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Laurie Anderson's Nerve Bible

Full Performance Text

Act One

Dark stage. Silence for about 30 seconds

Opening Titles/Opening Sequence

[Sound ambience with birds, creaking noise, synthesizer washes, electronic twirling sounds and rumbles. Anderson walks to stand microphone covered in smoke, turns, and quickly disappears.]

[ Opening Titles (3 large video screens move into place on stage--the center screen shows smoke, then flames and then the words "The Nerve Bible" superimposed over a burning book. This image is flanked by two slides of the bolt head or nipple on a steel girder.)] [Bird sounds.] [Synthesizer washes with percussion and wolf howls underscore ] [Crashing sounds end this section.] [Choral synthesizer sound underscores through to the point when the fire alarms cut it off.] [An electronic voice begins to mark time:] "The time is now 8 o'clock and 1 second p.m. The time is now 8 o'clock and 2 seconds p.m. This is the time [wrist watch alarm] and this is the record of the time. [wrist watch alarm] We are in record. We are in record." [wrist watch alarm] [heavy breath] [heart beat] [heavy breath] "I'll be with you. I'll be there." [wrist watch alarm] [heavy breath[ [heart beat] "This is the time and this is the record of the time. We are in record. [rumble] [wrist watch alarm] We are in record." [heavy breath] [heart beat] [heavy breath] [heavy breath] [rumble] [Anderson triggers each audio sample (breath, heartbeat, howl, and wrist watch alarm) through electronic sensors padded in a specially designed suit she wears as her back is turned to the audience. She turns to face the audience when she first triggers the heartbeat pad located over her left breast. She speaks into stand microphone.] [The steel girder nipple has moved to the center screen and images of distorted clocks flash on the two sides.] [Spoken cuttings from the song "Bright Red"] "Come here little girl, [wrist watch alarm] [heavy breath] [heart beat] get into the car. (bong) [wrist watch alarm] [heavy breath] [heart beat] It's a brand new cadillac. [wolf howl] [heartbeat] Bright red. [wrist watch alarm] [heavy breath] [heart beat] Come here little girl." [heartbeat] [heartbeat] [(fire alarm][fire alarm][fire alarm][fire alarm][fire alarm][fire alarm][fire alarm][fire alarm]--[simultaneous chugging sound underneath fire alarm sound] [Alarm sound and alarm lights flash on the side screens. Anderson leaves the stage while images of black and white photos of landscapes flash on the two side screens. [The second section to "The Dream Before" is paired with words from "Coolsville," a song from Anderson's Empty Places period. This part is performed in silhouette, center stage where the center screen originally was. Black and white photos still flash on side screens. The following is spoken into a hand-held microphone.] [electronic bird sounds underscore and simple synthesizer chords and rattling sounds underscore the following section] She said, what is history. And he said, history is an angel being blown backwards into the future. He said, history is a pile of debris and the angel wants to go back and fix things, to repair the things that have been broken. But there's a storm blowing from paradise and the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards into the future. And this storm is called progress. Some things are just pictures. They're scenes before your eyes. Don't look now, I'm right behind you. [Videos shift. Anderson meanders around stage in the dark. (clanking sound with processed, unintelligible voice in background, punctuated by an electronically amplified and distorted violin played live by Anderson, underscored by distorted Laurie Anderson vocal samples circa United States Live in the early 1980s] [Harsh electronic crashes, voice, and the violin, played by Anderson, whose back is to the audience, introduce the first full monologue, "My Grandmother's Hats."]

My Grandmother's Hats

You know my grandmother was always talking about the end of the world and she had a very clear idea about the future and of how the world would end in fire, like in Revelations. And when I was ten my grandmother told me the world was going to end in a year. So I spent the whole year praying and reading the Bible and by the end of the year I was ready. Finally the big day came and absolutely nothing happened. Just another day. Now my grandmother was a missionary and she decided to go to Japan to convert Buddhists and to inform them about the end of the world. Now she didnÕt speak Japanese, so she tried to convert them with a combination of hand gestures, sign language, and hymns in English. The Japanese had absolutely no idea what she was trying to get at. And I remember the day she died. She was sitting in her hospital room, waiting to die. And she was really excited. She was like a small bird perched on her bed near the window. And she wasn't afraid but then something happened at the very last minute that changed everything. Because suddenly, at the very last minute, she panicked. After a whole life of praying and predicting the end of the world, she panicked. And she panicked because she couldn't decide whether or not to wear a hat. And so when she died she went into the future in a panic, with absolutely no idea of what would be next.

