Helicopters — good or evil?

17 Jun

The Luminato Festival in Toronto had a great evening double bill under the open sky. DakhaBrakha (www.dakhabrakha.com.ua), a brilliant quartet from Ukraine that plays fantastic music that is uncatogorizable and the Laurie Anderson.
I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw the video for “O, Superman” on MuchMusic in 1981. This night she was connecting with noted Chinese artist Ai Weiwei via Skype in, “Greetings to the Motherland.”
In this work she talks about the surveillance controversy in the US while he talk about his arrest in China. As the music and text were reaching a crescendo, a helicopter started hovering above. I’m not sure if this was part of the performance but it did ad to a dramatic feeling.
For some reason, helicopter sounds are perceived as evil. When conspiracy mongers start fulminating their evidence they always shout about helicopters — black helicopters especially. In music there are countless of examples of helicopter sounds being used for a dramatic and foreboding effect.
But … is this fair? Yes, helicopters have been used in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and many other wars to rain misery down from the sky. Helicopters are a prime source of putting in troops to kill specific people — Bin Laden for example.
Yet, helicopters are used for search and rescue. The sound of these machines nearing you as you are lying with a broken leg in the middle of a forest or clinging to a life raft on a storm swept sea are not terrifying but one of salvation.
So why did the helicopter hovering over the Laurie Anderson have this doom-like effect on the audience?


One Response to “Helicopters — good or evil?”

  1. Richard Johnson June 17, 2013 at 5:34 PM #

    It had to have been part of the performance – she is sensitive to the big picture and always takes things to another level. Helicopters are like an American anthem – forever watching and controlling. It was off to the side until she started speaking about America, then it came overhead. Remember the very last sounds after she left the stage were of helicopters just before the lights went out. Brilliant!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: