Jul 31, 2010

Inheritance Tracks of Laurie Anderson

On 31st of July 2010, BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live show featured Laurie Anderson picking two significant pieces of music of her life.

She 'inherited' Philip Glass' Music in Twelve Parts:
"There's something so obliterating about that music, I really loved it. [...] In the early 70s, going to Philip Glass' rehearsals was where a lot of us (musicians, dancers, sculptors) learnt to be artists."

... and 'passes on' Strange Fruit (sung by Billie Holiday) to the next generation:
"It's like a haiku, describing an image of a lynched person hanging from a tree. And then, the context is this incredible beauty, the gallant South and sweet magnolias, so you have a horrifying image in this genteel and beautiful almost kind-of garden. That kind of duality has an incredible punch for me. [...] Can art of music influence behaviour, or even, let's say, politics? In the case of this song, it absolutely did."

The programme is already available to listen to at  BBC website but here is an edited version of it, trimmed down to Laurie's parts only:

Jul 30, 2010

Who Wrote These Rules?

One night I had a dream
and it was a typical dream:
suddenly your long-dead grandmother walks in the door,
and next you fall off a cliff, and that kind of things -
a whole series of interlocking plots
and themes,
kind-of carelessly jump-cut together.

In most dreams,
I'm a somewhat naive dolt
kind-of wandering in and out of the subplots,
not really understanding them,
in this dream
I suddenly looked down
and just for an instant
I saw myself,
way below,
sitting at a desk,
writing the dream,
and making up these complex plots for this dolt-like dreamer to
wander through.

Intellectually, I believe in Jung's theory of the self
as a three-storey construction
but I had never seen it physically,
almost architecturally in action.

It was like a relationship
of director to star,
but it was also like
what happens to everybody
when they invent a credible and
more or less consistent personality,
and then they just sort-of live it out.

And it's only when you do something that's
really out-of-character:
Impulsively jumping into a fountain
on your way to work,
Or have a sudden barking fit
while you're waiting for the bus,
That you realize
how tightly scripted
your plan really is.

And you start to ask:
Who wrote this anyway?
Who wrote these rules?

(as heard on Talk Normal: A Lecture by Laurie Anderson, recorded for the 1987 Tokyo International Video Biennale)

dig Radio Podcast from 2007

A phone conversation between Laurie Anderson (New York City) and dig Radio's dj Michael Dwyer (Sydney, Australia) in 2007 before the Melbourne International Arts Festival, about how Andy Warhol's world (fame + sex + violence) became a reality, being a crank, the impossibility of getting lost, extendable arms, big science that can't save you, laughing and many more.

  • dig Podcast (audio length: 15 mins 32 secs, file size: 24.9 MB)

Jul 29, 2010

Big Science Reviewed

The cover of 'Big Science', Laurie Anderson's iconic album inspired several redesigns--  serious, hilarious and trivial alike.

(Photo source: laurieanderson.com)

This is when Big Science goes Muppet. Bunsen Honeydew by Jake Myler:

(Photo source: ToughPigs)

Norn Cutson's comics-style homage:

(Photo source: Flickr)

Big Science in South Park style, built with SP Studio:

(Mnemosyne's own)

Big Science redesigned in black and red (plus some extra hair) by Aisling Farinella and Clíona O'Flaherty:

(Photo source: Flickr)

Jul 27, 2010

Video of KODY Festival

A report about Laurie Anderson's and Philip Glass' performances at the KODY Festival in Lublin (Poland), May 2010:

Note: goosebumps alert at 0:35 ( = excerpt of 'One Night of Swords' from Delusion)

The 'Homeland' Zoo

Getting absorbed in the world of Laurie Anderson's 'Homeland' led me to the following fun revelation: that animals appearing in various aspects of the album almost could fill a zoo.

Take, for example, The Beginning of Memory, with the billions and billions of songbirds circling around in the sky, and the lark, whose father dies one day, and whose decision to bury the corpse in her own head marks the beginning of memory.

There's one more bird - another songbird - in 'Homeland': the robin that sings the song of long lost love in Strange Perfumes. Oh, and let's not forget the sky-flying birds at the beginning of Thinking of You.

Some mammals also pop up here and there throughout the album: right at the start, Transitory Life's mouse who realizes that he's in a trap, and, from then on, he is literally condemned to death. [Not really a vision for sore eyes.] And, of course, Lolabelle, who leaves her mark on Bodies in Motion by her barking and playing the piano in her sweet, eccentric way.

Then there's Only an Expert that not only mentions the Pet Solution, but its updated lyrics also contain fish poisoned by, and ducks and dolphins completely coated with oil that spilled out into the ocean.

