Although best known as a multimedia, performance and recording artist, Laurie Anderson has experimented with every kind of art imaginable during her career. She is a composer, dancer, film director, music producer, photographer, poet, sculptor, ventriloquist, violinist, vocalist, writer, and high tech-freak. Unlike many other performance artists who never break out of their niche groups of art-worshippers and freaks, Laurie Anderson achieved an amazing popularity with her multimedia performance art in the United States and around the world. Contributing to that popularity are her long-term contract since 1981 with the major label Warner Bros., her constant re-invention of herself as an artist, as well as her effort to be understood wherever she performs by presenting her shows in several languages. Anderson’s hallmarks are solos with self-designed musical instruments which embrace state-of-the-art electronics technology and the use of Vocoders to transform her voice. Rather than songs, her live performances are typified by spoken stories accompanied by musical arrangements which combine sounds, conventional and electronic instruments, as well as light show, costumes, and film or photographic images.
Many critics have tried to describe Laurie Anderson’s work since she began performing in the early 1970s. Ken Johnson writing in the New York Times called “mystery, melodrama and humor… central qualities of Anderson’s art.” “The accumulation of words and images is intoxicating,” wrote Sarah Kenton in Time Out of an Anderson exhibition, “you absorb the message without realizing that it is full of profundities disguised as humorous asides.” Germano Celant maintained in Interview that Anderson’s longtime artistic goal was “dissolving barriers between people.” Anderson herself noted in Interview What all her work involves some kind of escapism, “imagining a body to be somewhere else. Music reminds you about your body, but it also takes you out of it. All art is a form of escape, but music is in particular.”
If there is anything constant in her career—from performing “Duets on Ice” on street corners of New York City in 1974 to re-inventing Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” as an electronic musical 25 years later—it is the presentation of “works in progress.” In Interview, Laurie Anderson described this approach: “I always light performances so I can see people really well in the audience. That’s how I learn what to cut out, what to change.” She uses big notebooks to write down ideas, events, and thoughts, from which she later draws her lyrics which might be re-used from time to time. While political and social criticism expressed through stories of everyday life has always been part of her work, later pieces focused more on her personal life experience.
Laurie Anderson grew up with four brothers and three sisters in a Chicago suburb. She studied violin and played in the Chicago Youth Symphony but abandoned the idea of becoming a violinist. She also loved books and started pursuing a degree in Library Science. But her interest in art finally drew her to major in Art History. After her graduation in 1969, Anderson moved to New York City, studied sculpture at Columbia University until 1972, and made her living as art history instructor at various colleges and as a freelance critic for small art magazines in New York City afterwards.
In the early 1970s, she started creating and presenting her first performance pieces such as Automotive, a “concert” of car horns in an open space in 1972, and ORange, in which megaphones were used by ten performers to shout stories across a large empty sports stadium in 1973. In the Duets on Ice performed on the streets of New York City in 1973, she played her violin while a tape of herself was playing at the same time, hidden inside the instrument. Standing on skates covered with blocks of ice, she performed until the ice melted. AS:IF, her first solo show that dealt with her religious upbringing, was presented at Artists Space in New York City in 1974. Selections of Anderson’s works
For the Record…
Born June 5, 1947, Wayne, IL; daughter of Arthur T. and Mary Louise (Rowland) Anderson; Education: Barnard College, B. A. in Art History, 1969; Columbia University, M.F.A. in Sculpture, 1972.