Teaching Art History

You know I taught history for a while at night school at various colleges around New York City. And it was art history, Egyptian architecture and Assyrian sculpture and I wasn't really a professional art historian so I wasn't exactly keeping up with the Egyptological journals and the facts were just starting to fade so I would be talking to the class and a slide would come up on the screen of some pyramid or ziggurat and I would look up at the screen and I would draw a complete blank. I couldn't remember a single thing about it. So, I would just make things up. You know, a story about this or that Pharaoh and the students would write it down and I would test them on it. Now eventually this sorta caught up with me , you know the students would mention these stories a year later and so on. And also I did feel some guilt about just making up history. So, I finally quit. Not before I was fired but it was very, very close.

Stephen Hawking's vortex

But you know, I always wondered if anyone remembered any of these stories. Or what happened to them. Or where they went. And you know Stephen Hawking has a theory about information and where it goes when it disappears. And according to this theory when a black hole implodes all the information about the objects that have disappeared begins to skid down an infinitely long tunnel. All those numbers and calculations and deviations are swirling around in a huge whirlwind.

Same Time Tomorrow

So here are the questions: Is time long or is it wide? Are things getting better or are they getting worse? What if things just keep getting faster and faster until no one can keep up any more at all? And can we start all over again?

John Cage

You know, I did an interview with John Cage and I spent some time with him and I noticed that he seemed to be such a happy guy. I mean he was 80 years old and he was always smiling. And a lot of old people are in pretty bad moods by this point. But he wasn't. And I was supposed to be asking him about music and information theories. But what I really wanted to know was whether he thought things were getting better or worse. Because that was just something that was on my mind. But it seemed like such a stupid question, such a general question, that I was afraid to ask. So I sorta talked around it for awhile, sorta building up to it. And I was saying things like, well, according to theories of evolution, if there's a race between a modern horse and a pre-historic horse, the modern horse will win because it's faster, it's more efficient, it's adapted, and are we like that, too. And on the other hand, according to Richard Dawkins, not everything has evolved for the greater good. For example, it would have been a great thing if fire-breathing animals had evolved. I mean this would have been a very convenient thing just kinda (whump!) cook your food on the spot and then asbestos coated nostrils could have evolved so the nose wouldn't get singed and so on. And finally Cage said, "Exactly what are you trying to say." And I said, "are things getting better or are they getting worse." And he stopped only for a moment, and he said, "Oh, better, much better, I'm sure of it, we're getting faster, and smarter, and better. It's just that we can't see it. It's just that it happens so slowly.

[transition from choral synthesizers to rumbling, then bird sounds, and then synthesizer cords from "Speechless"]


You know, Annie Dillard wrote a book about freaks of nature. And she described one day seeing an Eagle fly down and attached to the Eagle's neck was the skull of a weasel. So what had happened was, the Eagle flew down and attacked the weasel and the weasel sunk its teeth into the neck of the Eagle and just hung on until it died and finally rotted and turned into a skeleton. And all this time the Eagle is flying around with the thing hanging from its neck. Landing and taking off and landing. [sings] Yeah, we were goin' nowhere. Just driving around. We were moving in circles. And me, I didn't make a sound. And if I open my mouth now, I'll fall to the ground. And if I could open my mouth, There's so much I'd say Like I can never be honest. Like I'm in it for the thrill. Like I never loved anyone. And I never will.

Eagle bites the weasel. Weasel bites back. They fly up to nowhere Weasel keeps hangin' on. Together forever.

I remember that old coat My grandma used to wear Made of weasels Biting each other's tails A vicious circle. And endless ride. On the back of an old woman.

And me, I'm goin' in circles I'm circling around. And if I open my mouth now I'll fall to the round.

The Salesman

[electronic voice] You are out of memory. Save. Save now. Save. You are out of memory. Format. You are out of memory. Save. Save now. Save. You are out of memory.

You know I've always thought my main job was to be a spy. To use my eyes and my ears and to find out some of the answers. For example, I like to hang around the banks of phones in airports, one of my favorite listening posts, and eaves drop on conversations.

The Eye as Camera

[background drum and bass choral synthesizer underscore this monologue]

But you know the thing that bothers me the most about the eyes is that they're so primitive. I mean they're like pre-WWII field cameras. I mean the lenses are really crude, you can't do any zooms, the pans are awful, the dolly shots are a mess, what with your feet going up and down like that all the time, it's just not too smooth. For example, let's say you walk into a restaurant and here's what your eye is actually seeing: the door swings open and there's a flash of somebody's arm, and then a rickety scan as you look for a place to sit, and then the floor tips into view as somebody bumps you. And if at the end of the day you looked at the rushes of this shoot, you would immediately fire the camera man. But the point is, that when you think back on the same scene in the restaurant, or when you dream about it, suddenly, the camera work is really improved. You see an establishing shot of the restaurant, bird's-eye view, two-shot of you and your dinner partner, everything is fairly well light and pretty well cut. Your mind has fixed it all up for you. And the same thing happens when you try to picture the past or the future. Things get filtered through your memories and your expectations and they smooth it all out. [snare drum "train sound"]

The Mysterious "J"

["The Mysterious J" is a reference to The Book of J, written by Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg (Translator) who propose that the first five books of the Old Testament were written by a woman]

You know there's this theory that a woman, the Mysterious "J," wrote much of the Old Testament. But only because God is pictured in these books as patriarchal, tyrannical, and inconsistent, the way presumably only a woman would write about a man. But I feel like I can picture this "J," scribbling away and laughing. Although the first time I saw The Bible reenacted was sometime in the seventies and it was a cable TV show somewhere in the Midwest and Bible study groups would act out parts of The Bible. But these were pretty low-budget productions, you know, shot in the church basement or somebody's "rec" room. And all of the prophets had towels wrapped around their heads for turbans, but you could see the tags, the ones with the washing instructions sort of sticking out in back. And there were very few women in these productions and they tended to have pretty tiny roles--shepherdess, or dancing girl, or various relatives, the bit parts.

The Cultural Ambassador

Now, last year I was invited to perform in Israel and I was very excited because I wanted to see Jerusalem where this mysterious "J" had spent her life writing and working. So, I did some asking around before I left, some sort of informal research. And I was talking to an Israeli woman who was living in New York and she was having a really hard time living there and she was always complaining about American men. And she'd say, "You know, American men are such wimps. I mean, they're always talking about their feelings." And I said, "They are?" And she said she really liked Israeli men because they were so tough and because they all had guns. And I said, "Guns. You like guys with guns?"

Anyway, I was in Israel as a kind of cultural ambassador. And there were all of these press conferences scheduled around the concerts but the journalists didn't want to talk about art or music, they were all still talking about the Gulf War. And they kept asking me questions about this and I was trying to answer them but what was really on my mind was that I had myself, the week before, been testing explosives in a parking lot in Tel Aviv. Now, this happened because I brought some small stage bombs to Israel as props for the performance and the Israeli promoter was very interested in them. And it turned out that he was on weekend duty on one of the bomb squads and bombs were also something of a hobby during the week. So, I said, "Look, you know, these bombs are nothing special, you know, just a little smoke." And he said, "Well, we can get much better things for you." And I said, "No, no, really, these are fine." And he said, "No, but it should be big, theatrical, I mean, you need just the right bomb." So, one morning, he arranged to have about fifty small bombs delivered to this parking lot and since he looked on it as a sorta special, surprise favor, I couldn't really refuse. So, we're out in this parking lot testing the bombs. And after the first few, I found I was getting . . . pretty interested. I mean, they all had really different characteristics. Some made these little "poomp, poomp, poomp" popping sounds and others exploded mid-air and left long, smokey, slinky trails. And he had several of each kind in case I needed to review them all at the end. And, I'm thinking, here I am, a citizen of the world's largest arms supplier setting off bombs with the world's second largest arms customer and I'm having a great time.

So, even though the diplomatic part of the trip wasn't going so well at least I was getting some instruction in terrorism. And it reminded me of something in a book by Don DeLillo about how terrorists are the only true avant-garde artists left because they're the only ones who are still capable of really surprising people. And the other thing it reminded me of were all the U.S. Government directives that have been coming out about how to protect yourself from terrorists. And I got one of these directives from the U.S. embassy in Madrid and it was a list of tips designed for Americans travelling through international airports. And the idea was not to call ourselves to the attention of the numerous foreign terrorists presumably lurking all over the terminal. So, the embassy tips were a list of mostly "don't"s. Things like:

Don't wear a baseball cap. Don't wear a sweatshirt with the name of an American university on it. Don't wear Timberlands with no socks. Don't chew gum. Don't yell, "Ethel, our plane is leaving."

I mean it's weird when your entire culture can be summed up in eight, giveaway characteristics.

War is the Highest Form of Modern Art

But during the Gulf War I was travelling around Europe with a lot of equipment. And all of the airports were full of security guards who would suddenly point to a suitcase and start yelling, 'Whose bag is this? I wanna know right now who owns this bag.' And huge groups of passengers would start running around in circles like a SCUD missile was on its way in. And I was carrying a lot of electronics so I had to keep unpacking everything and plugging it in and demonstrating how it all worked.

So I've done quite a few of these sort of impromptu new music concerts for small groups of detectives and customs agents. I'd have to set all of this stuff up and they'd listen for awhile and then say "So what's this?" and I'd pull out something like (VOICE ELECTRONICALLY DROPS ONE OCTAVE) this filter and it would take me a while to tell them how I used it for songs that were about various forms of control and they would say: Now why would you want to talk like that? And I looked around at the swat teams and undercover agents and dogs and the radio turned to the Superbowl coverage of the war and I'd say, take a wild guess. (VOICE RETURNS TO REGULAR PITCH) Finally, I got through. After all, it was American made equipment. And all of the customs agents were all talking about the effectiveness, no, the beauty, the elegance of the American strategy of pin-point bombing. The high-tech, surgical approach that was being reported on CNN as something between grand opera and the Super Bowl. Like the first reports, before the blackout, when TV was live, and everything was heightened, and it was so euphoric.

Night in Baghdad

(video images of the air war over Baghdad at night) Ooh. And oh it's so beautiful It's like the Fourth of July It's like a Christmas Tree It's like fireflies on a summer night.

And, hey, I'm just going to stick this microphone out the window and see if we can hear a little better. Hello California? Can you hear us? Come in?

Ooh. And oh it's so beautiful It's like the Fourth of July It's like a Christmas Tree It's like fireflies on a summer night.

Ooh. And I wish I could describe this to you better. But I can't talk very well right now cause I've got this damned gas mask on. So, I'm just going to stick this microphone out the window and see if we can hear a little better. Hello California? What's the weather like out there now?

And I only have one question: Did you ever really love me? Only when we danced. And it was so beautiful. It was like the Fourth of July It was like fireflies on a summer night.

Violin solo with voice-overs

Moderator: "Admiral Stockdale, you say . . . ." Admiral Stockdale: "You know, when I was, I, I ran a civilization for s. . . , several years. A civilization of three to four hundred wonderful men. We had our own laws, we had our own, practically our own constitution. And I put out . . . , I was the, I was the sovereign for a good bit of that. And I tried to analyze human predicaments in that microcosm of, uh, life in the, in the, in the, in the, world. You've got to have leaders. And, I, they're out there. Who can, can do this with their bare hands with, working with, with people on the, on the scene." This intro to the song is a violin solo with Anderson sawing harshly with her electronically amplified violin over background sound bites (TV announcers, Ross Perot commercials--the sound bite collage that ended the NPR version) from the 1992 election campaign which are barely audible over the grating sound Anderson produces on the violin.

Can You Hear Me?

You know sometimes when you hear someone screaming it goes in one ear and out the other. And sometimes, when you hear someone screaming, it goes right into the middle of your head and stays there forever.

Somebody Else's Dream

You know those nights when you're sleeping and it's totally dark and absolutely silent and you don't dream. Well, this is the reason. It's because on those nights, you've gone away. On those nights, you're in someone else's dream. You're busy in someone else's dream. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Can you hear me? (loud scraping violin, shifting sound)

a melodic violin solo

Dog Show

I dreamed I was a dog in a dog show. And my father came to the dog show and he said, "That's a really good dog, I like that dog."

Half Asleep

You know those days when you wake up and you're not all there. You're half there. And you're walking down the street, bumping into people. And everybody's yelling, "Hey, you. Going through the motions?"

An Old Friend

You know those days when you're feeling really depressed and you get a call from your old boyfriend from high school. And he says, hey hi, listen, I'm on my way in from the airport, I thought I would surprise you, drop by. You know, we could meet at the old clubs He said, we could do the samba . . . . (unintelligible) And I said, hold on, I got a call on the other line. "Hello, we are calling from Frankfurt and we are having the Achtunglieber(?) Festival and we thought of you." And I said, how thrilling . . . . (unintelligible) Hey, you. Going through the motions?

Love Among the Sailors

There is a hot wind blowing It moves across the oceans and into every port. A plague. A Black plague. There's danger everywhere And you've been sailing.

And you're alone on an island now tuning in. Did you think this was the way Your World would end? Hombres. Sailors. Comrades.

There is no pure land now. No safe place And we stand here on the pier. Watching you drown. Love among the sailors. Love among the sailors.

