Laurie Anderson has as many questions as answers. What do people in Ireland think of Covid-19? Are we frightened? What's going to happen next?
It is Thursday morning, March 12. Anderson is in Adelaide, Australia, so it's night-time there. It's a couple of hours before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's momentous announcement of a shut-down of schools and colleges and indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, rendering all gigs null and void. The closure of pubs would come a few days later.
But at 9am that morning, it still feels like a comparatively normal day and Laurie Anderson is talking to Review in advance of a pair of shows at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, next weekend. The concerts, of course, are cancelled now although its bookers are determined to get her back at a future date.
"It feels like a very strange time," she says, placing Review on speaker-phone so she can go to the window of her hotel and drink in an amazing Australian sunset. "I want to take in all that is beautiful before you-know-what hits the fan."
The day before, in Adelaide, Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive for Covid-19. Filming of a new Baz Luhrman film - starring the Oscar-winner - has to be put on hold. "It seems to be happening everywhere," Anderson says. "I've been hearing from a lot of my friends back home in New York and they're terrified, and if I'm honest, I'm sort of dreading going back there. I feel like I'm in a bubble right now."
She has just come to Australia from New Zealand - a country that seems to have contained the Coronavirus better than most. "I felt a bit insulated from it there," she notes, "but it feels very real here.
"Humans have never had to deal with this before so we have no idea what to do," she says. "I'm trying very hard to use all of my mental, emotional and spiritual skills to remember that everything changes always. And we'll lose everything - it's a basic Buddhist principle that every thought you have, every person you know, every person you loved, everything you hated, every shirt you wore... all gone.
"It's quite an amazing teaching and yet at the same time I try to find happiness and meaning around me, especially at a time like this."
Anderson, 72, is one of popular music's most revered experimentalists. She has never made conventional music and she has inspired legions of artists. St Vincent and Grimes are among those who have cited her as a key influence.
For many, the musician from the small town of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, first came to prominence when her eight-minute song, 'O Superman', reached number two in the UK singles chart in 1982. It remains perhaps the strangest track to go top five there has ever been.
She makes music that is both challenging and rewarding and a deep-dive into her oeuvre offers a reminder about how samey and restrictive so much music actually is - even the great stuff.
A recent album, Heart of a Dog, finds her musing on both her beloved dog and her late mother, with whom she had a complex, tricky relationship. It's both a decidedly weird album and a curiously comforting one.
"I don't think music or songs should have parameters," she says. "Don't limit yourself as an artist. Try to be completely free. Take risks always."
They are aphorisms that she has heeded since she first started making music in the early 1970s. She first got noticed in her adopted home of New York with a performance piece called Duets on Ice. She played violin, with accompaniment from music she had already recorded, and she stood wearing ice-skates encased in a block of ice. The performance only ended when the ice melted.
She was set to perform very different two concerts in the National Concert Hall - on the Saturday and Sunday - and, hopefully, she will get to do just that in the future. But on Thursday morning, March 12, she is excited by the prospect of playing more shows with a band led by bassist and musical director, Greg Cohen. "They're just my dream orchestra. We played together in New Zealand and it was one of the deepest musical experiences of my life."
The first show, Radio Play, was set to be somewhat improvisational. "It has to do with a fantasy that I've had for many years," Anderson says. "This idea that I would have a late night radio show in San Francisco and it would be the kind of show that would sneak into people's minds in different ways. Logic breaks down at that point and it's a kind of anything goes thing. It's a way to use language in a very wandering way and it would be an experiment and I think it will work. You're never 100pc sure. I do love it when logic breaks."
The second, Here Comes the Ocean, could hardly have been more different. "It is a combination of pieces about the ocean, about climate crisis, birds, language, flooding. It's got some Lou Reed songs in it. It's got a Velvet Underground cover ['Ocean', from their self-titled 1969 album]. It's like a giant big wave. We'll also be joined by Stewart Hurwood. He's the drone maestro of the world." Hurwood used to be Lou Reed's guitar technician.
Anderson was married to Lou Reed from 1992 until his death in 2013. "I wonder what he would made have all of this?" she muses, in reference to Coronavirus. "He was so courageous and truthful and he was not at all about euphemisms." She chuckles: the Velvet Underground founder was notoriously direct, especially when it came to his dealings with the media. A Guardian journalist, Simon Hattenstone, wrote about how Reed practically brought him to tears so hostile was he in the interview.
"He was an exceptional person," she adds. "He changed my life and he's still very much part of my life. I'm not a person who responds very well to someone saying 'Get over it! Move on.' I treasure every single feeling of how his spirit is still around.
"I like to play his music and think about him and to keep his very dangerous and wonderful and generous spirit afloat. We so much need inspiration right now - this is going to get dark. We have to use every single resource - mental and spiritual - that we have."
She pauses, contemplating what it's like to lose someone so precious. "I have to say one thing, it doesn't get easier. I still miss him as much as I did from the moment he left us. You know, a lot of people have this reaction to death where they downplay the whole thing, but the truth is you can miss that person every single day for the rest of your life."
Anderson has been making music for the best part of 50 years, and says she has no intention of stopping. Has it got any easier? "I don't know about easier, per se, but the process of creativity has changed," she says. "I have a sort of late style. I feel much more willing to improvise, to do risky things and to go into a situation not knowing what I'm going to do.
"I used to be much more in need of structure and assurance that it's going to work out. I don't have that now. It's a no safety net thing. It feels very liberating."