Tag Archives: performance art

Weekly Vinyl – United States Live

20 Feb

United States Live
Laurie Anderson
(1984)
SONY DSC
This is not a trivial album. This album makes you listen. Forget about doing anything while it is playing on the turntable – your consciousness will be focused on what is coming out of the speakers.
It is a long album. 261 minutes and 57 seconds. (I looked this up online.) Covering five albums, this is a melange of spoken words, music and performance art. This is a recording of her piece United States Parts 1 – 4 and it is a real seminal work. It was repackaged somewhat to the more accessible Home of the Brave a few years later.
I have been an Anderson fan since I saw and heard her song “O Superman” on a video channel. It was amazing. Still is.
I heard about this album and was on a search for it for several years. Found it. Paid a not insubstantial, but not unreasonable, amount for it. And I now enjoy it very much.
The music herein is very hard to categorize. Experimental, avant-garde, electronic, pop music, spoken word can all be used to describe the music. And these genres can be even applied all at once to individual songs.
But I can go on and talk about the music and songs and movements and emotions and technology that makes this album great. Instead I will mourn for what is lost. The state of the music industry is such now that this album would never be released these days. This was not an independent release – this is a Warner Brothers record. The music industry used to take chances on great artists who performed great works, even though they might not be too commercially viable. It was a risk. This album and many of Anderson’s subsequent recordings were very successful.
An alternative review is here.