Events

Laurie Anderson + Geri Allen: 17 July 2012 - New York

The Stone only accommodates an audience of about 60. But when Laurie Anderson performed with pianist Geri Allen, each would have rather been nowhere else.

Laurie Anderson spoke only once during her performance with Geri Allen at The Stone on Tuesday, July 17th. It was during a rare break between pieces, and the temperature in the cramped Alphabet City performance space seemed to be reaching well into the 90s. “OK, we’re going to try turning the air on,” Anderson suggested, without a microphone, to the staff member by the door. “I don’t think the fan will be too loud.”

In a room barely larger than a high school classroom -- yet less well-ventilated -- the performer’s concern was valid: the room was eerily silent. At times, so was the music. During quiet parts, you could hear the traffic whir by on Avenue C. Some audience members fanned themselves, fidgeting for cool. But most sat silent, undistracted by the heat -- and wholly captured by Anderson’s haunting collaboration with the jazz pianist Geri Allen.

The Stone is not the typical venue for a performance artist of Anderson’s stature, but then what is? An unmarked, dungeon-like space, the room seats about 50, with room for ten more to stand. (On Tuesday, a staff member provided mats for the stragglers to sit on.) It was founded by avant-garde maestro John Zorn as a nonprofit den to highlight experimental and unheard music on a curatorial basis. “Each month a different musician is responsible for curating the programs with 100% of the nightly revenue going directly to the musicians,” boasts the venue on its website (Anderson herself has curated in the past, and Allen took the reigns in July). And by setting aside everything that is peripheral to the music, it fulfills its mission generously: no merchandise, no drinks, no advance ticket sales, and hardly any promotion. On a given night, there are less than 50 people in The Stone -- but each of them would rather be nowhere else.

On this night, Anderson alternated between her trademark tape-bow violin and a MIDI keyboard setup, Allen seated at a grand piano across the room. The singer disregarded familiar ‘80s staples like “O Superman” and “From the Air”. The focus was fully on her captivating instrumental chemistry with Geri Allen, a Michigan-based pianist who teaches jazz at the University of Michigan and has worked with everyone from Dave Holland to Ornette Coleman. Together they performed slow, wandering sound pieces -- largely ambient and masterfully improvised.

Throughout her career, Anderson has progressed into a wonderfully accomplished violinist -- her tones scaled from low, murmuring ambience to piercing, dramatic flairs. Allen, to her complement, carved empty spaces of sound as much as she offered full-bodied accompaniment, with slow, enveloping arpeggios and swelling crescendos. Cinematic and flowing, the pairing could have been soundtrack work (I thought of Jonny Greenwood’s Bodysong), if it weren’t so singular and of the collaborative moment.

Anderson’s keyboard provided occasional pre-programmed accompaniment as well. One piece incorporated strange, stuttering electronic rhythms. Another padded along on a deep, pulsing string pattern that reminded me instantly of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. Though sudden, the shifts into minimalist electronic territory seemed natural and weighted -- evidence of Anderson’s continued involvement with so many varied strands of American experimental music.

There was a man, curly-haired, graying, photographing Anderson from the front row as she cradled her instrument a few feet away. Shyly, I approached him after the show. I asked if he was planning on publishing his photos anywhere and, if not, would he submit them for this post? His answer was unclear, but he agreed to take my email. I jotted down the address and made my way to the tiny exit, which pours out onto the graffiti-stained corner of 2nd Street and Avenue C.

“Was that Lou Reed?” my friend Amy questioned. She was referring to the man with the camera -- as well as the small group of audience members clustering near him, hoping to chat. I hadn’t observed him especially closely. It was dim, and I was preoccupied, or perhaps merely oblivious. But her theory made sense. Reed, of course, married Anderson in 2008. They have collaborated on recordings before, including pieces on Anderson’s Bright Red and Life on a String, and they have co-programmed events at The Stone. So was it indeed Reed that I pestered briefly?

I haven't received any emails -- nor photos -- to clarify the mystery. This post, accordingly, remains image-less. But I hold out hope. When Mr. Reed decides, finally, to get in touch, you’ll be the first to know.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.