November 12, 2013


'80s Synth Pioneer Thomas Dolby Explores NYC Lighthouse

Everybody knows "She Blinded Me With Science," the funky-fun 1982 synth-pop hit from Englishman Thomas Dolby. But what's he been up to over the last 30 years? A lot. Following his breakout debut The Golden Age of Wireless, he released three more albums in the '80s and early '90s, then applied his ahead-of-its-time sound elsewhere. Specifically, Silicon Valley. 

Dolby found success with his Beatnik ringtone engine for Nokia cellular phones, and spent 12 years as the Music Director for the forward-thinking TED Conferences. Then, in 2011, he returned with A Map of the Floating City, his first release in nearly 20 years, which arrived with a web-based social networking game designed in conjunction with sci-fi director J. J. Abrams. Now Dolby's working on yet another innovative project, The Invisible Lighthouse.

It all started when Dolby discovered that the Orfordness Lighthouse, a structure built in 1792 near his home in England, was to soon be decommissioned. He decided to film a documentary about the lighthouse and his personal connections to it, and record an accompanying soundtrack. He's currently on tour performing the soundtrack live as the 50-minute film plays, with help from sound engineer Blake Leyh, whose sound credits in films include The Abyss and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Dolby calls the experience a "trans-media event." "It's a performance art and it's ahead of its time," he says.

During a recent tour stop in New York City, Dolby headed to the Little Red Lighthouse, an iconic lighthouse on the Hudson River made famous by the 1942 children's book of the same name. Fuse tagged along and chatted with Dolby about his new project, then accompanied him backstage before his gig that night at New York City's Gramercy Theatre. 

"There are 46 lighthouses around the North American coast on they're all in danger from erosion or vandalism," says Dolby. "Many will disappear and I think we'll be sad when they're gone. So many people have a soft spot for lighthouses; they represent memories to people. 

"We have an obligation to society to keep them here as long as we can," he adds.

Watch the complete video above, featuring more on the production and ideas behind The Invisible Lighthouse, plus original music from Dolby's last studio album, 2011's A Map of the Floating City (thanks Thomas!) 

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