Studio Visit: Selected Gifts from Agnes Gund

Laurie Anderson. Self-Playing Violin. 1974 28200

Laurie Anderson. Self-Playing Violin. 1974. Modified violin with built-in speaker and amplifier (sound), 23 x 10 x 4 1/2 in., 31 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, and the Rockefeller Fund. © 2018 Laurie Anderson. Photo: Imaging and Visual Resources Department, MoMA

LAURIE ANDERSON: I'm Laurie Anderson and I made this Self-Playing Violin a long time ago.
I love duets so I made a violin that plays by itself. So that I could play duets with it live. This combination of live and pre-recorded has been basic to my work forever.

This violin was played in five different places around New York. It was a loop situation. In other words, an endless cassette loop.

What's the structure of the piece? Is there a beginning? Is there an end? Where is it going? Like many minimal pieces, it would start and yards and yards of material would go by, and then it would stop. It didn't have a narrative structure typical to music. That's why it was minimalism.

Anyway, I used for this timing mechanism for this endless piece of music a pair of ice skates, which I wore with their blades frozen into blocks of ice. And I played this piece endless loop until the ice melted and I lost my balance and the concert was over. So, there I was out on this hot summer street in New York wearing these ice skates that were sort of gradually wobbling and then just my ankles would splay out like a really bad skater and the concert would be over and people were like, "What is that?"

But for me, it had the social aspect of an audience, which I really did enjoy as an artist. Because my question is always "Who are you talking to? Who is your audience? Who are you making this for? History? Other artists? Critics? Your friends? General public? Box office? Who?”

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