Art history instructor at City College of New York, 1973-75; freelance critic for Art Forum, Art News and Art in America; created multimedia installations and performances such as Automotive in 1972, O-Range in 1973, Duets on Ice in 1973, and AS:IF in 1974; designed the Tape Bow Violin with Bob Bielecki in 1976; major performance pieces included Like a Stream and Americans on the Move; United States II premiered in New York’s Orpheum Theater in 1980; recorded several songs for two Dial-A-Poem series in 1980-81; “O Superman” (110 Records release) reached number two on British pop charts; signed contract with Warner Bros. in 1981, released Big Science, 1982; toured with the eight-hour-performance United States I-IV through the United States and Europe, 1983; released Mister Heartbreak, 1984; concert film Home of the Brave, 1985; released album of same name, 1986; hosted Ernie Kovacs special on PBS in 1987; released Strange Angels, 1989; premiered with performance Empty Places at Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC in 1989; performed Voices from the Beyond at the Museum of Modern Art and around the United States in 1991; Stories from the Nerve Bible, a performance-retrospective of Anderson’s work, premiered at Expo ’92 in Seville; published a book with same title in 1994; released Bright Red, 1994, released The Ugly one With the Jewels, a live recording from the Nerve Bible in 1995; released the interactive CD-ROM Puppet Motel on Voyager; performed The Speed of Darkness in the United States and Europe 1996-98; solo show Whirlwind at Artists Space in New York; formed “etc” (Electronic Theater Company) in partnership with Interval Research Corporation.
Addresses: Home —New York, NY. Record Company —Warner Bros., 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694. Management —Keith Naisbitt, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverley Hills, CA 90212.
appeared on two anthologies in 1977: Airwaves published by One Ten Records, and New Music for Electronic Material published by 1750 Arch Street Records. Between 1977 and 1979, she performed in many avant-garde music festivals in Europe and the United States.
Anderson’s United States II performance, the first one she did in a “real theater”, premiered in New York’s Orpheum Theater in 1980. Described by Will Annett in Jones Telecommunications and Multimedia Encyclopedia as “a dark, near apocalyptic vision that stirred audiences and left them deeply unsettled,” it was publicized widely in the media. With her tape bow violin she “produced bizarre and haunting sounds by passing a bow laced with audio tape across a violin ‘strung’ with playback heads,” as Annett noted. One of Anderson’s songs from that performance-”O Superman”-was released by 110 Records and reached number two on the British pop charts.
That success led to a Warner Bros. contract in 1981. This step “brought her odd sounds and unusual lyrics to an enormous audience and Anderson became performance art’s first rock star and Warner Bros, first conceptualist,” as Barbara Stratyner put it in Contemporary Musicians. Her first album Big Science was released on Warner Bros. In 1982. Her financial success made it possible for her to create her own conceptual multimedia opera. With her seven-hour-performance United States I-IV she toured extensively through the United States and Europe in 1983. The opus consisted of the four segments “Transportation”, “Politics”, “Money”, and “Love,” and was performed over two consecutive nights. A five-album-set, United States Live, was released by Warner Bros, in 1984; the same year saw the release of Mister Heartbreak, a collection of material not included on the live album, together with pieces co-produced with Peter Gabriel, Bill Laswell, and Roma Baron. Anderson toured the United States, Canada and Japan with a crew of 35. When she returned to New York City, she put together a film documentary of the tour, which was released in 1986 as Home of the Brave, with an album of the same name.
Reception of these works by the media and her audience was mixed and they were not financially successful. Anderson hit the road again with a greatest hits tour Natural History in 1986, and her audiences and record sales started rising again. Her commercial success, however, alienated her from New York’s art community. After her fame peaked in the second half of the 1980s, “Anderson felt the need of a change,” John Howert wrote in Laurie Anderson. “I was tired of being Laurie Anderson,” Anderson told him, and “I wanted to start over. So I threw everything out of my loft. My next performance was going to be really simple, just one person—me—and a microphone.”
Anderson started taking voice lessons. The album Strange Angels released in 1989 was the first one where Anderson actually sang, with a melodious soprano voice. Her next performance Empty Places —parts of which she presented in twelve different languages—was also a solo show with Anderson telling stories and singing songs, using some slides and movies. Voices from Beyond from 1991 was a polemic monologue with a few scattered songs on censorship and the intolerance that drives it.
