Laurie Anderson

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Biography (Excerpt)

Laurie Anderson’s 1982 debut album, Big Science, returns to vinyl for the first time in thirty years with a new red vinyl edition. "It's worth considering how readily Big Science stands alone, untethered from time and place," says Uncut. "And how, over the course of its near-40-year existence, it has been a record that has come to acquire new resonance with each generation, now standing as one of the most influential albums of the past four decades."

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Laurie Anderson’s 1982 debut album, Big Science, will return to vinyl for the first time in thirty years with a new red vinyl edition due April 9 on Nonesuch Records. The vinyl includes the re-mastered original album first released on CD for the 25th anniversary of Big Science on Nonesuch in 2007.

In the early 1980s, Laurie Anderson was already respected as a conceptual artist and composer, adept at employing gear both high-tech and homemade in her often violin-based pieces, and she was a familiar figure in the cross-pollinating, Lower Manhattan music-visual art-performance circles from which Philip Glass and David Byrne also emerged. While working on her now-legendary seven-hour performance art/theater piece United States, Part I–IV, she cut the spare "O Superman (For Massenet)," an electronic-age update of 19th century French operatic composer Jules Massenet’s aria ‘O Souverain’, for the tiny New York City indie label 110 Records. In the UK, DJ John Peel picked up a copy of this very limited-edition 33⅓ RPM 7” and spun the eight-minute-plus track on BBC Radio 1. The exposure resulted in an unlikely #2 hit, lots of attention in the press, and a worldwide deal with Warner Bros. Records.

'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice.
And when justice is gone, there's always force.
And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!

At the time of its original release, the NME wrote of Big Science, "There’s a dream-like, subconscious quality about her songs which helps them work at deeper, secret levels of the psyche." With instrumentation ranging from tape loops to found sounds to bag pipes, Big Science anticipated the tech-savvy beats, anything-goes instrumentation and sample-based nature of much contemporary electronic and dance music. On the album’s 25th anniversary, Uncut noted, "The broader themes of alienation and disconnection still resonate, while Anderson’s use of loops and traditional/synthesized instrumentation is prescient."

"In the ’70s I traveled a lot," Anderson recounts. "I worked on a tobacco farm in Kentucky, hitchhiked to the North Pole, lived in a yurt in Chiapas, and worked on a media commune. I had my own romantic vision of the road. My plan was to make a portrait of the country. Big Science, the first part of the puzzle, eventually became part two of United States I–IV (Transportation, Politics, Money, Love). My goal was to be not just the narrator but also the outsider, the stranger. Although I was fascinated by the United States, this portrait was also about how the country looked from a distance. I was performing a lot in Europe, where American culture was simultaneously booed and cheered. But the portrait was also a picture of a culture inventing a digital world and learning to live in it. Big Science was about technology, size, industrialization, shifting attitudes toward authority, and individuality. It was sometimes alarmist, picturing the country as a burning building, a plane crash. Alongside the techno was the apocalyptic. The absurd. The everyday. It was also a series of short stories about odd characters—hatcheck clerks and pilots, preachers, drifters and strangers. There was something about Massenet's aria ‘O Souverain’—which inspired ‘O Superman’—that almost stopped my heart. The pauses, the melody. 'O souverain, ô juge, ô père' (O Lord, o judge, o father). A prayer about empire, ambition, and loss."

Laurie Anderson is one of America's most renowned—and daring—creative pioneers. Her work, which encompasses music, visual art, poetry, film, and photography, has challenged and delighted audiences around the world for over 40 years. Anderson released her first album with Nonesuch Records in 2001, the critically lauded Life on a String. Her subsequent releases on the label include Live in New York (2002), Homeland (2010), the soundtrack to Anderson’s acclaimed film Heart of a Dog (2015), and her Grammy-winning collaboration with Kronos Quartet, Landfall (2018). Additionally, Anderson’s virtual-reality film La Camera Insabbiata, with Hsin-Chien Huang, won the 2017 Venice Film Festival Award for Best VR Experience, and, in 2018, Skira Rizzoli published her book All the Things I Lost in the Flood: Essays on Pictures, Language and Code, the most comprehensive collection of her artwork to date.

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Latest Release

  • January 19, 2022

    Arca—the Venezuelan musician, singer, composer, and producer Alejandra Ghersi Rodriguez—reinterprets "Big Science," the title track to Laurie Anderson’s landmark 1982 debut album, in this remix made in her home studio in Barcelona. The original recording features Anderson on vocals, OBXa, percussion, and electronics; Roma Baran on glass harmonica; Perry Hoberman on bottles; and David Van Tieghem on RotoToms and timpani, as well as Anderson, Baran, Hoberman on "sticks."

News

  • February 4, 2024

    Congratulations to Julia Bullock, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, the Los Angeles Philharmonic & Gustavo Dudamel, and Thomas Adès all of whom won GRAMMY Awards at the Premiere Ceremony today: Bullock for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album for Walking in the Dark; Tuttle & Golden Highway for Best Bluegrass Album for City of Gold; and the LA Phil and Dudamel for Best Orchestral Performance for Thomas Adès' Dante. And congratulations to Laurie Anderson, who was a recipient of the Recording Academy’s 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony on Saturday night.

