Laurie Anderson: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Bob Boilen | May 20, 2021
Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.” Laurie Anderson also used that effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

Here, Roma Baran, who played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982, performs on synthesizer. We also hear some brilliant cello and improv from Rubin Kodheli.

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakingly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

SET LIST
“Let x=x”
“Violin Cello Improv”
“O Superman”

MUSICIANS
Laurie Anderson: vocals, electronics, violin
Roma Baran: synthesizer
Rubin Kodheli: cello

CREDITS
Video: Jason Stern
Audio: Jason Stern, Roma Baran
Production: Jim Cass

TINY DESK TEAM
Producer: Bob Boilen
Video Producer: Maia Stern
Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
Associate Producer: Bobby Carter
Tiny Production Team: Kara Frame
Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

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