1979-1983 (re: Anderson)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

In my search to find out how to use this wordpress blogging program, I came across video of Laurie Anderson’s United States I-IV (1979-83) and it brought back many memories. Laurie’s early years were tangentially entwined with my very early years. The early ’80s were the hay-day of my 9 years with The Glass Orchestra (1977-86), as well as my time in Toronto (1975-86). In 1980-84 the Canadian government, in their drive to show the world that there was a uniquely Canadian culture, sent the four of us on almost yearly European tours, and we ended up on the same touring circuit as Laurie. We would meet up with her in West Berlin, Frankfurt, London. In fact I remember when John Oswald (he wasn’t in the G.O., but came along a few times) told me that “O, Superman” had hit #2 on the British pop charts (this was ’81, I believe). We were all pretty amazed a piece that was basically still experimental music had “crossed over” to the pop world. So much for categories.

But it was also exciting for us that it was Laurie’s “O, Superman.” The first time she ever performed any of these (then) very new songs was in a concert at Toronto’s Ontario Art Museum in 1979. She was already well known as a very experimental downtown NY “performance artist,” but she had never performed any songs. Laurie contacted the Music Gallery to see if she could get some local musicians to help her out in this show. Myself and a few other of my friends (including co-G.O. member Marvin Green) ended up playing in the very first public performance of “O, Superman” and some of the other songs that would wind up in United States I-V. During this visit to Toronto, she also came up to York University (where I was still a student) to meet Jim Tenney and present a workshop. (This is totally off topic, but one of the things I remember is that she looked and dressed exactly like Annie Hall; a man’s tie, baggy pants, etc. This was right before her now signature haircut thang. Sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing that meaningless tidbit.) Laurie also dropped by one of the Glass Orchestra’s weekly rehearsals at the Music Gallery during that visit in ’79. We traded vocal multiphonics techniques. (Ah, the good old days!)

So, anyway, yes, I have some shared ancient history with Laurie and her music. But this isn’t really about her. It’s about these memories of mine that are floating above my eyes, just out of sight. Perhaps everyone’s twenties appear special from the other side of fifty. But from 25+ years away, the late ’70s, early ’80s (my twenties) seem pretty darn magical, at least from a new music point of view. I’m very glad to have that era part of my personal history.

(During this time I was also meeting irregularly with John Cage, touring with Jon Hassell, working with Jim Tenney, pushing the limits of glass music, composing for modern dance, etc., etc. I guess there actually is plenty of material for this here blog.)

Well, after all that, here are the videos (they are not very good quality at all, but still interesting). There is a bit of a German interview at the beginning of the first one, but only for a few minutes.

Laure Anderson’s United States I

United States I-V

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