Laurie Anderson Revisits Lou Reed’s Radical ‘Metal Machine Music’

By Philip Trapp on Mar 19, 2016 05:29 PM EDT

Excitement for this year's Big Ears Festival builds with each performance announcement. Laurie Anderson, widow of Lou Reed and acclaimed performance artist in her own right, will perform pieces inspired by her late husband's avant-garde works as Lou Reed's DRONES.

Scheduled for the fittingly fuzzy early morning hours of Saturday, April 2, the performance on the festival's "The Standard" stage will begin at 1 a.m. Further pushing the envelope, the announcement asks festivalgoers to bring an instrument and join in the late night jam, aiming to create a crowdsourced cacophony in honor of the Velvet Underground frontman.

The appearance is not to be missed by fans of Lou Reed's forward-thinking musical creations. As described on the festival's website, Reed's experimental compositions remain inspirational to today's progressive musicians

"Lou Reed's DRONES revisits the work of Reed's ambient, industrial masterpiece, Metal Machine Music, as well as the powerful influential backbone of the early Velvet Underground, [which] continues to influence generation after generation of young musicians."

When the original Metal Machine Music was released in 1975, many Reed fans were shocked and appalled at an album that, at its crux, was essentially an hour's worth of clamorous electric guitar feedback. Plenty of listeners presumed the album a perverse joke or hastily issued contractual fulfillment. Throughout his career Reed insisted that it was neither, telling The Quietus it was actually meant to be an unconventional classical record:

"I mean the idea was not to put it out as a rock record and to let people know it was electronic and it didn't have songs on it. It was going to be released under [RCA's] Red Seal imprint as a classical record. But then they put it out as a rock & roll album, with a rock & roll sleeve. Well, it was taken off the market in three weeks, it had the highest levels of returns of any record ever released. And record stores said that they would never carry any of my records ever again."

Reed maintained his sincerity regarding Metal Machine's musical merit during his life, even forming the Metal Machine Trio in 2008. The group, featuring instrumentalists Ulrich Krieger and Sarth Calhoun, continued to perform improvised works of free jazz, noise and electronica until the artist's death in 2013.

Listen to the first of four parts of Reed's Metal Machine Music, at your own peril, and remember to bring your guitar if you're attending Big Ears Festival in Knoxville next month.

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TagsLaurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Drones, Big Ears Festival, The Velvet Underground

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