... plus a bonus from Mambo and Bling (the first vinyl of 'Homeland'):
"[...] the classic problem calculating your odds for accidents that might happen. Like, you have more chance, for example, getting hit and killed in a car crash than dying in a plane crash. But things keep changing, so you have to keep re-calculating the odds and updating the list. You you have to keep adding things like [...] being crushed by a crane falling onto your building. And you have to keep crossing other things off the list, like [...] getting trampled by hordes of horses"

Jul 26, 2010

Come here. Watch it glitter.

Click to the picture to learn about 10 of Laurie Anderson's favourite things - a splendid little multimedia portrait in FLYP Magazine from 2009:


  1. Canon EOS 5D - making "story films" with a budget* camera
  2. Planetariums - projecting film on the dome of a planetarium in Austin, Texas
  3. Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center - performance space in Troy, N.Y.
  4. Eccentric Blogs - reading Unnecessary Quotes and Cats that Look Like Hitler
  5. Lunch with the Ladies - Saturday meals with a rotating group of women
  6. Imaginary Operas - creating an opera that could never be staged
  7. Mingyur Rinpoche - learning about Tibetan Buddhism from her teacher
  8. Sound Gardens - designing and building garden spaces that speak
  9. Thinking about Texas
  10. Urban Cycling - Riding around NYC on a Dutch-style bicycle


(Hint: make sure your speakers are on.)

* huh?

Jul 25, 2010

"Ghosts" Accompanying, Part One

Warning: this is going to be a pointless rambling on some of the "ghosts" that are haunting on various tracks of 'Homeland'.

Laurie Anderson has stated a few times during interviews that, during the construction process of Homeland, she'd taken fragments from certain songs and built them into others. Being an avid audio candy hunter myself, it was no surprise that soon I caught myself listening to certain segments of songs over and over and trying to find out what those unfitting-or-familiar-at-first-sight/hearing fragments appeared at certain points of the songs and why. Now I'm trying to enumerate some of the more obvious ones.

1. The Timeless Melody

One of the recurring fragments is the melody sung by Aidysmaa Koshkendey, the female singer of the Tuvan throat-singing group Chirgilchin. Both 'Transitory Life' and 'The Beginning of Memory' begin with the same tune. During the former track, Aidysmaa's singing continues with a second and third line, escalating the frenzy of the hair-raising beginning of 'Homeland' even further. The third line, though less prominently featured than in 'Transitory Life', re-appears at the end of both verses of 'The Beginning of Memory', perfectly nestling into the timeless texture of the song.

2. The Bell of Concentration

The next element is the bell tolling that can be heard twice during the first half of 'My Right Eye' and numerous times throughout the whole track of 'Only an Expert'. Its use in the latter song still needs some further explanation to me (maybe it's the mockery of experts' constant calling of attention to themselves). If one considers the first verse of 'My Right Eye' as some kind of Buddhist exercise,

Concentration. Empty your mind.
Let the rest of the world go by.
Hold your breath. Hold your breath. Close your eyes.

the bell toll leads to another story that Laurie tells in 'Delusion'. It's a practice of concentration: you hear a chime clinging and you have to follow the sound with your mind, and then there's a second cling of the chime but this time your mind shouldn't follow it.

UPDATE: The bell also echoes in 'Falling', the restful counterpart of its predecessor, 'Only an Expert' - similarly to 'My Right Eye', it rings during the part of introversion: "[...] I fall asleep".

3. The Ghost of Dark Times

The ending of 'The Lake' required numerous listenings until I found out what the "ghost" whispered (i. e. Laurie's voice burdened heavily by filters and FXs). The rhythm of the recital sounded too familiar to me but, since my auditory comprehension skills are desperately weak, it took a fairly long time to recognize that the "whispering" is, in fact, the last verse of the previous track, 'Dark Time in the Revolution':

And you thought there were things
That had disappeared forever
Things from the Middle Ages
Beheadings and hangings
And people in cages
And suddenly they were everywhere
And suddenly they’re alright
Welcome to, welcome to,
welcome to the American night.

... OK, now... what the WHAT? Lines like these, stuck at the end of the most intimate, most moving, most peaceful song on the album? How so? Was it Laurie's intention to posteriorly disguise the intimacy of the song? This one really puzzles me. (If you are reading this and have a better solution, feel free to e-mail me.)

(To be continued. Sometime.)

Anderson, 35

A vintage People Magazine article from 1983, mostly about what she "exactly does onstage for six hours", where "opera meets video games" (yes, United States Tour era).

