a thoughtful discussion about music


Laurie Anderson: Bringing Performance Art into Popular Music

If you think that Lady Gaga is the first at creating huge and lavish performances to accompany the "music" that she creates than think again. There is a rich history of performance art expressed through and assisting music, and that history, some might say, began with one woman.

Laurie Anderson is an American experimental performance artist and musician who got her start in the 1970's and emerged into the popular music scene in the early 1980's. She is known for her unusual style of creating music, her merging of performance art and music, and her invented instruments. I remember when I first heard her album, Big Science, specifically the song, O Superman. It seemed so unique and new, even though by that point it had already been around 30 years old.

Zero and One

This song/performance from 1984 is a part of her film, Home of the Brave. The performance as a whole features collaborations with William S. Burroughs and Peter Gabriel. It is extremely experimental, even as viewed in the 21st century and this song is the sort of introduction to it. At the beginning Laurie comes out masked and in a very strange and sort of minimal outfit, playing one of her invented instruments, the Tape Bow Violin. Emanating from the instrument are very odd noises as other masked individuals appear around her. She then proceeds into a sort of lecture about the numbers zero and one. This is definitely more than a music video or an emotional experience. There is a message that Laurie is trying to get across, which in this case she is basically preaching to the audience but in other cases are more encrypted. She is an artist that is breaking the comfort boundaries of what we think of as music and inserting pretty much whatever she wants into it.

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