  • January 19, 2024

    As part of Nonesuch Records's 60th anniversary celebrations, the 2024 Big Ears Festival lineup includes fifteen Nonesuch artists past, present, and future. Ahead of the festival, taking place in Knoxville, TN, March 21–24, we've got a playlist of music from all of those artists: Sam Amidon, Laurie Anderson, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Tyondai Braxton, Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Halvorson, Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Kronos Quartet, Brad Mehldau, Ringdown (Caroline Shaw and Danni Lee), Davóne Tines, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, and Yasmin Williams. You can hear it here via Spotify and Apple Music.

Tour

Fri, Feb 23
New York, NY
Rubin Museum
Fri, Feb 23
New York, NY
Rubin Museum
Mon, Feb 26
New York, NY
Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall
Mon, Feb 26
New York, NY
Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall
Thu, Feb 29
Brooklyn, NY
Wythe Hotel
Thu, Feb 29
Brooklyn, NY
Wythe Hotel
Fri, Mar 22
Knoxville, TN
Fri, Mar 22
Knoxville, TN
Sun, Mar 24
New York, NY
Rubin Museum
Sun, Mar 24
New York, NY
Rubin Museum
Wed, Mar 27
Los Angeles, CA
Orpheum Theatre
Wed, Mar 27
Los Angeles, CA
Orpheum Theatre
Thu, Mar 28
San Francisco, CA
The Curran Theatre
Thu, Mar 28
San Francisco, CA
The Curran Theatre
Fri, Mar 29
Portland, OR
Keller Auditorium
Fri, Mar 29
Portland, OR
Keller Auditorium
Sat, Mar 30
Seattle, WA
Benaroya Hall
Sat, Mar 30
Seattle, WA
Benaroya Hall
Sun, Mar 31
New York, NY
Rubin Museum
Sun, Mar 31
New York, NY
Rubin Museum

Photos

About Laurie Anderson

  • Laurie Anderson’s 1982 debut album, Big Science, will return to vinyl for the first time in thirty years with a new red vinyl edition due April 9 on Nonesuch Records. The vinyl includes the re-mastered original album first released on CD for the 25th anniversary of Big Science on Nonesuch in 2007.

    In the early 1980s, Laurie Anderson was already respected as a conceptual artist and composer, adept at employing gear both high-tech and homemade in her often violin-based pieces, and she was a familiar figure in the cross-pollinating, Lower Manhattan music-visual art-performance circles from which Philip Glass and David Byrne also emerged. While working on her now-legendary seven-hour performance art/theater piece United States, Part I–IV, she cut the spare "O Superman (For Massenet)," an electronic-age update of 19th century French operatic composer Jules Massenet’s aria ‘O Souverain’, for the tiny New York City indie label 110 Records. In the UK, DJ John Peel picked up a copy of this very limited-edition 33⅓ RPM 7” and spun the eight-minute-plus track on BBC Radio 1. The exposure resulted in an unlikely #2 hit, lots of attention in the press, and a worldwide deal with Warner Bros. Records.

    'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice.
    And when justice is gone, there's always force.
    And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!

    At the time of its original release, the NME wrote of Big Science, "There’s a dream-like, subconscious quality about her songs which helps them work at deeper, secret levels of the psyche." With instrumentation ranging from tape loops to found sounds to bag pipes, Big Science anticipated the tech-savvy beats, anything-goes instrumentation and sample-based nature of much contemporary electronic and dance music. On the album’s 25th anniversary, Uncut noted, "The broader themes of alienation and disconnection still resonate, while Anderson’s use of loops and traditional/synthesized instrumentation is prescient."

    "In the ’70s I traveled a lot," Anderson recounts. "I worked on a tobacco farm in Kentucky, hitchhiked to the North Pole, lived in a yurt in Chiapas, and worked on a media commune. I had my own romantic vision of the road. My plan was to make a portrait of the country. Big Science, the first part of the puzzle, eventually became part two of United States I–IV (Transportation, Politics, Money, Love). My goal was to be not just the narrator but also the outsider, the stranger. Although I was fascinated by the United States, this portrait was also about how the country looked from a distance. I was performing a lot in Europe, where American culture was simultaneously booed and cheered. But the portrait was also a picture of a culture inventing a digital world and learning to live in it. Big Science was about technology, size, industrialization, shifting attitudes toward authority, and individuality. It was sometimes alarmist, picturing the country as a burning building, a plane crash. Alongside the techno was the apocalyptic. The absurd. The everyday. It was also a series of short stories about odd characters—hatcheck clerks and pilots, preachers, drifters and strangers. There was something about Massenet's aria ‘O Souverain’—which inspired ‘O Superman’—that almost stopped my heart. The pauses, the melody. 'O souverain, ô juge, ô père' (O Lord, o judge, o father). A prayer about empire, ambition, and loss."

    Laurie Anderson is one of America's most renowned—and daring—creative pioneers. Her work, which encompasses music, visual art, poetry, film, and photography, has challenged and delighted audiences around the world for over 40 years. Anderson released her first album with Nonesuch Records in 2001, the critically lauded Life on a String. Her subsequent releases on the label include Live in New York (2002), Homeland (2010), the soundtrack to Anderson’s acclaimed film Heart of a Dog (2015), and her Grammy-winning collaboration with Kronos Quartet, Landfall (2018). Additionally, Anderson’s virtual-reality film La Camera Insabbiata, with Hsin-Chien Huang, won the 2017 Venice Film Festival Award for Best VR Experience, and, in 2018, Skira Rizzoli published her book All the Things I Lost in the Flood: Essays on Pictures, Language and Code, the most comprehensive collection of her artwork to date.

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