There is a hot wind blowing. Plague drifts across the oceans. And if this is the work of an angry god I want to look into his angry face. There is no pure land now. No safe place. Come with us into the mountains. Hombres. Sailors. Comrades.

World Without End

I remember where I came from. There were burning buildings and a fiery red sea I remember all my lovers I remember how they held me World without end remember me.

East. The edge of the world. West. Those who came before me.

When my father died we put him in the ground When my father died it was like a whole library Had burned down. World without end remember me.

Trip to Tibet

You know, I just wanted to say something at this point and it's about the reason I've been talking about all of these dead people. And the reason for this is a trip that I took recently to Tibet. And I went there to look at a lake way up in the Himalayas. And this lake is in an extremely remote part of Tibet. And, when the Dalai Lama dies, a lot of lamas travel to this lake to look at it, because, written in code on the surface of the water, somehow, are instructions for finding the new Dalai Lama. For example, there would be a certain sign on the water for the word "west" and another for the word "gate," and another for "dusty road." And so, that's how they would find the new Dalai Lama. They would look in western Tibet and they would find a gate and at the end of this dusty road there would be a little boy playing and this would be the incarnation of the Dalai Lama. Now, being a somewhat suspicious person, I wanted to see this lake and get a look at the huge xenon projectors hidden around on the hermit caves that might explain this phenomenon. So, there were 12 of us trekking, plus 8 sherpas and 27 yaks. And, we set off into the mountains and we got really lost. And we weren't really prepared for how far it was going to be or how cold it was going to be. And, so, we would get up every morning and we would drink this coffee with yak butter, you know, it was snowing and freezing and we would start to walk. And, then, at about 22,000 feet I got altitude sickness that just wouldn't go away. And for days I had a fever of 104, you know, 20 Advil a day. And I was convinced that my head had been sliced open. And, so, when the other trekkers tried to help me, you know, rummaging around in the oxygen equipment, I kept thinking, how nice of them to be pretending to look for something to help me and not even mentioning that my head has been sliced wide open. So, anyway, finally, these headaches went away. And all I heard for days were bells and the horizon was doing some great pulsating gold patterns and then wild stripes. And, we finally reached the lake. But by that point, I couldn't really see much of anything except these gold lights. And that night, because I found out later, the leader had gotten a group together and said, we have to be prepared for the fact that she's going to die tonight, meaning me. So, that night, they sent me down in a body bag, strapped to a donkey, with a sherpa guide and another American trekker and some oxygen equipment. And I just kept slipping in and out of consciousness. So, I said to this other trekker, you know, listen, can you just keep talking to me because I just keep, you know, going away. And this trekker was a really strong guy but very shy. He hardly said anything the whole trip. But he started to talk and he talked non-stop for 3 days. You know, look at the gorse over there, look at the frozen yak turds, look at the stars. And I remember that voice pulling on me like it was a long, thin line. Just a single voice. And, that's how I held on. His voice was a rope, repelling me down. And, that's why I'm telling you this because maybe you know what it's like to be saved this way. Just by the sound of another person's voice. And, so, that's what happened to me and I just thought I should explain it to you.

Act Two

The Geographic North Pole

The summer of 1974 was brutally hot in New York and I had kept thinking about how nice and icy it must be at the North Pole and then I thought: wait a second, why not go? You know, like in cartoons where they just hang "Gone to the North Pole" on their doorknobs and just take off. So, I spent a couple of weeks preparing for the trip, getting a hatchet, a huge backpack, maps, knives, sleeping bag, lures, and a three month supply of bannock, a versatile high protein paste that can me made into flatbread, biscuits, or cereal. I had decided to hitchhike so one day I just walked out to Houston Street, weighted down with seventy pounds of gear, and stuck out my thumb. "Going north?" I asked the driver, as I struggled into his station wagon. After I got out of New York, most of the rides were trucks until I reached the Hudson Bay and began to hitch in small mail planes. The pilots were usually guys who had gone to Canada to avoid the draft or else embittered Vietnam vets who never wanted to go home again. Either way, they always wanted to show off a few of their stunts. We'd go swooping low along the rivers, doing loop de loops and "Baby Hughies." They'd drop me off at an air strip, "There'll be another plane by here coupla' weeks. See ya! Good luck! I never did make it all the way to the geographic pole. It turned out to be a restricted area and no one was allowed to fly in, or even over, it. I did get within a few miles of the magnetic pole though, so it wasn't really that disappointing. I entertained myself in the evenings cooking, smoking, or watching the blazing light of the huge Canadian sunsets as they turned the lake into fire. Later I lay on my back looking up at the northern lights and imaging there had been a nuclear holocaust and that I was the only human being left in all of North America and what would I do then? And then when these lights went out, I stretched out on the ground, watching the stars as they turned around on their enormous silent wheels. I finally decided to turn back because of my hatchet. I had been chopping some wood and the hatchet flew out of my hand on the upswing. And I did what you should never do when this happens: I looked up to see where it had gone. It came down WWWWFFFFF!! just missing my head and I thought: My God! I could be walking around here with a hatchet in embedded in my skull and I'm ten miles from the airstrip and nobody in the whole world knows I'm here.

