This Hear: “You Connect the Dots”


You Connect the Dots

Y’know, there’s a lot of fun to be had, mocking performance artists, especially the overearnest ones whose acts are superpretentious and hobbled by the fact that the artiste is… noticeably undertalented.

None of which can be said of Laurie Anderson, whose blend of pop- and art-rock sensibilities layered familiar signifiers into a potent, subliminal and fantastic architecture somewhere very close to your pineal gland.

Her oddball vocal phrasing was the inspiration for Scott Glenn’s peculiar, alien line delivery in Michael Mann’s hugely-underrated The Keep.She employed some of the very best art-rocker musicians-for-hire, including King Crimson’s Adrian Belew and the strikingly handsome percussionist David van Tieghem (whose These Things Happen album is, criminally, no longer available in any place I’ve looked — you are, of course, encouraged to educate me to the contrary). She worked with Peter Gabriel. And William S. Burroughs. She married Lou Reed. Cred intact?

And she made videos. Exceedingly cool videos. Her concer — I mean, performance pieces — were… astonishingly affecting experiences.

So, anyway, I was wanting to celebrate mark Jack Valenti’s passing this week by, I dunno, pirating something, but not downloading anything I didn’t already own in analog format and it had to be unavailable in a commercial digital product, too, otherwise that would be wrong and bad. And wrong. And I’d hauled my old VHS tape of Anderson’s Home of the Brave out earlier this week and, man, it was in rough shape. So I think you know where I’m going with this.

And watching Laurie Anderson — whose music and performance have always both utilized and been influenced by computer technology — in a digital format only made me hungry for more. The syncopating musical and neurolinguistic sonic and visual assault was… spinegasmic. Sneer at the 80s outfits (and hair!) if you like, but Laurie Anderson’s peculiarly and particularly avant-American take on humanity and culture at the end of the second millennium was… if not life-altering, then certainly life-affirming.

And! Good news! Her back-catalog is being reissued in expanded, goodie-laden CDs, and performance videos are coming out in comprehensive DVD box sets.

But until the DVD set comes out, remember, Language is a Virus from Outer Space:

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