June 5, birthday of Laurie Anderson (b. 1947)

When I heard “O Superman” in 1982, I became an instant fan. “Big Science” was like nothing I had ever heard–witty spoken word pieces that commented on absurdism in the US set to haunting and sometimes minimalist inspired music. Next came “Mr. Heartbreak,” which still mesmerizes me. But I stopped there, though I knew she continued to write, tour and perform. When I heard that she had married Lou around 2008, I went, “What?” I thought he was gay. After that, I rarely listened to her.

Then in October of 2013, Lou Reed died, and I thought about her. Having lost both my parents and one brother, when people fall in love and marry and then one dies, it really makes me sad. My father was married to my mom for 67 years and took care of her until she became obstreperous at the age of 92. Even after that, he would sleep with a pair of her pajamas beside him because he missed her so much. In 2015 Laurie released a film called “Heart of a Dog” and Laura and I went to see it. Though Laurie denied it was a tribute to Lou or a way of expressing grief and closing that chapter in her life, it ends with a picture of Lou and their dog, Lulabell, lying together on a bean bag chair. Later I read a biography of Lou, and it painted a picture of an amazingly unlikeable person, a megalomaniac, an alcoholic, & a control freak who could not stand to have anyone in his band outshine him.

Until yesterday, I never read anything about Laurie’s background. NYC in the 1960s and 70s was great place for artists and musicians. Abstract expressionism was dying, being replaced by Pop & Performance Art. Warhol’s Factory became a site for musical and artistic happenings, with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground playing music that would influence the next generation that became Punk rockers ane New Wavers. In the 1970s serious music was moving from twelve-tone and atonal serialism, and complex and hypnotic non western rhythms, the spoken word, and concrete and found sounds became the building blocks of what started out as minimalism but eventually morphed into the neo-romantic & post-modern stuff that’s become part of today’s vernacular.

Maybe it was because John Lennon married the artist Yoko Ono, but somehow, visual and performance artists started becoming musicians and vice versa. Laurie was an art history and then sculpture major and wrote a symphony for automobile horn in 1969. So here’s a set of works stretching back to 1977 (the earliest I could find on Youtube). If you have other recordings of her earlier works or pieces you really like, please feel free to post.

Break it (1977)

Read more of this post

May 29, birthday of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (b. 1947)

Wikipedia has precious little to say about Azerbaijani composer, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh. He biography on the liner notes of the first performance below, “Mugam Sayagi,” on the Kronos Quartet website, fills in the details of this quite well-know (in Europe and Central Europe at least.)

Mugam Sayagi

Read more of this post

May 27, birthday of Liana Alexandra (1947-2011)

Liana Alexandra was born in Bucharest where she lived and worked her entire life. Most of what has written about her is in Romanian, so I’d be grateful to anyone who can find more about her than this Wikipedia entry.

 

Hora
Concerto for Piano Four-Hands

Pastorale

x Read more of this post

May 26, Maria de Lourdes Martins (1926-2009)

 
Maria de Lourdes Martins gets about two lines in Wikipedia but this biography is more complete. She was quite established as an avante garde composer, working with Stockhausen, but then she went to Munich and studied with Carl Orff and brought his musical teaching method to Portugal. The following pieces are all that I can find of her work on Youtube, but you can definitely hear the influence of Kodaly, with whom she also studied.

Sonorita

Read more of this post

May 14, Birthday of Emilie Mayer (1812-1883)

 

Emilie Mayer was born in 1812 in the town of Friedland, Germany, and died in Berlin at the age of 70. Considered the female Beethoven of the time, she enjoyed great popularity during her life, but lapsed into obscurity after her death. The first recording of any of works took place in 2001 as a result of a conference in Berlin on 19th century women composer. Since then quite a few of her works have been rediscovered and recorded.

She was the musically precocious daughter of a fairly wealthy pharmacist, whose mother died shortly after her birth. When she was taking piano lessons, she had a tendency to improvise, and her music teacher encouraged her to compose her own pieces–which she did starting at the ripe age of 7.

Around the age of 28, her father committed suicide, and distraught, she moved to Poland to restart her life. There she studied composition, and after her work started to gain attention, she moved to Berlin to continue her studies.

Over the next 42 years, she composed over 70 works including 8 symphonies, chamber music, lieder, and an opera.

In 2012, during which was the 200th anniversary of her birth, many more pieces were performed, however Amazon (even in Germany) lists only three CDs. Youtube turned up quite a few. I enjoyed her string quartet, and the symphonies, violin sonatas, and other works I’m sure will be a delight to listen to.

String Quartet in E minor

Read more of this post

May 7, Birthday of Alison Bauld (b. 1944)

Alison Bauld is an Australian composer and novelist who lives in London.  Most of her work consist of passages from Shakespeare’s plays set to music.  Wish I could have found more about her.  The longest bio is on her own website linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

Titania’s Song

Read more of this post

May 6, Birthday of Victoria Bond (b. 1945)

Victoria Bond is a contemporary composer and conductor. She studied conducting at Julliard under Herbert von Karajan and composition with Roger Sessions.

“Bridges” Mvt. 4 The Brooklyn Bridge

Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: