Laurie Anderson: O Superman

Written by Kate Soper


In category: Song of the Day

Published January 29, 2019

What is it about vocoders?  They add a distance to the human voice that, in the skilled hands of Laurie Anderson, renders it omnipotent, supernatural.  And marching through the uncanny valley right alongside her processed singing is that “ah ah ah” ostinato, both weirdly neutral and unsettlingly robotic.  The simple mi-re-do-ish tune, with its comforting tonal harmonies, lies in creepy conflict with the unsettling ransom-note lyrics.  Somehow this song manages to get at something sinister about empire and technology while remaining catchy, funny, and oddly touching.

author: Kate Soper

select author’s name to read all of their posts

Kate Soper is a composer, performer, and writer whose work explores the integration of drama and rhetoric into musical structure, the slippery continuums of expressivity, intelligibility and sense, and the wonderfully treacherous landscape of the human voice.  She has been hailed by the Boston Globe as “a composer of trenchant, sometimes discomfiting, power” and praised by the New Yorker for her “limpid, exacting vocalism, impetuous theatricality, and mastery of modernist style.”  Her large-scale works include the song cycle/monodrama Voices from the Killing Jar, the opera with original libretto Here Be Sirens, and the chamber music theatre piece IPSA DIXIT, which was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. Upcoming projects include Missing Scenes for soprano and chamber orchestra and a new opera with original libretto, The Romance of the Rose.  Since 2006, Kate has been a co-director and vocalist for Wet Ink, a New York-based new music ensemble.

Hear Kate perform excerpts from The Romance of the Rose in NYFOS Next: Kate Soper & Friends on March 28 at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Despite the subtitle, it took a long while before I realized the song riffs on “O Souverein” from Massenet’s Le Cid, which apparently made a big impression on Laurie when she saw it at The Met.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *