LAURA McLEAN–FERRIS



PHOTO CREDIT Haris Epaminonda, Tarahi IIII, 2007, still from a color video, 1 minute 27 seconds.



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My working music isn't always representative of the music that I generally listen to,
but it's very important to me to put my headphones on to write as I often have to work
in an office or a noisy environment. Sometimes I try and listen to something relevant
to the piece of writing I'm trying to make, so I've included some music that has been
relevant to my writing lately. I often find myself listening to the first couple of songs
on an album when I am writing, and then something will distract me, so I associate
writing with tracks that are early on in an album.


 
Siouxie and the Banshees – Hong Kong Garden  

I recently wrote a little piece on Sofia Coppola and interviewed her because she
has curated a show of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs in Paris. I thought I
would listen to one of her film soundtracks while writing and the Marie Antoinette
soundtrack is my favourite of these (as well as Siouxie there are other great tracks on
this album, All Cats are Grey by the Cure and Ceremony by New Order). I watched
the film on the day I was told I had glandular fever in 2007 and was in a heightened
state, and I bought the soundtrack from iTunes straight after watching it. When I think
of that period I feel like I was just in bed all the time with that album on, which does
have a strange energy to it – woozy, languid and excessive, like overripe fruit.

Simultaneously with writing the piece on Coppola and Mapplethorpe I was also
thinking about a Lara Favaretto's project in Turin, which involved the recreation
of artworks made out of cake, and wondering whether this was a 'let them eat cake
moment' in Italy, given the political situation there at the tme. I was also starting
to think about a talk that I'm giving that is to do with staying in bed, being less
productive and being exhausted. And this album really conjures all of those kinds of
feelings and ideas for me.

 

Tchaikovsky / Daniel Barenboim, piano and conductor, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: 'Pathétique' Symphony No.6 in B minor Op.74

 

I don't usually listen to classical music to pass the time, but as a writer I find lyrics
a terrible distraction and because I listen to things over and over again hundreds
of times, the music needs to be complex enough to sustain repeated. This piece of
music has been a point of near-obsession for me for the past few years – and I know
that Tchaikovsky is seen as a bit overblown and dramatic, but I still love it. I've
written, previously, about my utter failure to be able to describe this music properly
here, in a review of a Douglas Gordon exhibition. In that piece I wrote that 'no one
shared my feelings', about Pathetique, but since I've seen Pina in which a dance is
choreographed to the final movement and also 1395 Days Without Red by Anri Sala
and Šejla Kamerić, which are two films featuring an orchestra rehearsing this.

This piece of music has such a fine balance between darkly brooding, low, threatening
strings, thunderstorm-like sections with blaring horns, which contrasts with perhaps
the most swooningly romantic theme ever written. This was Tchaikovsky's last
symphony (he died a few days after the first performance). There's speculation that
it was dedicated to his unrequited (much younger) love, and even that he drank
contaminated water on purpose in order to contract typhoid to die without bringing
the shame of suicide onto his family. I danced to this as a teenager when I was in a
school dance about Henry VIII's wives in which I played Jane Seymour, fittingly I
suppose, with the music. And so it also has that personal connection of reasserting
itself at different moments in my life.

 
Dirty Projectors – Two Doves  

This is just one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite albums. I cried when
I saw this band at the Barbican; it was really beautiful. It's to do with the way the
women's voices work in harmony with one another.

 

Glasser – Apply

 

I love the drums on this and the way in breaks into really glorious bright colours over
the words 'morning'.

 

Katy B – Katy on a Mission

I don't know what happened with this, I just couldn't stop listening to it.

 
Lana del Rey – Video Games  

I know, everyone's bored of this now, but ditto to this. Couldn't stop listening to it.
Also, I like the lips. Controversial.

 
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round  

Another sort of work is the thinking things through bit, which often happens when
I'm running around the park and I love running around to this track. My favourite part
is when the phone rings in the middle, and then it breaks into this sunny tune. 'Hold
on, I'm coming, coming back to the ball, and we'll dazzle them all'. I always think of
it like, "Hi, the 1970s are on the phone, they want to talk to you." It sounds to me like
the music that my parents used to listen to as though it has been dragged through a
rickety old machine.

 
Bat for Lashes – Glass  

This has a cold, cityish feel that reminds me of London and New York and of
buildings like the Gherkin and the Shard. I relate to the strange period of building
before the recession. 'A thousand crystal towers, a hundred emerald cities'.

 
Prince – Raspberry Beret  

I like to dance around to this when I've been sitting still too long.

 
Warpaint – Billie Holiday  

A love the way that these voices work together too. And there's something so great
about the way that spelling something out: B.I.L.L.I.E.H.O.L.I.D.A.Y., creates a
really beautiful set of shapes and a shoopy shooshy sound – especially I.E.H.O.L. –
it's lovely.

 




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