Jul 23, 2010

Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay

Today's random goodness is an excerpt from a benefit concert called Downtown for Democracy: A Joyful November, where Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were among the performers in September 2004. You can listen to the whole concert on ArtOnAir. Here is a spoken word duet between Lou and Laurie, volume (and sound quality) as enhanced as allowed by the original material:

Hint: Laurie has also told two of her stories: one about the canoe trip in Utah and the other about the summer she broke her spine at 12.

Jul 22, 2010

SonicScoop article

An article full of technical details on the building / engineering of Homeland. Softwares, hardwares, filters, rhythmic riffs, monitoring, etc. Only for the interested.

Long Lost Rooms of Matisse

That blue day came and it stayed all night
Blue morning. Blue midnight.
The city fell and then you were gone.
What is love but a robin's song?


Ooo these days. These endless blue days.
They're perfect in their own way.
Perfect in their own way.


Ooo those days that come too soon.
Strange perfumes. Long lost rooms.
They're perfect in their own way.
Perfect in their own way.


Where does love go when love is gone?
To what war-torn city?
Ooo those blue days that stayed too long.
What is love but a robin's song?


1: Odalisque in Red Trousers / Henri Matisse, c. 1924-1925
2: The Red Room (Harmony in Red) / Henri Matisse, 1908
3: Seville Still Life / Henri Matisse, c. 1910-1911
4: My Room at the Beau-Rivage / Henri Matisse, 1918

Photo source: www.henri-matisse.net
'Strange Perfumes' lyrics by Laurie Anderson

Jul 20, 2010

Perfect in Their Own Way

Just a lovely live version of 'Strange Perfumes' along with a hypnotizing drumline (which is lurking on the album version, too, but it's almost entirely inaudible... what a pity):

Jul 19, 2010

Dress Code: Black and White

A semi-informative review of the LongHouse Reserve Summer Gala where Laurie Anderson was honoured with the (guess what) LongHouse award and where she told some of her stories within the frames of a newly arranged performance called "The Boat I Had As a Child" and where the attendants wore black and white clothes because the dress code was black and white.

(photo source: Profimedia)

This just in: the organizers called the gala "Excentrica" - why? "Because Laurie Anderson is eccentric".

Oh boy. Right again. Let X equal X. I bet satellites were out that night.

According to the photos, Lolabelle must have had a good time though. :)

Jul 18, 2010

Laurie Anderson 101

As mentioned earlier at the About Mnemosyne section, this blog does not provide instantly digestible, 'basic' information on Laurie Anderson. Nevertheless, if you are new to Laurie Anderson, the performance artist / poet / musician / sculptor / etc., these two articles are great starters for you:

Jul 17, 2010

Melbourne, 2007

Melbourne, 2007: an interview and live performances of  'Only an Expert' and 'Pictures and Things'. (Both songs are on the vinyl single of 'Homeland'.)

(total playing time: 23 mins 44 secs)

Jul 16, 2010

Eclectic Cafe interview

After all, Bonnie Grice of WLIU / Peconic Public Broadcast Radio still managed to have a phone interview with Laurie Anderson at the Eclectic Cafe show today. She even played an unheard-before, quite pure (studio?) version of 'Lost Art of Conversation' before the interview.

The conversation floated through topics like trees (esp. willow trees), her special performance prepared for LongHouse Reserve Summer Gala called "The Boat I Had As a Child", a book called 'Capitalist Realism' ("it is easier for people to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism"), adding new verses to 'Only an Expert' and so on.

Listen to...

BP Problem - the extra verse on Letterman

Sometimes, when the oil drill breaks,
and the oil spills out into the ocean,
and it poisons the fish and it destroys the whole coastline,
and they bring in the riggers,
and they bring in the experts,
and they can't cap it and they can't stop it,
and oil keeps spilling
and every duck and every dolphin is
with oil.
and everyone knows:
it's a problem
So when experts say: let's get to the root of the problem,
let's take control of the problem,
'cause if you take control of the problem,
you can solve the problem.
Now often this doesn't work at all
because the situation is
of control.

Jul 15, 2010

Kojo Nnamdi interview

Laurie Anderson was the guest at the Kojo Nnamdi Show on American University Radio WAMU on July 15, 2010. She talked about her first 'artistic' job (i. e. teaching Egyptian art history and making up the gaps in her memory by freeform storytelling), swinging between politics and poetry, the evolution of 'Homeland' from live performance into studio album, audio drag, playing and getting booed Montréal Jazz Festival, and then she was answering various listeners' questions posed via telephone and the show's online forum, for example providing us with a how-to on making a proper drum suit. Yay!!! And thanks for answering my question, Laurie. :)

The Petroleum Solution at Late Night

"what is this sh_t? It's the worst thing I saw on tv"

"Laurie Anderson is a goddess. Period"

... Just two random audience reactions on Facebook after watching Laurie Anderson performing her updated version of 'Only an Expert' on the Letterman Show, July 14, 2010.