The Ugly One With the Jewels

Around that time, I went to Mexico to visit my brother who was working as an anthropologist with the Tzeltal Indians, the last surviving Mayan tribe. The Tzeltal speak a lovely bird-like language and are quite tiny physically. I towered over them. Mostly I spent my days following the women around since my brother wasn't really allowed to do this. We got up at three a.m. and began to separate the corn into three colors. Then we boiled it, ran to the mill and back and finally started to make the tortillas. Now, all the other women's tortillas were 360 degrees, perfectly toasted, perfectly round. And even after a lot of practice, mine were still lopsided and charred. And when they thought I wasn't looking, they threw them to the dogs. After breakfast we spent the rest of the day down at the river watching the goats and braiding and unbraiding each other's hair. So usually there wasn't that much to report. One day the women decided to braid my hair Tzeltal style. After they did this, I saw my reflection in a puddle. I looked ridiculous but they said, "Before we did this, you were ugly. But now maybe you will find a husband." I lived with them in a yurt, a thatched structure shaped like a cupcake. And there is a central fireplace ringed by sleeping shelves, sort of like a dry beaver dam. My Tzeltal name was "Loscha" which, loosely translated, means "the-ugly-one-with-the-jewels." Now, ugly, OK, I was awfully tall by local standards. But what did they mean by the jewels? I didn't find out what this meant until one night when I was taking my contact lenses out and, since I'd lost the case, I was carefully placing them on the sleeping shelf. Suddenly I noticed that everyone was staring at me. And I realized that none of the Tzeltal had ever seen glasses, much less contacts, and that these were the jewels, the transparent, perfectly round jewels that I carefully hid on the shelf at night and then put, for safe-keeping, into my eyes every morning. So I may have been ugly but so what? I had the jewels.

Speak My Language

Full fathom five, thy father lies. Of his bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were his eyes. Nothing of him that doth remain but that suffers a sea change into something rich and strange. And I alone am left to tell the tale. Call me Ishmael.

Daddy, Daddy, it was just like you said Now that the living outnumber the dead Where I come from it's a long thin thread Across an ocean. Down a river of red. Now that the living outnumber the dead I'm one of many. Speak my language.


Last night I dreamed I died and that my life had been rearranged into some kind of theme park. And all my friends were walking up and down the boardwalk. And my dead grandmother was selling cotton candy out of a little shack. And there was this big ferris wheel about half a mile out in the ocean, half in and half out of the water. And all my old boyfriends were on it. With their new girlfriends And the boys were waving and shouting and the girls were saying Eeek.

Then they disappeared under the surface of the water and when they came up again they were laughing and gasping for breath.

In this dream I'm on a tightrope and I'm tipping back and forth trying to keep my balance. And below me are all my relatives. This long thin line. This song line. This shout. The only thing that binds me to the turning world below and all the people and noise and sounds and shouts. This long thin line. This tightrope made of sound. This long thin line. This tightrope of my own blood.

violin solo


Coolsville Coolsville

So Perfect So Nice So Nice!

Hey Little Darlin, I'm Coming Your Way Little Darlin And I'll be There Just as Soon As I'm All Straightened Out Yeah Just as Soon As I'm Perfect.

Some things are just pictures They're scenes before your eyes And Don't Look Now I'm Right Behind You Coolsville Coolsville So Perfect So Nice So Nice!

And down by the ocean Under the boardwalk You were so handsome we didn't talk You're my ideal I'm gonna find you I'm goin to Coolsville So perfect So ideal

This Train This City This Train Some things are just pictures They're scenes before your eyes And Don't Look Now I'm Right Behind You Coolsville

She Said: Oh Jesus, why are you always in the arms of somebody else? He Said: Oh Man! I don't need anybody's help I'm gonna get there on my own.

This train This city This train This City This Train

when "Coolsville" was performed again as part of Nerve Bible, the song remained textually the same but the video in the background changed from Empty Places. Gone were the Japanese people going to work and it their place were films of empty, nighttime subway cars in motion, surrounded by bits of trash and debris which are flying about. The subway cars are New York City cars and they are filmed from the outside platforms of a subway stop.

