Recovering from health scare, Cosey Fanni Tutti pushes forward with ‘Re:Sisters,’ Delia Derbyshire score and visual art

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Randall Roberts
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Photo by Ian Cinnamon

The lives and recordings of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe & Cosey Fanni Tutti.

Earlier this month Cosey Fanni Tutti, cofounder of Throbbing Gristle and one half of Chris & Cosey with her husband (and fellow TG cofounder) Chris Carter, was forced to cancel a series of dates to promote her new book, Re-Sisters: The Lives and Recordings of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe and Cosey Fanni Tutti, after a health scare sent her to the hospital.

Cosey’s undisclosed illness, which Carter announced via Cosey’s Twitter, kept her at the facility more than a week, during which fans and admirers of the musician, writer, visual artist, and feminist icon expressed well-wishes and hope for a quick recovery.

Thankfully, that changed on Oct. 13 when Cosey returned to Twitter with a photo of their cat Spook and good news:

“I’m back home! So grateful to NHS & all amazing staff @TeamQEH Thank you all for best wishes, help & love. Under doc’s strict orders to rest for some time yet. Happy to be with my love @chris_carter_ again, he’s been incredible caring for me. Spook was confused by my absence.”

But just because Cosey is currently unable to continue in-person promotion for Re:Sisters, which came out in August, doesn’t mean we can’t further her desire that you know about Derbyshire, Kempe and Cosey’s work.

For reference — and your edification — here is a 50-minute Chris & Cosey performance from 1988. Issued on VHS, the release notes explain that “Chris and Cosey Live Vol. 1 was recorded at the Diogenes Club in Arnhem, Holland as part of the 1988 Chris & Cosey Exotika Tour. This videotape features for the first time, a complete Chris and Cosey gig with visuals specifically remixed from the original tour video masters. The dynamic stereo soundtrack captures the full ambience of a live Chris & Cosey performance.”

Those who know the work of both Cosey and BBC Radiophonic Workshop innovator Derbyshire can likely hear the similarities: both became obsessed with synthesized sound while forging through patriarchal professions that had little interest admitting women’s perspectives into their boys’ clubs.

In an author’s note, Cosey describes Re:Sisters as “the exploration of the lives of three women — myself, the electronic musician Delia Derbyshire and the fifteenth century mystic and author Margery Kempe — through our ‘recordings’: my own as a multi-media artist, Delia’s music and Margary’s autobiography.”

Cosey said that she committed to writing Re:Sisters after being hired to score the music for Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & Legendary Tapes, a BBC 4 documentary that came out last year. At the time, she’d become immersed in Kempe’s writings and ideas.

Called The Book of Margery Kempe, Kempe’s early 15th century autobiography extends from her birth until her sixth decade. The British Library describes the volume like this:

Margery Kempe lived in the East Anglian town of Lynn in the early 15th century, and was at various times the owner of a horse-mill and a brewer, but later in her life she became a visionary and mystic. She was also the mother of 14 children. Her remarkable Book, which only survives in this manuscript, records ‘hyr felyngys and revelacyons and the forme of her levyng’ [her feelings and revelations and the form of her living], allowing us a window onto the life of an ordinary, middle-class person in a prosperous town in late-medieval England.

That the life of a visionary and mystic would intertwine with Cosey’s fascination with Derbyshire’s creativity, while hardly intuitive, makes sense, especially as Cosey lays it out in her book. Here’s a brilliantly confounding undated creation by Derbyshire from the 1960s, when she had established herself within the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Those familiar with Chris & Cosey and Throbbing Gristle will find echoes of Throbbing Gristle’s creepy “Hamburger Man” in Derbyshire’s “Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO.”

And here’s the breathtakingly complex “Computermatic.”

Prior to her health scare, Cosey had been on a creative tear. Her work with the late Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV icon Genesis Breyer P-Orridge as COUM Transmissions has been the subject of gallery shows and she just issued a 7-inch single in the recent issue of British monthly magazine and digital hub Electronic Sound; she’s on the cover and is featured in a (pay-walled) Q&A.

Cosey’s website describes the 7-inch as featuring “a previously unreleased track ‘Amplitude,’ together with an exclusive remix ‘Guitar Redux.'”

Cosey also recently released her score for Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & Legendary Tapes on vinyl — though it quickly sold out.

Cosey created an animated video to accompany the piece “Psychedelic Projections,” from her Derbyshire score.

For more on Cosey’s work, explore her deep, data-rich website.

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