In 1994, Anderson published Stories from the Nerve Bible, a retrospective of her works from the previous twenty years, including fables, pictures, and diagrams. In the liner notes to The Ugly one With the Jewels, a 1995 live recording with spoken and sung pieces excerpted from a reading of the “Nerve Bible,” Anderson described her feelings about seeing her work in the book: “A lot of the material was made to be spoken, so it was really strange to see it in print. I believe that language is alive and that when you hear something it has an entirely different meaning than when you see it on a page.” She went on a book tour through the United States and Europe in 1994 and 1995, calling it “the most low-tech show” she had ever done: “I sat on the stage with keyboards, digital effects machines, a violin and a twenty-four input mixing console and mixed the sound myself,” she wrote on The Ugly one With the Jewels, “Without all the effects of a multimedia show, it became a kind of mental movie. I really felt like I was in the places I was describing.”
In 1993 Anderson performed the Nerve Bible show which combined elements from her book, CD, CD-ROM, and earlier works. Bright Red co-produced with Brian Eno and released in 1994 was Anderson’s first album in five years. In its personal, mostly gloomy pieces influenced by an near-death experience on a trip in the Tibetan Himalayas in 1993, Anderson used the same spare sound underlining spoken words that characterized her early works. It included “Night in Bagdad,” a piece on the Gulf War, “Love Among the Sailors” on the toll of AIDS, “The Puppet Motel” describing a world taken over by computers, and “In Our Sleep,” a duet with rock singer Lou Reed. In 1995 the software firm Voyager released Anderson’s interactive CD-ROM Puppet Motel, offering six hours of music and talk. Her 1996-1998 solo show, The Speed of Darkness, presented a collection of stories and songs that focused on the themes control and the future of art and technology. Using a theater, a mental hospital, and a control room as sets for her stories, Anderson presented herself in a more personal and emotional manner than ever before.
In November of 1998, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Anderson’s first solo show at the New York Artists Space gallery, objects made for the gallery or used in performances were presented in the solo show Whirlwind. Ken Johnson described Anderson’s Small Handphone Table (1978) in the New York Times:” you sit with your elbows on a table and hands over your ears; low, ethereal music runs from the table, through your arms and into your ears.”
Whirlwind, a room-size installation from 1996, was described by Martha Schwendener for Time out New York as an “installation of 48 speakers grouped together and suspended from the ceiling to emit one large mass of sound. As you walk around under the piece or stand in one place and move your head, you get different perspectives on a wide range of sounds, from dance-track-like beats to the whistling of the wind recorded at the Great Wall of China.”
Anderson’s latest project is a performance based on Melville’s Moby Dick, a theme that had already appeared in earlier works. Promotional material provided by Anderson’s office described the show: “Using Melville’s text as a point of departure,... Moby Dick takes us into an electronic world of glistening images, unusual vocal styles and daring staging,” accompanied by music from various genres including the initial incantation in Latin and Polynesian grooves of Queequeg. “The colorful characters on the doomed Pequod, from the Captain to the crazy Cook, are represented by a cast that doubles as Noah, Jonah, Job and Melville himself.” Moby Dick: Songs and Poems was scheduled to be presented in Ann Arbor, Michigan, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the fall of 1999. It marks the first time Laurie Anderson has directed actors. It was also the introduction of “talking sticks”, new musical instruments she designed which translate gestures into sound.
In a conversation with Ingrid Sischy on Moby Dick Anderson said: “I’m depressed by optimism. The kind of optimism that’s around now. I mean, I’m a dark person and this idea that technology and communication are going to save us is incredibly depressing to me. So Moby Dick will be very gritty looking with these techno things sort of hidden.” In a New York Times Magazine article Anderson wrote: “The electronic age makes us all players in a performance-art piece. Our role: To shout at hardware and to volunteer to colonize the moon.” In an interview with Adrienne Redd Anderson described her own vision: “My idea of utopia is that everyone can be an artist.”
United States (I-IV), 1983.
Empty Places, 1990.
Nerve Bible, 1995.
Speed of the Darkness, 1996.
Moby Dick: Songs and Poems, 1999.
Big Science, Warner Bros., 1982, reissued, WEA/Warner Bros., 1987.