Click here for watching the video of the performance on Youtube.

Jul 14, 2010

Talk radio tidbits

  • 'Homeland' is one of John Schaefer's Picks of the Week at WNYC Radio's Soundcheck. Listen to it here:

  • The Kojo Nnamdi Show will feature Laurie Anderson on American University Radio WAMU 88.5 FM. The interview will be on Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 1:32PM in Washington, DC, which means... hm... 19:32 in my local time.

  • Earlier today, Bonnie Grice's 'The Eclectic Cafe' show on Peconic Public Broadcasting was supposed to have Laurie Anderson via phone... Unfortunately, the conversation was skipped in spite of Bonnie's enthusiastic intro. Quel dommage. :(

AnOther article to read

A worth-to-read article in AnOther Magazine's New York Moment Series by Derek Peck, along with interesting photos of Laurie's studio, gives some insight into Laurie Anderson's sonic playground and the Singing Trees project she's working on at the moment.

(It's a Pro Tools software in one of the photos, right?)

Another Night at Poisson Rouge

Laurie Anderson (Laurie Anderson and Fenway Bergamot), Bill Laswell (bass), Rob Burger (keyboards), Colin Stetson (saxophone) and a backing vocalist trio performed songs from 'Homeland' at Le Poisson Rouge, NYC on the 13th of July, 2010.

A review and more photos from This Week in New York.

Jul 13, 2010

Echoes interview

I managed to record the latest Echoes interview with Laurie Anderson this morning (thanks to WNIJ Radio's online stream). The interview was made during a visit to Laurie's home studio where she was working on her new project called 'Park for Singing Trees' which is going to be an installation in Basel, Switzerland.

Topics range from Fenway Bergamot's earlier incarnations, through paranoia, grandmothers and fathers to Homeland's parallelism with the Big Science track 'From the Air' (pinpoint nukes, ready to fight, dressed to kill, sure we're right ~ we're going down, we're all going down together)

(playing time: 9 mins 48 secs (they played 'Bodies in Motion' after the interview but I edited it out), file size: 13 MB)

(Laurie Anderson in her studio, 2010, source: Echoes)

Jul 11, 2010

Philip Glass Gala photos

For photos of various NYC art royalty, check out Tony Powell's photos from the Philip Glass Gala in St. Mark's Church, NYC, April 27, 2010.

In the photos: Philip Glass (composer), Chuck Close (painter), Mikhail Baryshnikov (choreographer), Laurie Anderson (performance artist), Molissa Fenley (choreographer), Lucinda Childs (dancer/choreographer) and others.

Jul 10, 2010

Ron Bennington's interview

Radio personality and stand-up comedian Ron Bennington interviewed Laurie Anderson in the SiriusXM Studio, NYC.

(total playing time: 67 mins 53 secs)

Some of the topics:
  • writing and recording 'Homeland', all the difficulties
  • political aspects of Laurie's oeuvre
  • 'Delusion', cousin of 'Homeland'
  • groundlessness and memory
  • 'Another Day in America': a manifesto about time and the way it passes
  • having an alter-ego
  • the hypnotic effect of Laurie's music
  • answers that should be looked for in yourself
  • concert for dogs in Sydney
  • inventing
  • retrospective exhibition in Brazil
  • being a multimedia artist

UPDATE: it seems the radio miscalculated the target audience a bit... (caution: moron alert)

Good afternoon. Pause.

Just a random post of a random goodness on this lazy Saturday.

My mind is blank. I'm barely alive. 
My nerves are shot. I feel like hell.
Guess it's time to check in at the Puppet Motel.

(picture source: San Remo, 2001, Laurie Anderson's live concert after getting Premio Tenco = Tenco Prize, a prestigious Italian award for songwriting)

Jul 8, 2010

What to Read, According to Mr. Fenway Bergamot

Here are some of Fenway Bergamot's / Laurie Anderson's favourite books, along with Mr. Bergamot's comments:

"Fabulous book!"

    "Highly recommended!"

    "My personal favourite. Kind-of my own role model."
    (Note: this one can be entirely read at Google Books, just click to the title)

    "I've spent a week at Heathrow myself and I know what this guy is talking about."

    ... for more, watch Fenway Bergamot's video made in Sydney, Australia at Facebook.

