Different is what always appeals to me,” Laurie Anderson was saying the other day. “I’d choose [it] over beautiful anytime.”
It’s a good thing she feels that way because the electronic music visionary is teaming up with the Brooklyn Philharmonic to present “Four Scores,” a night of newly reworked songs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
“I’m excited to work with the orchestra,” says Anderson, “because I really appreciate the beauty of using things that don’t plug in. I always make colossal mistakes as an orchestrator because I have no idea what I’m doing. It will be interesting to work with someone who really does.”
The evening will also feature big-name stars Nellie McKay, Joan Osborne and Suzanne Vega.
“I get the sense that the other performers are, like me, really interested in inventing new stuff,” said Anderson. “We all have very, very different approaches and different themes. You have a folk singer in Suzanne; and a pop singer like Joan who’s also an incredible blues belter; and Nellie, who’s got an extremely individual style; and then me, who is more from the electronic performance world. It’ll be interesting to see how much the orchestra makes those four styles sound even more unique. Or will it make them sound a little more similar? That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.”
Adam Teeter, spokesman for the Philharmonic, described the new series as a genre-blending program featuring collaborations between innovative contemporary artists and the Brooklyn Philharmonic — a goal of the Philharmonic since its inception.
That commitment has not gone unnoticed. The group has won 21 awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for “Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.” (See story below.)
This show is especially important, Teeter says, because it represents the diverse energy and spirit of New York and, in particular, Brooklyn.
Anderson’s own spirit, however, isn’t always met with such open arms. In fact, recently Anderson’s famed Talking Stick was confiscated by the FBI. The self-invented instrument, a six-foot long, baton-like device that can access and replicate any sound was removed from the mailroom of a Chicago museum where it was to be added to the existing collection. It had arrived, along with about 60 other packages on a day when President Bush happened be visiting the museum. Although the contents of all of the packages were examined for the president’s security, only Anderson’s Talking Stick — which she created for use on her Moby Dick tour in 1999 — disappeared.
She saw the disappearance as a metaphor for the state of creative values in our country.
“This is not a [social] climate that smiles upon experimentation or being different,” she said. “It’s a climate that likes similarity and tries to get people really excited about the iPhone, but forgets about Martin Luther King Day or what it means to suddenly be in a place where it doesn’t matter what Congress says.”
Such talk is revolutionary to some, but it rolls out of Anderson’s mouth like a politician’s stump speech. And it has always been that way, ever since this maverick performance artist began her career in 1969. Since then, Anderson has become a luminary in the avant-garde music world, and her art has been as varied as it has been innovative.
Her innovation will continue with the Philharmonic’s programming, providing the opportunity to work with people outside of her normal realm.
“That’s why I live here,” she says. “I’m in a lot of different worlds: the theatre world, the music world, the academic world — and the boundaries are not as strong as they would be in other cities. It’s possible to talk to or work with other artists and that’s what I’ve always really loved about being here.”
The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra presents “Four-Scored” on Feb. 1 at 8 pm at Brooklyn Academy of Music (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene). Tickets: $25-$105. For information call (718) 488-5700 or visit www.brooklynphilharm....
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