Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson

Infobox musical artist
Name = Laurie Anderson

Img_capt = Laurie Anderson at The Kitchen Benefit in her honor, 2007-05-24
Img_size = 300px
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Laura Phillips Anderson
Alias =
Born = birth date and age|mf=yes|1947|06|05
Died =
Origin = Glen Ellyn, Illinois, U.S.
Instrument = Violin
Genre = Experimental music, Art rock
Occupation = Musician, Performance artist
Years_active = 1976–present
Label = Warner Bros. Records
Nonesuch/Elektra Records
Associated_acts = Lou Reed
Janice Pendarvis
David Van Tieghem
Current_members =
Past_members =
Notable_instruments =

Laurie Anderson (born Laura Phillips Anderson, on June 5, 1947, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois) is an American experimental performance artist 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. Throughout the 1970s, Anderson did a variety of different performance-art activities. 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". [cite web |url= |title= |archiveurl= |archivedate=2007-12-01]

She has also 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 batonlike MIDI controller that can access and replicate different sounds. [ [ "The Performing Artistry of Laurie Anderson," by Don Shewey ] ]

On April 12, 2008 Laurie Anderson married longtime companion Lou Reed in a private ceremony in Boulder, Colorado. [ [ "Laurie & Lou's big day"] , BBC Radio 6 Music (, May 1, 2008 (accesed May 6, 2008)]


Early life

Anderson was born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where she graduated from Glenbard West High School. She attended Mills College in California, and eventually 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", [ [ Music Article 0026 ] ] and illustrated children's books. [ [ Art:21 . Laurie Anderson . Biography . Documentary Film | PBS ] ]


She performed in New York through the 1970s. One of her most-cited performances, "Duets on Ice", which she conducted in New York and other cities around the world, involved her playing the violin along with a recording while wearing ice skates with the blades frozen into a block of ice; the performance ended only when the ice had melted away. Two early pieces, "New York Social Life" and "Time to Go," were included in the 1977 compilation "New Music for Electronic and Recorded Media", along with works by Pauline Oliveros and others.

Many of Anderson's earliest recordings remain unreleased, or were only issued in limited quantities, such as her first single, "It's Not the Bullet that Kills You (It's the Hole)." That song, along with "New York Social Life" and about a dozen others, were originally recorded for use in an art installation that consisted of a jukebox that played the different Anderson compositions. Among the musicians on these early recordings are Peter Gordon on saxophone Scott Johnson on guitar, Ken Deifik on harmonica, and Joe Kos on drums. Photographs and descriptions of many of these early performances were included in Anderson's retrospective book, "Stories from the Nerve Bible". [ [ Laurie Anderson ] ]

During the late 1970s, Anderson made a number of additional recordings that were released either privately or included on compilations of avant-garde music, most notably releases by the Giorno Poetry Systems label run by New York poet John Giorno, an early intimate of Andy Warhol. [ [ Laurie Anderson ] ] 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. [ [ UbuWeb Sound – The Dial-A-Poem Poets: The Nova Convention ] ]


Anderson became widely known outside the art world in 1981 with the single "O Superman," originally released in a limited quantity by B. George's One Ten Records. The song reached number two on the national pop charts in Britain after the sudden influx of orders from the UK (prompted by British DJ John Peel playing the record) led to Anderson's signing a 7-album deal with Warner Bros. Records, which re-released the single. "O Superman" was part of a larger stage work titled "United States" and was included on the album "Big Science". [ [ Laurie Anderson Official Web Site ] ] Prior to the release of "Big Science", Anderson returned to Giorno Poetry Systems to record the album "You're the Guy I Want to Share My Money With"; Anderson recorded one side of the 2-LP set, with William S. Burroughs and John Giorno recording a side each, and the fourth side featured a separate groove for each artist. This was followed by the back-to-back releases of her album "Mister Heartbreak" and "United States Live", the latter of which was a five-LP (and, later, 4-CD) recording of her 2-evening stage show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. [ [ Laurie Anderson Biography (1947–) ] ] She also appeared in a television special produced by Nam June Paik broadcast on New Years Day 1984, entitled Good Morning Mr. Orwell (the title being inspired by Orwell's novel 1984).

She next 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". During this time she also contributed music to Robert Wilson's "Alcestis" at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She also hosted the PBS series "Alive from Off-Center" during this time, for which she produced the short film "What You Mean We?" Release of Anderson's first post-"Home of the Brave" album, 1989's "Strange Angels", was delayed for more than a year in order for Anderson to take singing lessons. This was due to the album being more musically inclined (in terms of singing) than her previous works. [ [ Robert Christgau: CG: Laurie Anderson ] ]


In 1991 Anderson appeared in "The Human Face" a feature arts documentary directed by artist-filmmakers Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson for BBC TV. Anderson was the presenter in this documentary on the history of the face in art and science. Her face was transformed using latex masks and digital special effects as she introduced ideas about the relationship between physiognomy and perception. Her varied career in the early 1990s included voice-acting in the animated film "The Rugrats Movie". In 1994 she created a CD-ROM titled "Puppet Motel", which was followed by "Bright Red", co-produced by Brian Eno, and another spoken-word album, "The Ugly One with the Jewels". This was then followed by an appearance on the 1997 charity single "Perfect Day". [ [ Laurie Anderson ] ]

An interval of more than half a decade followed before her next album release. During this time, she wrote a supplemental article on the cultural character of New York City for the "Encyclopædia Britannica". ["Encyclopaedia Anderson", "The New Yorker", July 16, 2001] and created a number of multimedia presentations, most notably one inspired by "Moby-Dick" ("Songs and Stories From Moby Dick", 1999–2000). [ [ CNN – Review: Laurie Anderson's "Moby"—the big blubber—June 4, 1999 ] ] One of the central themes in Anderson's work is exploring the effects of technology on human relationships and communication.


"Life on a String", appeared in 2001, by which time she signed a new contract with another Warner Music label, Nonesuch Records. "Life on a String" was a mixture of new works (including one song recalling the recent death of her father) and works from the "Moby Dick" presentation. [ [ Laurie Anderson: Life On A String : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone ] ] In 2001, she recorded the audiobook version of Don DeLillo's novel "The Body Artist". Anderson, who rarely revisits older work (though themes and lyrics occasionally reappear), went on tour performing a selection of her best-known musical pieces in 2001. One of these performances was recorded in New York City only a week after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and included a performance of "O Superman." This concert was released in early 2002 as the double CD "Live in New York". [ [ Laurie Anderson: Live in New York – PopMatters Music Review ] ]

In 2003, Anderson became NASA's first—and so far only—artist-in-residence, which inspired her most recent performance piece, "The End of the Moon". [ [ Moon and Stars Align for Performance Artist ( ] ] She mounted a succession of themed shows and composed a piece for Expo 2005 in Japan. She was part of the team that created the opening ceremony for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Later that year, she collaborated with the choreographer Trisha Brown and filmmaker Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo on the acclaimed multimedia project "O Zlozony/O Composite" for the Paris Opera Ballet. The ballet premiered at the Opera Garnier in Paris in December 2004. Anderson has also collaborated with William S. Burroughs, Jean Dupuy, Arto Lindsay, Bill Laswell, Ian Ritchie, Peter Gabriel, Perry Hoberman, David Sylvian, Jean Michel Jarre, Brian Eno, Phillip Glass, Nona Hendryx, Bobby McFerrin, Dave Stewart, Peter Laurence Gordon, Hector Zazou, and Lou Reed. She also worked with comedian Andy Kaufman in the late 1970s.

Since the latter part of the 1990s Anderson and Lou Reed have collaborated on a number of recordings together. [ [ Interview With Laurie Anderson ] ] Anderson contributed to "Call on Me" from Reed's collaborative project "The Raven", on the tracks "Rouge" and "Rock Minuet" from Reed's, "Ecstasy" and "Hang on to Your Emotions" from Reed's "Set the Twilight Reeling"; Lou Reed contributes to the tracks "In Our Sleep" from Laurie Anderson's "Bright Red" and "One Beautiful Evening" from Anderson's "Life on a String". They were married on April 12, 2008. [ [ Morning Memo: Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson Make it Legal] ]

In 2005, her exhibition "The Waters Reglitterized" opened at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City. According to the press release by Sean Kelly, [ [] "" Retrieved on 05-09-07 ] the work is a diary of dreams and their literal recreation as works of art. This work, created in the process of re-experiencing or re-working her dreams while awake, uses the language of dreams to investigate the dream itself. The resulting pieces include drawings, prints, and high-definition video. The installation ran until October 22, 2005. In 2006, she contributed a song to "Plague Songs", a collection of songs related to the 10 Biblical plagues.

Laurie Anderson narrated Ric Burns's "Andy Warhol: The Documentary Film", which was first televised in September 2006 as part of the PBS "American Masters" series. Anderson also performed in Came So Far for Beauty, the Leonard Cohen tribute event held in the Point Theatre, Dublin, Ireland, on October 4 & October 5, 2006. Recently, through her Web site, Laurie announced a re-release of her first album, "Big Science", on Nonesuch Records, a DVD box set containing her short films and the concert movie "Home of the Brave", a book of drawings titled "Night Life", and a new album to be released in 2008, "Homeland". Subsequently, as of September 2008, the box set has yet to be released (with no release date having as yet been announced), and the "Homeland" album is now being promoted as a 2009 release.

Material from "Homeland" was performed at small work-in-progress shows in New York throughout May 2007, most notably at the Highline Ballroom on May 17 and May 18, supported by a 4-piece band with spontaneous lighting and video visuals mixed live throughout the performances by Willie Williams and Mark Coniglio, respectively. A European tour of the "Homeland" work in progress took place during the late summer and fall of 2007, including performances on September 28 and September 29, 2007, at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin; on October 17–19 at the Melbourne International Arts Festival; in Russia at the Moscow Dom Muzyky concert-hall on April 26, 2008. The work was performed across the Atlantic in Toronto, Canada, June 14, 2008, with husband Lou Reed, making the "Lost Art of Conversation" a duet with vocals and guitar, with his ambling style contrasting with Anderson's tightly wound performance.

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." [ [ The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize ] ]


(with U.S. chart positions)Verify source|date=July 2007


*"You're the Guy I Want To Share My Money With" (1981) (with William S. Burroughs, John Giorno)
*"Big Science" (1982) #124
*"Mister Heartbreak" (1984) #60
*"United States Live" (box set) (1984) #192
*"Home of the Brave" (soundtrack album) (1986) #145
*"Strange Angels" (1989) #171, featuring Bobby McFerrin
*"Bright Red" (1994) #195
*"The Ugly One with the Jewels" (spoken word) (1995)
*"" (2000)
*"Life on a String" (2001)
*"Live in New York" (2002)

As of September 2008, Anderson's [ official website] indicates a new album release, "Homeland" is scheduled for 2009.


*"The Stone: Issue Three" (by John Zorn, Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson, recorded live in 2008)
*"Zoolook" (by Jean Michel Jarre, recorded in 1984)
*"Metamorphoses" (by Jean Michel Jarre, recorded in 2000)


*"O Superman" (1981) #2 UK
*"Big Science" (1981)
*"Sharkey's Day" (1984)
*"Language Is a Virus" (1986)
*"Strange Angels" (1989)
*"Babydoll" (1989) #7 US Modern Rock
*"Beautiful Red Dress" (1990)
*"In Our Sleep" (1994)
*"Big Science 2" (2007) (Currently only available on iTunes)

The single "Sharkey's Day" was for many years the theme song of Lifetime Television. Anderson also recorded a number of limited-release singles in the late 1970s (many issued from the Holly Soloman Gallery), songs from which were included on a number of compilations, including Giorno Poetry Systems' "The Nova Convention" and "You're the Guy I Want to Spend My Money With". Over the years she has also performed on recordings by other musicians such as Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, and Jean Michel Jarre. She also contributed lyrics to the Philip Glass album "Songs for Liquid Days", portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln (wife of Abraham Lincoln) for a recording of "" by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, and also contributed a spoken-word piece to a tribute album in honor of John Cage.

Music videos

Formal music videos have been produced of

* "O Superman"
* "Sharkey's Day"
* "Language is a Virus" (from "Home of the Brave")
* "Beautiful Red Dress"

In addition, in lieu of making another music video for her "Strange Angels" album, Anderson taped a series of 1- to 2-minute Personal Service Announcements in which she spoke about issues such as the U.S. national debt and the arts scene. Some of the music used in these productions came from her soundtrack of "Swimming to Cambodia".


# Dearreader: How to Turn a Book Into a Movie - 1974
# System ohne Schatten/Closed Circuit - 1983
# - 1986
# What You Mean We? - 1987
# Hotel Deutschland - 1992
# The Rugrats Movie - 1998 (provided character voice)
# Life on a String - 2002
# Hidden Inside Mountains - 2006


# Saturday Night Live - several appearances
# Alive from Off Center - host, 1987


Anderson has invented several devices that she has used in her recordings and performances.

Tape-bow violin

The tape-bow violin is an instrument created by Laurie Anderson in 1977. It uses recorded magnetic tape in place of the traditional horsehair in the bow, and a magnetic tape head in the bridge. Anderson has updated and modified this device over the years. She can be seen using a later generation of this device in her film "Home of the Brave" during the "Late Show" segment in which she manipulates a sentence recorded by William S. Burroughs. This version of the violin discarded magnetic tape and actually used MIDI-based audio samples, triggered by contact with the bow.

Talking stick

The talking stick is a 6-foot-long batonlike MIDI controller. It was used in the "Moby-Dick" tour in 1999–2000. She described it in program notes as follows:



* "United States" (HarperCollins, 1984) ISBN 0-06-091110-7
* "Stories from the Nerve Bible: A Twenty-Year Retrospective" (HarperCollins, 1994) ISBN 0-06-055355-3
* "Dal Vivo" (Fondazione Prada, 1999) ISBN 8887029105
* "Night Life" (Edition 7L, 2007) ISBN 3865213391

External links

* [ Laurie Anderson is part of the 2008 Disko Bay Expedition Crew of Cape Farewell]
* [ Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips] from PBS series "" – Season 1 (2001)
* [—official Web site]
* [ Laurie Anderson FAQ]
* [ Some Notes on Seeing: The Waters Reglitterized] By Laurie Anderson for exhibition 2005
* [ Artist's page in Artfacts.Net] Laurie Anderson in the contemporary art world.
* [ Anderson in August: Shedding A Little Light On The Melancholy] An academic digital presentation examining Laurie Anderson's 1974 "Light in August".
* [ An interview, Mutant Renegade Zine #7, June 1996]
* [ Ken Deifik]
* [ NASA's First and Last Artist in Residence]
* [ Houston, we have an artist - Scotsman]
* [ An artist's year in NASA's orbit - NY Daily News]
* [ Laurie Anderson's latest journey - Boston Globe]
* [ A star lines up with the moon - The Globe and Mail]
* [ Inviting the Cosmos Onto the Stage - NY Times]
* [ Laurie Anderson draws from NASA - Seattle PI]
* [ TO THE MOON, LAURIE - SF Chronicle]
* [ After a year with NASA, Anderson touches down in Miami - Miami New Times]
* [ Artistic residency with NASA leads to 'End of the Moon' - Richmond TimesDispatch]
* [ Laurie Anderson, a little out there, tapped as NASA's first artist in residence - MSNBC]
* [ NASA Gives Space to Artist in Residence - NPR]
* [ Moon and Stars Align for Performance Artist - Washington Post]
* [] Laurie Anderson 2008 interview (with Jon Niccum)


* [ Laurie Anderson Record Release Party for “O Superman” 7" 1980-04-28 at The Kitchen (NYC)]
* [ Laurie Anderson interview (Speaking of Music 1984-12-06) Part 1 of 2]
* [ Laurie Anderson interview (Speaking of Music 1984-12-06) Part 2 of 2]
* [ American Music Center: Laurie Anderson]

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