Mister Heartbreak, Warner Bros., 1984, reissued, WEA/Warner Bros., 1987.
United States Live (five-album set), Warner Bros., 1984, reissued as United States of America (four-CD box set) WEA/Warner Bros., 1991.
Home of the Brave, (motion picture soundtrack), Warner Bros., 1986.
Strange Angels, Warner Bros., 1989.
Bright Red, Warner Bros., 1994.
The Ugly one With the Jewels, Warner Bros., 1995.
O Superman, Warner Bros., 1982.
Sharkey’s Day, Warner Bros., 1984.
Home of the Brave, 1986.
Language is a Virus, Warner Bros., 1986.
Beautiful Red Dress, Warner Bros., 1990.
The Collected Videos, Warner-Reprise Home Video, 1991.
Something wild, (underscoring), 1985.
Swimming to Cambodia, 1987.
Wings of Desire, (several songs called “Angel Fragments”), 1988.
Bridge of Dreams, (score for a dance piece by Molissa Fenley, commissioned by Deutsche Oper Berlin), 1994.
United States, Harper & Row, 1984.
Empty Places, Harper Perennial, 1991.
Stories from the Nerve Bible: 1972-1992 A Retrospective, Harper Perennial, 1994.
Puppet Motel, Voyager Co., 1995, reissued (Mac/Windows ed.) 1998.
Howell, John, Laurie Anderson, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992.
Interview, August 1998.
New Yorker, April 10, 1995.
New York Times, February 5, 1995; September 27, 1998; October 9, 1998.
New York Times Magazine, September 28, 1997.
Rolling Stone, December 15, 1994.
Time Out New York, June 25-July 2, 1997; October 29-November 5, 1998.
Additional information for this profile was provided by Laurie Anderson’s office.
"Anderson, Laurie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/anderson-laurie
"Anderson, Laurie." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved January 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/anderson-laurie
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Performance artist; violinist
A performance artist “treads the high-wire between art and popular culture, between ‘refined consciousness’ and ‘dumbness’. But by appropriating aspects of both—a well-worn tradition in avant-garde art—Anderson simply succeeds in creating an extraordinarily virtuosic in-joke.” So wrote Sally Banes in the Village Voice in 1980, at the mid-point of Laurie Anderson’s career in performance art. Thanks to a long-term recording contract with Warner Bros., Anderson has become the most popularly recognized figure in that ever-changing field of music—art and solo performance. She is a multitalented musician, once described as “a recording artist who can do her own MTV videos and record cover graphics,” who is one of the most controversial artists of our times.
Raised outside of Chicago in a musical family, Anderson studied violin before moving to New York to take a degree in Art History from Barnard College in 1969. She earned an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Columbia University in 1972 and studied with noted minimalist artist Sol Le Witt. Anderson began to perform as an element of her own “installation pieces,” combined exhibitions and events in small art galleries, museums and post-modern dance spaces. They included text, films or videos, as in the narrative of her own photographs, Story Show, that she exhibited in 1972. Automotive, which she described as her first performance piece, was a setting of car horns in an open space in Rochester, Vermont, that year.
From 1973 to the present, Anderson has created installations at galleries or museums that require her performance as a musician. She is associated with the electric and/or altered violin—an instrument that can be plucked or bowed as if it were a conventional accoustic fiddle. But she frequently experiments with its extraordinary sound capabilities. She has rigged her violins with prerecorded music, as in her Duets on Ice, so that she played a duet on accoustic violin with the tape of herself hidden inside her tape-bow violin. On each occasion in New York and in Genoa, the “duet” was performed on blocks of ice and lasted, at each performance, until the ice melted. More recently, she composed Like a Stream for her tape-bow altered violin accompanied by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1978.
Anderson also alters her voice for performance. In her six-hour-long United States I-IV, she used a Vocoder to split and sample her own voice into a variety of effects including a “vocal transformation from female to male … [that] reminded one of Lily Tomlin’s use of transvestism to make anti-sexist statements,” as Stephen Holden described a “works-in-progress” appearance in 1982. She can also alter the “age” of her
Born 1947, in Wayne, III.; daughter of Arthur T. (in paint business) and Mary Louise (Rowland) Anderson. Education: Barnard College, B.A. in art history, 1969; Columbia University, M.F.A. in sculpture, 1972.
Art history instructor at City College of New York (CCNY), 1973-75; worked as freelance critic for Art Forum and Art News; creator and performer of mulitmedia performance art, 1972—. Major works include Automotive, 1972, O-Range, 1973, Duets on Ice, 1973, Songs and Stories for the Insomniac, 1975, Refried Beans forInstants, 1976, for Instants, Part 5, 1977, Handphone Table, 1978, Americans on the Move, 1979, United States, I-IV, 1983, Home of the Brave, 1986, and Stream-3. Performer in and writer and director of film, “Home of the Brave,” 1986. Participant in numerous one-woman and group shows; host of “Alive from Off Center,” PBS, 1987.
Awards: Recipient of grant from New York State Council on the Arts, 1975 and 1977; from National Endowment for the Arts, 1977 and 1979; Guggenheim fellow, 1983.
Address: Office –c/o Liz Rosenberg, Warner Bros. Records, 3 East 54th St., New York, N.Y. 10022.
voice electronically, re-creating herself as a chorus of children, adolescents, mature adults, or the elderly.
Her installations, requiring a limited present audience, have become less important to her career than recordings, which can be taped for a much wider audience. She had originally been attracted by the impermanence of art, telling Robert Palmer in the New York Times that “That was very important to me, because it made the work so much about memory. The only way to document it, really, is to use your memory, I refused to even let people take pictures of it for a long time.” As Tom Johnson described one installation in his Village Voice column in 1977, Anderson soon adapted the technology of permanence of music to her art. “Anyone who wandered into the Holly Solomon Gallery last month was confronted by, of all things, a jukebox. It was a big stereo model, all lit up in the usual way. If you pushed a few buttons, it would play any one of 124 singles by Laurie Anderson…. The singles in Anderson’s jukebox were in an artsy sort of semi-popular vein…. Number 121 admitted a number of extraneous sounds, such as a boat horn and a parrot. Number 100 featured a talking jew’s harp that conveyed a text almost comprehensibly. Number 103, ‘Like a CB,’ lamented the intrusion of CB signals on home stereo equipment and itself had a brief CB-type intrusion.”
Selections of her works were included in two significant anthology albums in the 1970s—Airwaves (1977) and New Music for Electronic and Recorded Material (1977). Her song, “O Superman” (1981), became a surprise number one hit in Great Britain and brought her to the attention of Warner Bros. Records. The beat that came naturally to her, having grown up in the rock and roll era, brought her odd sounds and unusual lyrics to an enormous audience and Anderson became performance art’s first rock star and Warner Bros. first conceptualist. Anderson described the process of her recording to Robert Palmer’s “The Pop Life” column in the New York Times: “On [Big Science], I tried to integrate the music, the singing and the talking…. But I try to lock those elements a little tighter [for] listening. I’m so used to depending on music, language and a third thing, the picture, that making this album was like—gulp.”
Much of the work of performance artists like Anderson or Philip Glass, who combine minimalist music with overwhelming visual spectacle, has been compared to opera. Anderson’s massive multi-media work, United States I-IV, has often been so desribed. She told Michael VerMeuen in In Performance that it grew out of her social experiences abroad, “sitting at dinner tables in Europe and having people ask me: ‘How can you Americans be behaving that way? How could you have elected that guy? What’s wrong with you people? What’s wrong with your cities? Why are they rotting? Why don’t you care about sick people? How can you live in a society run by computers? Why do you spend so much time in your cars? Why don’t you care about your mothers and fathers?’”
United States I-IV was a work in progress for much of Anderson’s career. Part I, “Americans on the Move,” about transportation as a metaphor for change, was premiered at The Kitchen, a New York performance space, in 1979. The second part, on politics, was first presented at a proscenium theater in New York. Part Three, about money, was seen in partial previews in Anderson’s concerts during 1983, while Part Four, concerning love, was given its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s prestigeous Next Wave Festival in 1984.
Critics from mainstream theatre/music and the avant garde world were disappointed with the work. In a retrospective article on performance art, the New York Times reported that it “was meant to be a portrayal of this country, composed of a mixture of visual images, music, Zen koans [chants] and theatrical gesture … suggesting an American society that is all technological surface and commerce, empty slogans and formulaic language…. The result—far from being an avant-garde challenge to American culture—was as formulaic as the questions [she] was inspired by. [It], in fact, displayed many of the characteristics Miss Anderson seemed to think belong to the United States—preoccupation with technological novelty, celebrations of cliches and surface.”
The Village Voice assigned two critics to the premiere—theatre editor Erika Munk and performance art specialist Sally Banes. As Munk described the event, “Anderson’s work leans heavily on charm, suggestion and light irony, but these don’t explain its fleeting quality either. There’s something disturbing under the charm, and it’s not, I think, a disturbance she intends. Anderson gives us songs and anecdotes, imagery, a persona, an enviroment, but basically she is performing an attitude—towards the means of art, its subjects, its interplay with the audience—which embraces all these things, and taken over the hours, diminishes them.”
Banes was also disappointed. “Must a performance about a trivial culture—or trivial aspects of a very complex culture—be as shallow and pretentious as the life it describes? … The references to popular culture are eerie and empty, rather than vibrant. They dessicate, rather than vitalize, the world they describe. Yet some of the most powerful songs in United States quote from 30’s culture rather than the 80’s…. Graphic imagery from the 30’s crops up throughout the four sections. Some of Anderson’s appeal has to do with her technology-futurism hype, but some of it also has to do with depression nostalgia.”
Now best known for her recordings, Anderson continues to create live art works that depend on combinations of environmental and technological determinates. Every performance requires the recreation of the human voice and all instruments through electric and computerized programming. She has recently attempted to recreate the performance mode on recordings. She includes photographs, diagrams, and instructions in her albums to develop a multi-layering effect of hearing on audio equipment what musicians are performing on audio equipment in order to sound like different instruments.
Many of Anderson’s installation pieces have been published by galleries as a permanent art form, among them Transportation/Transportation (1973; Pace University Print Shop) and Performance by Artists (1979; Art Metropole, Toronto). She has also published the illustrated text of United States (Harper & Row, 1984). Her “high-tech, one-woman show,” What Do You Mean We?, was shown on the Public Broadcasting Service series dedicated to experimental and performance art, “Alive from Off Center,” in 1986. Her film, “Home of the Brave” (Warner Bros., 1986) has also been seen on the Public Broadcasting Service.
Recently, Anderson has returned to less stagey events. Her concert at the “Serious Fun Festival” at Lincoln Center in 1988 was admired by John Rockwell in the New York Times as “heartwarming.” “Her singing seemed new because there was so much of it and it sounded strong compared with her mostly spoken story-songs of the past or her mousy vocalizations of a couple of years ago. The accompaniment consisted of herself alone, bereft of a quasi-rock band … it was fascinating and somehow ingratiating to see her alone on stage the way she used to be back at the Kitchen and other haunts, mustering up an extraordinary range of vocal and instrumental textures all be herself.”
Anderson’s future in music and performance art will undoubtably lead to more controversy. She is experimenting more with videos and has discussed the possibilities of making works directly on to video discs, without any live performances. She has been able to enlarge the audience for mixed-media work by her mainstream recording contracts and appearances on MTV. Many audiences now anticipate her next moves.
Big Science, (includes “O Superman”), Warner Brothers, 1982.
Mister Heartbreak, Warner Brothers, 1984.
United States Live (five-LP set), Warner Brothers, 1984.
Home of the Brave (motion picture soundtrack), Warner Brothers, 1986.