One World, One Operating System

(MALE VOICE) They listened to the music, to the sweet swinging music, that came from their radios, that came from their gods.

(FEMALE VOICE) They listened to the music, to the sweet swinging music, that came from their radios, that came from their gods.

(MALE VOICE) Welcome. Login. Login. Login. Now.

(a series of indecipherable web page addresses is spit out by a male electronic voice over the speakers) . . . You know what I really like about cyberspace is the rumors. Like the recent so-called AP press release that the so-called Vatican had been bought out by Microsoft and a so-called Bishop responded: (electronically created "male" character) "We're thrilled. We've been using icons for over 2,000 years and Microsoft has only been doing it for three. So, think of the potential."

But I like being on the internet because you can get weather reports from anywhere on the globe, find out where the big supertankers are, or whether there are any storms going on at the North Pole. And if you've got the right software, you can spin the world around and get off anywhere. As long as you've got the right numbers, the right codes. For example, hit return, hold down the option key, shift three times, slash, slash, dot-com, . . . Standbye.

[An image of a lighted tunnel appears center stage and the camera begins to move down the tunnel. As the unintelligible sound of web addresses comes from an electronic voice on tape with a background texture of other electronic sounds, a series of web addresses are superimposed over the lighted tunnel. As Anderson begins to speak of the Vatican, the lighted tunnel disappears and is replaced with a background texture of hundreds of neon strips of light shooting quickly by. The web addresses still flash, superimposed over the background texture. After Anderson transitions into speaking about the weather information available on the internet, a web made of light appears as the background texture. The web addresses still flash, superimposed over the background texture. Then Anderson fades out all of these images and into a video of male dancers in grass skirts. The sound now consists of an underscore of doo-wop music begins at this point which is drown out by a large electrical sound and the repeated phrase, "One world, one operating system." The background video shows a brief film of Ponapean which Anderson shot in 1980 during her trip to Ponape, a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The images are broadcast on two large videoscreens which are placed center stage. The image of the dancers is continually shifting in color--color filters change the image from one color to another but always maintains primarily a monochromatic palette. This one image then changes to a split screen and then multiple screens within the two larger video screens. Large swipes pass over the image of the dancers as well. The superimposed words, "One World, One Operating System" scroll over the images of the dancers. Then the words "Aloha!," followed by "Wish You Were Here!" are superimposed over the image of the dancers. A pair of animated bluebirds then appear and swirl over the changing images. The dancers suddenly disappear and we see the empty performance space (a flat piece of ground in front of wind-blown palm trees) where they had been dancing.]

You Rang

You rang Remember me A Black Hole A Red Dwarf You rang And you, I've seen your telescopes I've read your stories and you Vanishingly thin And when you disappear You're shocked You rang You rang (more intense)

[This piece is performed by Anderson from the extreme side of the stage (almost in the wings) while the image of her face is captured by a small camera and projected onto 2 large video screens in the center of the stage. The camera however distorts Anderson's face, only picking up half of her face and projecting this one half onto both screens. One screen is inverted so we see a full human head on stage when we are actually just seeing the same one side of Anderson's face projected on both screens. This image of Anderson's face is deeply saturated with color and is actually shown in negative and not positive image. The effect is that the image could be male or female; the image is distorted to such a degree that it is difficult to tell. However, the voice is extremely harsh and slightly resembles the "Voice of Authority" in its pitch but not otherwise.]

Puppet Motel

I live on a highway Near the Puppet Motel I log in every day I know the neighborhood well. Now about the residents Of the Puppet Motel They're more than a little spooky And most of them are mean. They're running' the numbers They're playing cops and robbers Down in the dungeons Inside their machines.

And all the puppets in this digital jail They're runnin' around in a frenzy In search of the Holy Grail. They're havin' virtual sex. They're eatin' virtual food. No wonder these puppets Are always in a lousy mood.

So if you think we live in a modern world Where everything is clean and swell Take a walk on the B side of town Down by the Puppet Motel Take a whiff. Burning plastic.

I drink a cup of coffee I try to revive My minds' a blank I'm barely alive My nerves are shot I feel like hell Guess it's time to check in At the Puppet Motel.

Boot up. Oooo. I really like the way you talk. Pardon me. Shut down. Boot up. Oooo. I really like the way you talk. Pardon me. Shut down.