     (in the picture: fashion dictator Fenway Bergamot / screen capture from the video)

    Meet Marketing Expert Mr. Fenway Bergamot

    Mr. Fenway Bergamot put on his best moustache and went to the European headquarter of Nonesuch, Laurie Anderson's record company to try to take control over Laurie's ad campaign by sharing his own marketing ideas with the publicity manager:

    Since it's him who graces the cover of the Homeland album, it does not need Laurie Anderson's name on it.

    Having been inside Laurie's head for such a long time, he deserves to get space on the poster of 'Delusion'.

    He isn't contented with the title of Laurie's live show either.

    At the record store, his vinyl should be in the center of the Laurie Anderson shelf.

    ... meaning: all over the place.

    While he also admits he's aiming for a gold, he coyly inquires if the record company has made more than 10 copies of his vinyl... in fact, there were 1,000 copies of 'Only an Expert' made all in all, and according to the publicity manager, all of them were sold.

    One of the highlights of the video is the following conversation:

    Fenway [referring to the vinyl]: Nobody has any record players anymore. Will anyone play that?
    Publicity Manager: No, but that doesn't matter, does it.

    Hilariously cynical contemporary surrealism, just Mnemosyne's favourite type of humour. :)

    Oh, almost forgot: the video is featured on Fenway Bergamot's Facebook profile.

    Jul 5, 2010

    Why Birds Sing

    "Birds sing because they are alive. And they have a million reasons to sing just like we do."

    "Music is everywhere. We live in an ocean of sound."

    "I was playing this show in Italy, on the top of a hill one evening and I heard this very cool brand new part, and I realized I was singing a duet with this little owl. I thought, 'I can die right now because life does not get better than this, I'm singing a song, a duet, with an owl'."

    (Laurie Anderson in David Rothenberg's BBC documentary 'Why Birds Sing')

    Jul 4, 2010

    Charlie Rose interviews

    If you are not familiar with them: really worth watching. If you are familiar with them: really worth re-watching.

    1. A conversation with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson of "The Velvet Underground"
    July 8, 2003

    A conversation with musicians Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson of "The Velvet Underground" about their careers in glam rock, Reed's album "NYC Man: Lou Reed the Collection", and Anderson's work as a performance artist.

    Video length: 31:18

    2. A conversation with performance artist Laurie Anderson
    May 20, 2004

    A discussion with sculptor, filmmaker and performance artist Laurie Anderson about bridging the gap between art and pop culture.

    Video length: 15:10


    • When the doctor says: "Congratulations, it’s a boy!", where do all the dream baby girls, those possible pearls, go?

    • How can I get control? How can I take control?

    • Are those two people over there actually my real parents?

    • Should I get a second Prius?

    • Has everybody here forgotten how to think?

    ... just some of the cca. 34 questions posed in 'Homeland'. Not your typical pop album, to say the least.

    Jul 2, 2010

    Montréal Jazz Festival, press conference

    ... Just listening to 'Homerun' show at CBC Radio One (Canada), about the upcoming show of Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and John Zorn at the Montréal Jazz Festival...

    UPDATE #1: just managed to record an excerpt of the press conference with Lou and Laurie. They don't know at all what they are going to play tonight, ha:

    Another excerpt from the press conference, this time about how are they going to be able to blend their different musical tastes, backgrounds and directions. Listen to Lou Reed's adoring words on her wife:

    (Thanks, Facebook, hahaha)

    UPDATE #2: Found the video of the press conference!

    There's also another video of the whole press conference, it's 16 mins 45 secs long, you can watch it here. (Sorry, embedding didn't work.)

    UPDATE #3: Flickr photos show a very humanlike Laurie. Brava!

    I've died and gone to heaven.

    I was thinking of you.
    And I was thinking of you.
    And I was thinking of you.
    And then
    I wasn't thinking of you

    And when the tears fall
    From both my eyes
    They fall from my right eye
    Because I love you.
    And they fall from my left eye
    Because I can not

    These are Mnemosyne's favourite lines from 'Thinking of You' and 'My Right Eye'. I heard them in this form in Uppsala for the first time, along with an ethereally beautiful musical accompaniment. During the song there were dandelions bowing on the screen behind Laurie, shot from frog perspective. Beyond doubt it was one of the most moving moments of 'Delusion'.

    Now I discovered this very version had been recorded for WNYC New York Public Radio's Studio 360 programme, and can be listened to here:

    Personal note: Dearreaders, if anyone of you happens to meet Laurie in person, please say thank-you for this recording on Mnemosyne's behalf.