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Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson is an American avant-garde artist, composer, musician and film director whose work spans performance art, pop music, and multimedia projects. Initially trained in violin and sculpting, Anderson pursued a variety of performance art projects in New York during the 1970s, focusing particularly on language, technology, and visual imagery. She became more widely known outside the art world when her single "O Superman" reached number two on the UK pop charts in 1981.
Anderson is a pioneer in electronic 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 6 foot long baton-like MIDI controller that can access and replicate sounds.
Laurie released her debut album Big Science in 1982, the first of a 7-album deal she signed with Warner Bros. Records. The work is a selection of highlights from her eight-hour production, United States Live, which was itself released as a 5-LP box set and book in 1984. United States Live was originally a performance piece, in which music was only one element. After Big Science music played a larger role in Anderson's work.
Track 8, without the tango or the horns, was released as a flexi disc in the February issue of Artforum, who she wrote for, earlier in 1982. A sleeve for the disc could be cut out from the magazine and assembled. “Born, Never Asked” was also on Big Science as Track 5.
It was a large room. Full of people. All kinds And they had all arrived at the same building At more or less the same time And they were all free. And they were all Asking themselves the same question: What is behind that curtain?
You were born. And so you're free. So happy birthday
Mister Heartbreak is Laurie Anderson's second studio album released in 1984. Like its predecessor, Big Science, it consists of material from her elaborate state show United States Parts I-IV. It could be loosely considered a conceptual piece, though a string of events may be more accurate, of the day in a life, of someone, anyone…
It also introduced new material, “Sharkey's Day”, “Sharkey's Night” and “Gravity's Angel”, while "Excellent Birds", written in collaboration with Peter Gabriel, was written for a 1984 project for video artist Nam June Paik called Good Morning, Mr. Orwell.
"Gravity's Angel" borrows imagery from Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Anderson had "wanted to make an opera of that book ... and asked him if that would be OK... He said, 'You can do it, but you can only use banjo.' And so I thought, 'Well, thanks. I don't know if I could do it like that.”
Americans on the Move is the title of one of Anderson's pieces which evokes precisely the problem of construction of an American space through body movements, language, and voice. "This is the way we say hello in this country, this is the distance between two points." She also evokes colonization, the entrance in a foreign land and the moving around in it, as a pattern for her own views on music and performance: music, and in particular the violin she plays solo, representing the individual subjectivity which reverberates in space to give that space its true dimension, a field for human activity.
Americans on the Move features “Song for the Night Driver #3”:
I...I AM....A AM IN MY BODY....I AM IN MY BODY THE WAY....I AM IN MY BODY THE WAY MOST PEOPLE DRIVE.....I AM IN MY BODY THE WAY MOST PEOPLE DRIVE IN THEIR CARS.
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