Drum Suit Dance reprise with "This is a recording" and "Directory Assistance"


It was one of those black cat nights The moon had gone out and the air was thin It was the kind of night that the cat would drag in.

I'll never forget it, we had a fight. Then you turned around turned on the light. You left our bed. Then you moved downstairs to live with her instead. Yeah just one floor and a shout away. I guess I should have moved but I decided to stay. Did I drink some poison that I don't remember now?

And every night I open all the windows I let a cold dark wind blow through. I play loud organ music and I talk to myself and dream of you. Uh oh! I hear voices comin' up through the pipes through all the springs in my bed and up through the lights. The volume goes up then it drops back down I can hear the two of you playing records moving furniture and fooling around.

Did I drink some poison that I don't remember now? Is there blood on my hands? No, my hands are clean. Did I do something in another lifetime that was really really mean?

Yeah I'm hearing voices. Am I losing my mind? Think I'm going crazy. I gotta get out. I run into the street and start to shout Get out of my way! Get out! Get out!

Did I drink some poison that I don't remember now? Is there blood on my hands? Did I do something in another lifetime that was really really mean?

A small bullet, a piece of glass And your heart just grows around it.

Did I drink some poison that I don't remember now? Is there blood on my hands? Did I do something in another lifetime that was really really mean?

Long Violin Solo

In Our Sleep

In our sleep as we speak Listen to the drums beat In our sleep.

In our sleep as we speak Listen to the drums beat As we speak.

In our sleep as we speak Listen to the drums beat.

Purse Snatcher/Bright Red

You know, I have a friend and she got her purse stolen at a bar. And about a week later she met this really handsome guy. A real charmer. And they started going out and for about a month they spent all of their days together and almost every night. Then, one night, she was over at his place and she went into his closet to hang up a blouse. And on the floor in the corner was her purse.

And wild beasts shall rest there And owls shall answer one another there And the hairy ones shall dance there And sirens in the temples of pleasure.

Muddy River

Rain keeps pouring down Houses are cracking. People drown. Cars are rusting here. A church floats by Washed in the blood of the lamb.

And all the superhighways have disappeared One by one. And all the towns and cities and signs Are underwater. They're gone.

We're going down by the muddy river We're walking down by the muddy river Somebody tell me please: What happened here?

Mud is everywhere. Fish are swimming in the fields. Everybody's running around, they're yelling is this the end of the known world?

Men and women in their boats Try to save what they've lost. They're yelling, it's all gone now. We're never gonna find it again.

But when the muddy river starts to rise It covers us all. And when I look into your eyes Two tiny clocks two crystal balls We begin again. We try. We begin again. Down by We're going down by down by the muddy river. We begin again down by the muddy river. We're walking down by down by the muddy river. We begin again down by the muddy river.

Same Time Tomorrow

You know that little clock, the one on your VCR the one that's always blinking twelve noon because you never figured out how to get in there and change it. So it's always the same time just the way it came from the factory. Good morning. Good night. Same time tomorrow. We're in record.

So here are the questions: Is time long or is it wide? And the answers? Sometimes the answers just come in the mail. And one day you get that letter you've been waiting for forever. And everything it says is true. And then in the last line it says: Burn this.

And what I really want to know is: Are things getting better or are they getting worse? Can we start all over again? Because history is stories that we half remember. And most of them never even get them written down. So, when they say things like, we're going to do this by the book, you have to ask, what book? Because it would make a big difference if it was Dostoevsky or not just, you know, Ivanhoe.

Stop. Pause. We're in record. Good morning. Good night. East. The edge of the world. West. Those who came before. We're in record. Good morning. Good night. Same time tomorrow. Speak my language.

Laser Tunnel/Final Credits

end of show


Anderson tells the story of attending a conference on information technologies in Germany. A very old professor, who specializes in predicting the future of information, uses a food analogy to explain the current need for information:

We are again in the hunting and gathering stage but this time we hunting for information. Trying to grab whatever rushes by. And it's all really disorganized and there are no restaurants, no recipes yet. We're just sort of foraging. But the food analogy explained a lot to me because the frantic part of the digital revolution seems like a kind of real hunger. People really seem hungry. They seem starving for information. And even more so, they're starving for new equipment. And as technologies escalate and things get faster, a lot of people get caught up in what amounts to a sorta personal arms race, building up arsenals of equipment. And, for what? And so you have to keep getting more and more stuff, endlessly. More bandwidth, more storage, more memory, more speed. And you will never, ever have enough. It's like you're in a race against speed itself.

Back to HomePage of the Brave: Laurie Anderson by JimDavies (jim@jimdavies.org)