Laurie Anderson – Same Time Tomorrow. A track from her Bright Red album, this quotes from two other songs – World Without End and Bright Red.
I said yesterday I would go for something quieter tonight, and there is nobody who has such powerfully quiet songs as Laurie Anderson, possibly my favourite artist and somebody from whom I’m sure I will be posting more songs during the year.
She is utterly sublime in her music, quite able to leave gaps in her songs, pauses between her gnonic, dense, wry aphoristic lyrics. I could imagine her as Elsa in Frozen, casting spells to construct a brilliant, sparkling palace, crystalline, clear and complexly interconnected – though without the pent-up adolescent escaping emotion pouring out of the cartoon princess.
Violin sweeps and muffled drum thudding and tonal vocalisations support her delicately phrased words – confidently-uttered phrases made up of everyday language summoned to perform in her songs. Alarm clocks that never change from 12:00 – a cute little pun – “Same Time Tomorrow”, but then that jarring next line “We’re in record”. What does it mean? I hear it as reading meaning into the mundane – that everything is simultaneously banal and magical – and that is the joy of what she creates – that suspension in your head of multiple meanings in everything she utters is like counterpoint – ambiguity, contrast, discord and harmony – with words, rather than music.
And while there is confidence, there is also questioning, uncertainty, curiosity – a sense given that, beyond our secure rationalised and ordered world, we are surrounded by a cloud of unknowing – uncharted and possibly unchartable territory that we can venture out into with caution and a spirit of amused optimism. For there is joyful humour in her words, even as I try to avoid overthinking them and what they might mean:
“So here are the questions
Is time long or is it wide?
And the answers?
Sometimes the answers just come in the mail
And one day you get that letter
You’ve been waiting for forever
And everything it says is true
And then in the last line
It says: burn this”
Her measured, conversational tone leads me to believe that the questions she poses will lead to answers – straightforward precise solutions. But they dart off, round corners, turn back on themselves and end up gazing out at an unexpected vista of wonderment – profound truths spoken or between the lines of what she is saying.
Avoiding overthinking – not always easy when she drops in literary and biblical references and quotations – heavyweight allusions dropped into the lyrics, rippling out with significance and weight among the artfully-selected puns and cliches. But her songs are not for me dry texts to study, but expressions of feeling, of moods, of human experience – rafts to float on on the surface of the deep body of water that is the whole mix of conscious and unconscious life. So I won’t attempt here to deconstruct any more of this song.
I have absorbed a lot of Laurie Anderson into my approach to life – careful yet carefree, attentive, yet floating free, curious but attempting non-attachment – and at heart a mix of melancholy and joy. I kind of think she is a very suitable musician for Quakers, with our focus on silence, listening, the still small voice, the beauty of everyday life, and values based on practice not creed.
I am grateful to her for the music she has created – and now – Same Time Tomorrow!