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Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith turn to literary and spiritual muses 

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Laurie Anderson first showed interest in Tibetan Buddhism when discussing death and the bardo in her 2015 film and soundtrack, Heart of a Dog. Now, with Tibetan multi-instrumentalist Tenzin Choegyal and composer Jesse Paris Smith (daughter of Patti Smith) she has produced Songs from the Bardo (Smithsonian Folkways), an interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Choegyal’s flute and dranyen, with Smith’s piano and gong, give the work an otherworldly feel. Anderson’s recitations show how much Buddhist tracts rely on repetition and the “power of three,” employed in some Bible and Koran verses. While not the Anderson of pop or modern witticisms, it’s a religious interpretation like no other.


The busy Patti Smith, meanwhile, offers the second of three planned albums with Soundwalk Collective, Mummer Love (Bella Union). It covers the experiences of French poet Arthur Rimbaud and his time in Ethiopia with Sufi mystics.

Earlier in 2019, we reviewed the first album in the series, The Peyote Dance. This time, the natural sounds and poetry seem to fit Rimbaud’s style, but it's a more difficult listen, repetitive like Anderson’s Bardo album. The final installment in the trilogy will be out in 2020, and hopefully it will be a more exciting ode to avant-garde poetry.

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