She’s been called — and proudly, too — “aggressive,” “nihilistic,” “stubborn,” “independent,” an icon who wants to “inflict my personal pain on the rest of society.”
Lydia Lunch is, above all, a singular artist, and Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Popular Music is celebrating her unique contributions to the rest of society on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 19 and 20, when it recognizes the singer, poet, writer, actor and self-empowerment speaker with the CPM Fellows Award.
The honor is the third in the center’s history, and the first for a woman, as Lunch joins her fellow music legends Barry Gibb and Lamont Dozier in a small circle of music pioneers with an extensive influence on the arts and society.
The two-day celebration of the New York City “no wave” trailblazer will begin Sept. 19 with a 7:30 p.m. screening and Q&A session of the 2019 documentary “Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over,” followed by a Sept. 20 7:30 p.m. award ceremony and live performance. All are free and open to the public.
“Lydia Lunch might not be a household name, but that’s by design,” said center Director Greg Reish. “Her whole career has intentionally, by definition, been out of the mainstream because she is an avant-garde and anti-establishment artist.
“Her creative output in that world of post-punk experimental music and art has been truly extraordinary and profoundly influential. She’s just an incredibly dynamic and fearless creative figure, and we are really fortunate to have her coming to campus to share her vision of the world.”
The Sept. 19 screening of “The War is Never Over” will be held in Room 221 of MTSU’s McWherter Learning Resources Center, 1558 Military Memorial Drive.
The Sept. 20 CPM Fellow award presentation and live performance are planned for the Tennessee Room inside MTSU’s James Union Building, 516 Alma Mater Drive.
A campus parking map is available at https://bit.ly/MTSUParking.
Visitors for the Sept. 20 presentation and performance should park in the Bell Street Lot, located across Middle Tennessee Boulevard west of the James Union Building. Guests with disabilities can use the accessible entrance at the back of the JUB and take the elevator to the second-floor Tennessee Room.
Born Lydia Anne Koch, Lunch emerged from the short-lived 1970s “no wave” scene as the singer/guitarist of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, embracing confrontational, anticommercial songs with noise-music delivery. She’s released multiple singles and albums, both solo and with her bands Beirut Slump, 8-Eyed Spy, Big Sexy Noise and her current project, Retrovirus, and has collaborated with artists ranging from Rowland S. Howard to Cypress Grove.
Her work in the 1990s earned her praise from the Boston Phoenix alt-weekly as one of the decade’s 10 most influential performers, and the British rock weekly magazine Kerrang! called “Death Valley ’69,” her 1984 collaboration with Sonic Youth, one of its “50 Most Evil Songs Ever” in 2020.
Lunch has also expressed her talents as a film actor, director and writer and a spoken-word artist, working as the latter with fellow artists that include Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins and Hubert “Cubby” Selby Jr.
She’s published an autobiography, “Paradoxia,” and essay, poetry and photo collections including “So Real It Hurts,” “Amnesia” and “The Gun is Loaded,” respectively, and underground comics. In 2013, Lunch began conducting self-empowerment workshops.
Lunch also produces a podcast, “The Lydian Spin,” is working on a documentary about artists and mental health, “Anxiety Depression and Rage,” and continues to release her work on Widowspeak Productions, the publishing and production company she founded in the 1980s.
To learn more about Lunch and her work, visit her website, https://lydia-lunch.net.
The center also develops and sponsors programs in American vernacular music and presents special concerts, lectures and events for the campus community.
Center preserves, studies centuries of American music
In 2015, Dozier joined the fold, recognized as a CPM Fellow for his extraordinary accomplishments in music over more than six decades, including his role as the middle third of Motown’s iconic Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting and production team.
For more information on the Center for Popular Music and its projects and special events, visit www.mtsu.edu/popmusic. To learn more about the College of Media and Entertainment and its programs, visit, https://mtsu.edu/media.
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