Friday, July 1, 2011

Laurie Anderson

Sunset over Lower Manhattan, cool June breezes from the East River, a bevy of songbirds swirling above in the summer sky… What do these images & sensations conjure? Last night, friends & I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing a mesmerizing (and free!) concert by Laurie Anderson at NYCs Castle Clinton in Battery Park, Lower Manhattan in which this Awesome Woman of the Day collaborated with a fellow musician, Bill Laswell, for a night of improvisational & deeply-felt beats and melodies.

Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson (born 5 June 1947) in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is an influential American experimental performance artist, composer and musician who plays violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of experimental music and art rock styles. Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960s. She graduated from Barnard College magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, studying art history. In 1972, she obtained an MFA in sculpture from Columbia University. Her first performance-art piece—a symphony played on automobile horns—was performed in 1969. In the early 1970s, she worked as an art instructor, as an art critic for magazines such as Artforum and illustrated children's books.

Throughout the 1970s, Anderson did a variety of different performance-art activities. Many of Anderson's earliest recordings remain unreleased, or were only issued in limited quantities. In 1978, Anderson performed at The Nova Convention, a major conference involving many counter-culture figures and rising avant-garde musical stars, including William S. Burroughs, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa, Timothy Leary, Malcolm Goldstein, John Cage, and Allen Ginsberg. She also worked with comedian Andy Kaufman in the late 1970s.

She became widely known outside the art world in 1981 when her single "O Superman" reached number two on the UK pop charts. She also starred in and directed the 1986 concert film Home of the Brave and also composed the soundtracks for the Spalding Gray films Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box. She also hosted the PBS series Alive from Off-Center during this time, for which she produced the short film What You Mean We? Personally, I have been a fan of hers since a friend from college made me a mix tape, which I still play, that introduced me to her single, Big Science, and the album with the same name.

Anderson is a unique pioneer in electronical music and has invented several devices that she has used in her recordings and performance art shows. In 1977, she created a tape-bow violin that uses recorded magnetic tape on the bow instead of horsehair and a magnetic tape head in the bridge. In the late 1990s, she developed a talking stick, a six-foot-long baton-like MIDI controller that can access and replicate different sounds. In 2003, Anderson became NASA's first artist-in-residence, which inspired her performance piece, The End of the Moon. The single "Sharkey's Day" was for many years the theme song of Lifetime Television.

Anderson married uber-cool singer/songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed (of The Velvet Underground fame) in 2008. Who would have thought that two of the most unorthodox icons in avant garde music, longtime live-in couple Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, would ever get hitched? The unconventional pair tied the knot after decades of living together in a private ceremony. Since the latter part of the 1990s, Anderson and Lou Reed have collaborated on a number of recordings together. Anderson was awarded the 2007 Gish Prize for her "outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to humankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life."

Last June, Laurie Anderson debuted her original "Music for Dogs" composition outside the Sydney Opera House on . Anderson - who often plays music for her rat terrier Lollabelle - said the idea originated during a chat with cellist Yo-Yo Ma while the two were waiting backstage at a graduation ceremony. Hundreds of dogs and their owners bounced around as Anderson entertained them with 20 minutes of thumping beats, whale calls, whistles and a few high-pitched electronic sounds imperceptible to human ears. What will she think of next…?

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