Gratuitously quoted from the Laurie Anderson FAQ:

Who is Laurie Anderson?

A poet, writer, visual artist, and social commentator, she is perhaps best known as a recording artist, one whose technical wizardry and live shows have earned her a reputation as one of the most eccentric performers in the business.

She's a lot of things. In general she's known as a "performance artist." A performance artist is an artist who works in the medium of live performance. Laurie's performances use a bewildering variety of media, including film, electronic and acoustic music, slides, costumes, and other weird effects that don't even have names.

She has made several albums, and all of them are more or less "avant-garde." She began to actually sing starting with the Album "Strange Angels." Otherwise the vocals were primarily spoken.

Some common themes in her works are airplanes, dogs, family, the United States, dreams, and language.

She's basically one of the most interesting musicians and artists out there right now. Her boyfriend is Lou Reed and she has contributed to a few of his albums, as well as vice versa Here's an incomplete discography: You owe it to yourself to listen to a Laurie Anderson album now.

Born in Chicago on June 5, 1947 in a family of eight children, Laurie Anderson is without question one of the greatest living artists in the world. Her eccentric presentations incorporate modern technology with a variety of personal and social messages. Though she often chooses to dress in androgynous suits and seems to use fashion in a unisex and unerotic manner, Laurie Anderson is intellectually drop dead gorgeous. She has a dimple-cheeked grin and eyes that peer right through reality, examining what others take for granted and finding the art in the most simple of moments.

If the adage "the unexamined life is not worth living" were to be personified, it would look like Laurie Anderson. She's spent her entire life expressing herself and sharing her life with audiences. While growing up in Chicago, she studied the violin, and studied at Columbia University, working toward a graduate degree in sculpture. In the early 1970s, a growing art movement in New York became Anderson's cerebral playground. She often performed on the streets of the Big Apple and in other informal art spaces. While there, Anderson networked and made connections with many other artistic individuals. Her thirst for knowledge and her quest for expression has fueled her life, taking her quite literally all over the planet. She's moved from street theatrics to large scale theatrical presenations utilizing a mad variety of media. Her use of music, video, light, sound, and sculpture is unprecedented. She utilizes various mediums for expression together in deliciously unique and extravagant ways. She has had work shown at the Guggenheim Museum in SoHo, and throughout Europe. She has also released several albums through Warner Brothers which exemplify her efforts.

Her storytelling talents are unparalleled. She has been quoted as admitting that when perusing her personal journals and tablets from which she gets many of the lyrics for her songs, she feels like she's writing one long song. There are many repeating motifs and themes throughout her work. The feeling of falling and catching oneself just in the nick of time is a common theme. The simplistic dialogues between a generic man and woman in or out of love is an image that Anderson plays with in the mind's eye of her audiences. Her lyrics are often very direct and informal in wording, as if she were having a private, intimate conversation with each of her audience members simultaneously. Throughout her work she sounds both maddeningly insane and ingeniously on target at the same time. She likes to toy with the mind, taking what a person might take for granted and turning it on its heel.

Some of her more notable successes include Big Science which was her debut album. It features O Superman, Walking And Falling, From The Air, and others. A fascinating work which feels very anti-pop. It's rudimentarily ear-pleasing at points and then deluged with melodramatic dissonance in others. Most notable are the lyrics which combine humor with poignancy. Her deadpan delivery of the song From The Air never ceases to amaze the sensory perception of the listener. One simultaneously feels her cold delivery of the words and an emotive explosion of accompanying musical sound.

1984's Mister Heartbreak is an album that includes work from William S. Burroughs who was a long time supporter and peer of Anderson's work, as well as a duet by Anderson and Peter Gabriel called Excellent Birds/This Is The Picture. The song also appeared on the CD release of his album So, although not the LP version. Which I have. =)

In 1986, Warner Brothers released a live concert album of Anderson's, which contained material from her Home Of The Brave theatrical show. One of the more memorable moments in the accompanying video of the album is a precious moment where Laurie Anderson took a piece of magnetic tape, drew it upon a violin bow, and then played the bow on an electronic violin. The message on the magnetic tape was her voice saying "Language is a virus" and her playing the tape backwards and forwards in various different ways sends chills down the spine.

Also notable in her repertoire is Strange Angels which she produced in 1989. This was either a vain attempt by Anderson at embracing pop fluff, or a dramatically satirical exploration of the same, or perhaps both. At any case, the end result is something that puts most any top forty crap on the airwaves to shame. Monkey's Paw, Beautiful Red Dress and Babydoll easily trounces anything that passes for popular music from the late 20th century, while far surpassing anything from that era. The music is pulse pounding and the lyrics are thoughtful and insightful.

In 1999, Laurie Anderson presented Songs and Stories From Moby Dick, wherein she offered her interpretation of Herman Melville's 1851 novel. Presently she lives in New York, when not gallavanting the planet, and is rumored to be affectionately entwined with the incomparable Lou Reed, a kismet companion who shares her thirst for knowledge and her quest for expression.

In more recent years she has pulled back a bit from her earlier days of using modern technology to create eyepopping, almost shock value presentations. She's learned that less is more, and doesn't seem to depend as much on extravagance with electronic toys. She once attempted to design and build large structures containing water for a stage production which were designed to create massive tornado-like funnels during the performance, but the effort and expense at trying to get the damned things to work properly without breaking and spraying the audience with water, proved to be not worth the time. Nowadays her presentations are a bit more subdued, using her electronic toys as tools and not idols. She has found a balance between knowledge and expression.

Sources include:

liveforever complimented my write up, then said, "I think you've misunderstood what 'unexamined' means in the context of the adage you cite in paragraph two. You seem to be using it as if it meant 'unwatched' or 'unobserved'." Actually my intent was that Anderson has examined life through her art, and shares it with others. Liveforever also pointed out "You ought to mention her pop success with 'Sharkey's Day'. For many ordinary listerners, this was the first time she impinged upon their awareness." Too late. You beat me to it. =)

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