Track off Laurie Anderson's masterpiece, Big Science - her early 1980s recording.

Alfred Hitchcock said something to the effect of to create tension, well, imagine a scene with two people at a diner, talking about baseball. A rather boring and pedestrian scene. Do the same scene again, but this time first show the audience a ticking time bomb taped to the underside of the table, and suddenly you are on the edge of your seat, the inanity of the baseball conversation driving you crazy.

The relevance of this will become obvious later.

Laurie Anderson is a poet, that much is clear. Because the song derives much of its power from the words.

It starts off with a seven note, repeated synthesizer riff, resembling almost a vocoder-edited voice singing. Behind it is a rather robotic drum machine track playing a slightly syncopated but regular rhythn. Above it two saxophones, playing a similar riff amost in unison, not tuned to each other. The effect is a bit jarring but at first you think you're listening just to some new wave, avant-garde synth-noise art rock.

And you are.

Then she begins to speak.

"Good evening.
This is your Captain."

And then suddenly...

"We are about to attempt a crash landing."

We go back to the disarmingly soothing and reassuring:

"Please extinguish all cigarettes.
Place your tray tables in their upright, locked position."

And then zags back again into the disturbing:

"Your Captain says: Put your head on your knees. Your Captain says: Put your head on your hands. Captain says: Put your hands on your head.
Put your hands on your hips.
Heh heh."

And that's when the string-like ambient pads start to come in, which change the character of the formerly jaunty synth riff. Now the mood becomes more somber, and it deserves to be, because she lays down some incredible words.

"This is your Captain-and we are going down.
We are all going down, together.
And I said: Uh oh.
This is gonna be some day."

I won't spoil the rest for you, and please don't just Google the lyrics. Find this track, even if it's online on YouTube, and enjoy the piece as it's meant to be enjoyed, the music evolving, changing the mood and timbre of the ever present riff, reassuringly doing its thing almost annoyingly even as things spiral out of control.

But I will lay on you one more beautiful bit that she throws in:

"This is the time. And this is the record of the time."

And suddenly you realize you're not just listening to a poem about a flight, it's something bigger. It's a beautiful, moody piece with any of a number of meanings you want to read into it, and it has the kind of depth and introspection you can only truly find in a female author.

And still that seven same notes drone on and on, even as everything swells, comes back down, words spliter off into one direction and reassemble into another, and the mood swings back and forth, from the air.

 


鉄ノードの人 2017

 

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