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Laurie Anderson’s BIG SCIENCE

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Laurie Anderson BIG SCIENCE [LP]. Nonesuch

I First Met Laurie Anderson…

I remember it as though it was yesterday. My family had returned to England from Adelaide, Australia leaving me behind to clear up the last details of our permanent departure. Our house had been sold so I stayed with a friend in the Adelaide Hills in a ’shack’ surrounded by sheep, listening to music emerging from my friend’s quality hi-fi setup. Looking for something new to play I spied a vinyl box set called UNITED STATES LIVE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Live) by someone I had not heard of before called Laurie Anderson. I found out that it was the third release by an ‘avant-garde singer-songwriter’. It was originally released as a 5-record boxed set (later reissued on four CDs), the performance was recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City in February 1983. I spent my whole remaining time at my friend’s house, before travelling back to the UK, listening to the five records time and time again. I had heard nothing like it with its adventurous instrumentations, both talking (I believe words and voice of William S. Burroughs) and singing voices, and the occasional very humorous moments. I was frankly amazed but totally taken by what I’d heard. I then discovered that Anderson was playing at the impressive Adelaide theatre complex within days and managed to acquire tickets to witness the performance. More surprises followed…During the awesome performance Anderson’s voice changed from her own distinctive deep tones to the gruff male voice I’d heard on the records I had been listening to. During the performance she played several songs from the box set and the BIG SCIENCE album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkfpi2H8tOE

On returning to the UK, through the Anderson listening experience, my interest in music had revived with first my acquisition of quality playing kit and then by investing in recorded music including all of Anderson’s work including both vinyl and CD versions of UNITED STATES LIVE and BIG SCIENCE. That was all back in the mid 80s when Anderson’s influence led to my revived and increased passion for music and ultimately the creation of Shakenstir, dedicated to promoting the best in music, music with real meaning and high on emotion. There’s an audiophile quality to all Laurie Anderson recordings and to anchor songs in the memory Anderson has great sensibility to the important role melody plays. If you’ve never heard Laurie Anderson BIG SCIENCE is an excellent place to start, partnered with later recordings such as STRANGE ANGELS which shows a more conventional side to Anderson’s music, although still characterised by meaning and feeling.

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For most musicians and groups, the live box set marks the culmination of a lengthy recording and concert career. Not so for Laurie Anderson, whose United States Live appeared in 1984, following her tenure in academic and bohemian circles and a small handful of releases on Warner Bros. and smaller labels. The release was an unusual event, though perhaps less so for a musician who seeks to upend musical traditions, most notably the distinctions between pop and classical, spoken and sung, live and Memorex. The lengthy set is a recording of a live performance composed of dozens of carefully defined experiments in form and technique, most of them fitting into one or two of these three categories: show pieces for items from her technological music arsenal (like her emblematic electric violin), witty narrative snippets (back when “spoken word” was called “performance art,” prior to the rise of the poetry slam), and full-band performances, featuring, among others, Peter Gordon and David Van Tieghem. “O Superman” and “Big Science” are the familiar titles that appear amid the nearly 80 tracks. “Just a slow accumulation of details,” her computer-enhanced voice intones moments before the intro to “Blue Lagoon” (later heard in a studio version on Mister Heartbreak). That makes a nice epigram for the collection as a whole, which is essential to understanding art music of the ’80s in general and the New York scene in particular.” - Marc Weidenbaum

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BIG SCIENCE

Laurie Anderson’s 1982 debut album, BIG SCIENCE, returns to vinyl for the first time in thirty years with this new red vinyl edition, which includes the original album re-mastered for a 25th anniversary CD release in 2007. BIG SCIENCE foresaw the future, mixing performance art, pop, and electronics, most hauntingly on the hit single, ‘O Superman’. “It’s worth considering how readily Big Science stands alone, untethered from time and place,” says Uncut. “And how, over the course of its near-40-year existence, it has been a record that has come to acquire new resonance with each generation, now standing as one of the most influential albums of the past four decades.”

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BIG SCIENCE [LP] by Laurie Anderson

Track Listing

1 From the Air 4:33
2 Big Science 6;12
3 Sweaters 2:24
4 Walking & Falling 2:13
5 Born, Never Asked 4:57
6 O Superman (for Massenet) 8:25
7 Example #22 3:00
8 Let X=X/It Tango 6:57

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTHiN6Qwdgs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkfpi2H8tOE
https://www.nonesuch.com/media/video/our-time-robert-hurwitz-conversation-laurie-anderson
https://laurieanderson.com/

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