When the album Homeland came out in 2010, it had been almost a decade since the last release by Laurie Anderson, but fans were already familiar with the hypnotic Kafka-esque patter of her voice. Homeland was part of Anderson's long meditation on our ever-evolving, strangely contorted national identity, and many of its rhythmic stories had evolved on the road. They fit like aural nesting dolls between her triptych of solo performance pieces: Happiness, which emerged from a deep fryer at McDonald's where Anderson took a job; The End of the Moon, which revealed space oddities within Anderson's experience as NASA's first artist-in-residence; and Dirt-day!, which owed its chilling mood to Obama's authorization of the National Defense Authorization Act (Anderson's creepy Homeland character Fenway Bergamot issues from the harmonizer for the happy refrain "Another da-a-y. Another dollar-r-r").
In all of these works, Anderson's complexity as an experimental musician took something of a backseat to her wider allure as a storyteller. But, with the multi-media event Landfall, Anderson plunges back into the deep end. Her love of words and music will be thrown into a blender known as Erst, a piece of software designed for Anderson that allows instruments to initiate text, and words to impinge upon sound. Luckily, the instruments will be in the hands of our exceptional hometown heroes, Kronos Quartet. While Anderson is no stranger to collaboration - she's worked with Jean Michel Jarre, Brian Eno, Bill Laswell, William S. Burroughs, and Lou Reed (of course) - this is a brilliant choice. Because few others in the world could bring beauty and sagacity to strange polyphonic structures compelled by a mad Laurie Anderson machine. It's worth the drive south.
Landfall on Sunday, April 21 starts at 7 p.m. (and 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 20) at Bing Concert Hall, 327 Lasuen Street, Stanford. Admission is $25-$60; call (650) 725-2787 or visit live.stanford.edu.