Friday, March 18, 2005

Big Science

Laurie Anderson: Big Science. Posted by Hello

Women's History Month
at HurdAudio propels forward tonight with a visit to Big Science from 1982 by Laurie Anderson. It is made up of excerpts from a longer performance work that actually does very well as a stand alone listening experience.

This recording is something I grew up listening to often so it has become so familiar that it's hard to remember what life was like before this music seeped into my consciousness. The opening track, "From The Air" is something I can call up in its entirety from memory. It's an amazing text piece. The tranquil, almost robotic delivery of the captain speaking to the passengers of an airplane about attempting a crash landing makes for intense commentary about detachment in modern living.

The instrument combinations on this collection are fascinating. "Sweaters" builds a rough texture using only vocals, violins, bagpipes and drums. The roughness compliments the text description of total disenchantment after falling out of love. Most of the instrumental textures on Big Science are stripped down to bare essentials and serve as wire-frames surrounding this unique poetry.

"O Superman" really is a standout track in this collection. It's a spare and exquisitely crafted work that expands on the detachment theme of "From the Air" at a more personal level. Supported by a texture of pulsating voices as Laurie Anderson's delivers the focal text processed through a vocoder. The poetry is a powerful juxtaposition of answering machine messages, mindless advertising slogans and subtle commentary about the personal toll of detachment.

This is text music built upon smart poetry. I love that these pieces retain the brevity of popular song without resorting to the formal trap of verses and choruses. The spoken, and often processed, delivery matches well with the spare music textures.

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