|Title||United States I-IV live|
|Design||Laurie Anderson; cover photos: Lynn Goldsmith|
|Notes||Where does one start with a subject like Laurie Anderson’s United States? It’s a magnum opus, a sprawling patchwork quilt laid over the world’s last remaining superpower. A country that was still at cold war with the Soviet Union when it was recorded in 1983. It’s a work of tremendous breadth that combines politics, humour, performance art, modern composition, musique concrete, electronica, improvisation, beautiful melodies, haunting exposition, oblique reflection and much more. In terms of structure, United States may be understood as an application of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique writ large (Burroughs, with whom she danced in Home of the Brave appears here via Language Is A Virus from Outer Space).
United States is also an audio-visual feast that featured Anderson’s use of dime-store technologies to achieve playful and often thought-provoking effect. Witness the small light in the artist’s mouth on the cover, the tape bow violin, the skull percussion piece, the goggles with torches instead of lenses. Each, more or less oblique and more or less resonant.
United States is an edited documentation of Laurie Anderson’s performance which spanned two consecutive nights at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After it came the album of studio re-recordings of some key works in the set, Big Science. It’s difficult to imagine how Warner Brothers came to sign such an artist, even more difficult to picture how the beautiful and tremendously minimal O Superman, released as a single and played by John Peel, reached number 2 in the UK charts. After Big Science came the gorgeous Mister Heartbreak and numerous further projects from a voice part in Rugrats The Movie, the Puppet Motel CD-ROM and work with Nam June Paik, Spalding Gray and a host of others.
It would be wonderful to see a visual recording of the whole performance, nothing of the sort has been published. Try listening to United States in combination with Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach.
|More||- Wikipedia entry
- Official website