Recess 15--Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson (photo by Robert Mapplethorpe)
Laurie Anderson has been one of America’s most renowned performance artists during her career which has nearly spanned thirty years. As her website states: “Laurie Anderson is one of today’s premier performance artists. Known primarily for her multimedia presentations she has cast herself in roles as varied as visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist.

O Superman launched Anderson’s recording career in 1980, rising to number two on the British pop charts, and subsequently appearing on Big Science, the first of her seven albums on the Warner Brothers label. Other record releases include Mister Heartbreak, United States Live, Strange Angels, Bright Red, and the soundtrack to her feature film Home of the Brave. A deluxe box set of her Warner Brothers output, Talk Normal, was released in the fall of 2000 on Rhino/Warner Archives. In 2001, Anderson released her first record for Nonesuch Records, entitled Life on a String, which was followed by Live in New York, recorded at Town Hall in New York City in September 2001, and released in May 2002.”

Her early performances featured her telling unusual stories about her life. She would also play the violin and sing. Electronic keyboards and other voice-altering equipment became part of the act. One of her most substantial works was United States, which was released on a four CD set (in 1984). One of the earliest examples of her art that pre-dates the United States but ultimately became part of it was a piece called Closed Circuits. This will give you some idea of the early voice-altered material she worked with.


Later she began to used more sophisticated equipment which would allow her to adopt a completely different persona, as in this excerpt from United States. Here’s a portion of “The Language of the Future.”


Her best album as far as the quality of the songs and production values was Strange Angels, released on Warner Brothers in 1989. Here is what is arguably the best song on the recording, Hiawatha. The text by Anderson is reproduced below.


By the shores of Gitche Gumee
By the shining Big- Sea- Water
Downward through the evening twilight
In the days that are forgotten
From the land of sky blue waters

And I said: Hello Operator
Get me Memphis Tennessee
And she said: I know who you're tryin
to call darlin And he's not home
he's been away
But you can hear him on the airwaves He's howlin at the moon
Yeah this is your country station
And honey this next one's for you.

And all along the highways
and under the big western sky
They're singing Ooo oooooo
They're singing Wild Blue.
And way out on the prairie
and up in the high chaparral
They hear a voice it says: Good evening
This is Captain Midnight speaking
And I've got a song for you
Goes somethin like this:

Starlight Starbright
We're gonna hang some new stars
in the heavens tonight.
They're gonna circle by day
They're gonna fly by night
We're goin sky high. Yoo Hooooo hooo.
Yeah yoo hooo Ooo Hooooooooo

So good night ladies
And good night gentlemen
Keep those cards and letters coming
And please don't call again.

Geronimo and little Nancy
Marilyn and John F. dancing
Uncle took the message
and it's written on the wall.
These are pictures of the houses
Shining in the midnight moonlight
While the King sings Love Me Tender.

And all along the watchtowers
aand under the big western sky
They're singing Yoo Hooooo
They're singing Wild Blue
. And wau wau up there, bursting in air
Red rockets, bright red glare
>From the land of sky blue waters
Sent by freedom's sons and daughters.
We're singing Ooo Hoooooooo
We're singing Wild Blue.
We're singing Ooo Hoooooooo
Ooo Hooooooooo

And dark behind it rose the forest
Rose the black and gloomy pine trees
Rose the firs with ones upon them
And bright before it beat the water
Beat the clear and sunny water
Beat the shining Big- Sea- Water

Visit Laurie Anderson’s website at

Return to classroom second floor..

Return to classroom first floor..

If you need to leave, Go to initial page of site.

If you are interested in advertising a music-related business in the pages of the classroom, please send us an e-mail regarding rates by clicking here.