Work has also appeared on music anthologies, including Airwaves, One Ten Records, 1977, and New Music for Electronic and Recorded Material, 1750 Arch Street Records, 1977.
United States (illustrated text of performance piece and record album of the same name), Harper, 1984.
Artforum, February, 1982.
In Performance, Volume 2, Number 5.
Los Angeles Reader, September 11, 1981.
New York Times, October 27, 1980; April 21, 1982; February 6, 1983; March 10, 1983; August 12, 1984; September 6, 1986; July 23, 1988.
Newsweek, June 29, 1981.
Village Voice, February 28, 1977; October 11, 1980; June 8, 1982;
February 22, 1983; March 13, 1984; July 24, 1984.
"Anderson, Laurie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/anderson-laurie-0
"Anderson, Laurie." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved January 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/anderson-laurie-0
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Laurie Anderson, 1947–, American performance artist, b. Chicago. Originally a sculptor, she was influenced by Philip Glass and other avant-garde composers in the early 1970s and soon turned to the creation of multimedia performance art. Anderson is best known for quirky, witty, and elaborate events that typically combine such elements as electronic and instrumental music, song, theater, film, and video projections; they include United States I–IV of the 1980s and Nerve Bible (1992). In 1982 she scored a pop music hit with
and has since made a number of albums, e.g., Big Science (1984), Strange Angels (1989), Bright Red (1994). She has also made video and film pieces, composed orchestral works and soundtracks, created and performed monologues, and written books. Her first CD-ROM, The Ugly One with the Jewels, was released in 1994.
See study by R. Goldberg (2000).
"Anderson, Laurie." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/anderson-laurie
"Anderson, Laurie." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved January 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/anderson-laurie
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Anderson, Laurie, imaginative American performance artist and composer; b. Chicago, June 5, 1947. Anderson received violin lessons before studying art history at Barnard Coll. (B.A., 1969) and sculpture at Columbia Univ. (M.F.A., 1972), and then had training from the painter Sol Lewitt. From 1973 to 1975 she taught art history at City Coll. of the City Univ. of N.Y. In 1983 she held a Guggenheim fellowship. Renouncing the tradition of conventional modernism, she set for herself a goal of uniting all arts as they once existed in ancient theatrical practice; in doing so, she made use of all available modern techniques, from topical pop to electronics, even making her own body a part of the instrumental combination, playbacking with herself on magnetic tape and projecting images on a screen. In her performances, she combines speech, song, and bodily exertions; she also uses a variety of instrumentations, including a homemade violin activated by a luminous bow made of electronic tape. She has become particularly famous for her multimedia cyber-punk projections, extending the principles of cybernetics to deliberately commonplace movements, behavior, and Ian- guage. Her programmed compositions are mostly improvisations in which she alters her natural voice electronically, making use of vocal glissando, crooning, panting, and heavy aspiration. Her satirical piece New York Social Life uses oriental drum effects; another piece, Time to Go, scored for guitar, violin, and organ, portrays the repeated exhortation of a museum guard to visitors to leave at closing time. In 1976 she gave a successful exhibition of psychomusicurgy at the Berlin Akademie der Kunst. In 1981 her song O Superman (for Massenet) became a genuine hit. In 1983 she produced her grandiose collage epic entitled simply United States, on themes of travel, politics, money, and love. Her book United States was publ. in N.Y. in 1984. On Oct. 3, 1989, she presented a large-scale solo work, Empty Places, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Among her subsequent works, the multimedia pieces Stories From the Nerve Bible (1995) and Songs and Stories from “Moby Dick” (1999) were notable.
Big Science (1982); Mister Heartbreak (1984); United States Live (1984); Home of the Brave (1986); Strange Angels (1989); Bright Red (1994); The Ugly One with the Jewels and Other Stories (1995); Talk Normal: The L A. Anthology (2000).
United States (N.Y., 1984).
J. Kardon, ed., L. A.: Works from 1969 to 1983 (Philadelphia, 1983).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
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