Laurie Anderson’s transmedia storytelling


This paper explores transmedia storytelling (Jenkins) in the work of Anderson, primarily focusing on the music video for “O Superman” (1981) and motifs that reappear in Heart of a Dog – a film she wrote, directed, co-produced and scored (the soundtrack of which was subsequently released on Nonesuch). I will also look at her installation at Park Avenue Armory entitled Habeas Corpus, a work that focuses on Chadian Guantánamo Bay prisoner Mohammed El Gharani. Both of these 2015 works are complimentary in that the former project looks at death through the lens of personal fragments and footage while the later invokes an exterior focus to address many of the same themes. As Anderson describes: “for me these two completely disparate projects aren’t really that different …[t]hey’re both about how you tell stories, and what they mean, and how you create a world with them.” Anderson offers a form of affective transmedia that arises through developing repetitions and re-combinations of both musical and visual material that fundamentally complicate the traditional idea of music video as a discrete audiovisual form. I present a taxonomy of repetition for transmedia and multimodal analysis of popular music video.


John McGrath is a Lecturer in Music at University of Surrey. He completed his PhD in Music in 2014 at University of Liverpool and has published a monograph with Routledge entitled Samuel Beckett, Repetition and Modern Music. John’s writing has received positive reviews in Music & Letters, Wire Magazine, Psychology of Music, and the Irish Studies Review. McGrath is also an active guitarist, recent appearances include a solo set at King’s Place, London and a John Fahey memorial concert, while his compositions have been aired on various international radio stations. He is a committee member of the International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC).

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