“Heroin,” from Songs for Lou Reed (video by Doug Aitken)
Note from the composer:
In the 60's I was a squeaky-clean kid growing up in Los Angeles. (I went to Uni High, btw.) I was shy and sheltered, and everything I knew was something I had read in a book. I began my interest in music as a straight-ahead classical music nerd, and, when at last I got into rock and roll, my life changed, sort of. I loved the music and I loved the words, I loved that it felt so different from classical music. Most important was that rock seemed to me to be the first time I had encountered an art form that was aimed at someone my age. I now had a place to put a whole range of human emotions - classical music was noble, it was heroic and serious; rock and roll was about the moment, about dancing and going to the beach and girls.
When I was in high school I heard the first Velvet Underground record and I was shocked - this music dealt with emotions that, up until that moment, I had never thought music was capable of expressing. It was dangerous. It was dark and powerful and visceral and mysterious. I was scared of it. But as great as the music is, it was the text that I really responded to - the poetry of Lou Reed. The energy and terror and attraction of New York was in the words - living by your wits, doing drugs, weird sex, breaking the rules. It turns out that I grew up to become a squeaky-clean middle-aged man. But I did move to New York.
In memory of the feeling I had when I first heard these songs I decided to set some of the original Velvet lyrics to my own music – I have set 6 of them so far. The first text I set was from the song ‘heroin’ – it was commissioned by the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and premiered there in the year 2000 by singer Theo Bleckmann and cellist Maya Beiser.
After a while thought it could use some visuals to go with it, so I commissioned the artist Doug Aitken to make a video. It was first shown as part of the show "The New Yorkers" at the 2003 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.