Pioneering industrial musician and performance artist, Cosey Fanni Tutti
discusses the complications of writing about music, in silence, in her recently published memoir Art Sex Music, one of the great, rebellious tales of popular culture.
That silence prevailed during the writing of my autobiography Art Sex Music may seem at odds considering music forms part of the title, it being my preferred form of self-expression and one of the main threads throughout my life, weaving its way into my art, and its enduring presence as part of the idiosyncratic soundtrack to my sex work experiences.
I have a sensitive ‘ear’ and am highly receptive to music. Consequently, as soon as the air vibrates with sound, I tune in, either (preferably) immersing myself in the emotions it evokes or, if I’m not so immediately captivated, I start analysing the sounds and nuances of the composition. Either way that makes music a distraction rather than a pleasurable or suitable companion when I’m writing.
Be that as it may, music did have a presence, largely evoked by the writing process itself. At times I’d find myself singing, smiling, tapping my foot and swaying to an internalised and very personalised mix tape formed by the events I was reconnecting with and recounting. The music sat within the words as an inherent part of the description of a feeling or circumstance rather than an external companion or ‘assistant’ for inspiration.
But there were exceptions. My office where I wrote my book sits directly above our sound studio where Chris would be working, trying out new ideas or beta testing audio equipment and software. Thoughtfully he mainly used headphones but when frequencies dictated he’d blast them through the speakers – at which point I was immediately propelled into another mind-set – and at times headed downstairs to work with him leaving the words to await my return.
I never underestimate the power and importance of music. Once heard it sits deep in our psyche, awakened by the merest trigger in response to our senses – a smell, an atmosphere, a colour, or a word can rekindle memories of a moment in our life – all the more emotionally charged because of a specific sound or song. When I create music I tend to think of sound as colours in relation to emotion – the timbre conveying lightness, darkness, mood. As I write lyrics, certain words will suggest a particular sound, be it a soft haze, a deep undertone, a rhythm, or a voice intoning recognisable words, a gentle whisper or guttural outpourings. Considering that, it should have come as no surprise that while writing my book my focus would be affected by the potency of words, recognising that they lent themselves to be interpreted and expanded in the form of sound.
Music may not have been an audible presence during the writing process of my book but it was undoubtedly my companion, acting as always as a vehicle for expression – through the words I used to write my life story – words became music manifested like a soundtrack to my life.
The presence of music continues to serve as a source of inspiration and as a means of expressing my deepest thoughts and whatever subject matter I choose to address – even when it’s the subject matter itself.
Cosey Fanni Tutti – 18th April 2017