon, and tomorrow we’ll be in the privileged position of being in the City Hall Ballroom for the European premier of her latest work. Sheffield is more than snooker this week you know – stay tuned for more reports every day on the Up the Narrow Stairs blog!

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