Laurie Anderson – Song for Juanita [1977]

Song For Juanita was composed in 1977 for tape-bow violin, voice and piano. It begins with a voice recalling a summer spent in a Buddhist monastery. The narrator explains how she heard a voice in the night saying “Juanita”, which she later realized was “anata”: a word that means self. Throughout the work, there is a soft, meditative piano motif. This feature smooths over the work’s experimental edge, and makes it more accessible. As Concannon explains in the text, Anderson manipulates the vocal sample by moving tape against a play-back head wired to an amplifier. At one point in the piece, a syllable of “Juanita” – “juan” – is played and reversed to say “no one no one”. There is a soft speaking voice in addition to the manipulated one, which creates a subtle, playful counterpoint. Through her attention to song structure, sound and the spoken word, Anderson strikes a delicate balance between narrative and form, experimentation and craft.

– Miles

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