The prophetic “In the Future” by the endlessly talented David Byrne was first released on the album Music for “The Knee Plays”, a 1985 album released by Burns and composed for avant-garde director and playwright Robert Wilson’s opera the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down. The opera, originally intended to be performed in five acts internationally and as a single daylong piece to accompany the 1984 Summer Olympics, has never been performed as a whole. The album was finally re-released as The Knee Plays in 2007.
Despite the numerous problems associated with the actual opera, what ultimately made “In the Future” so challenging and important was Byrne’s keen sense of observation. Selected lyrics such as “In the future there will be machines which will produce a religious experience in the user,” “In the future water will be expensive,” and “In the future everyone’s house will be like a little fortress” are thought-provoking, especially since Byrne wrote them in the early 80s. Although everything in the song has not come true (thankfully), it is enjoyable to examine Byrne’s curious foresight.