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Last night, 71-year-old polymath Laurie Anderson won her first-ever Grammy. She took home the award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for Landfall, her collaboration with Kronos Quartet.
The 70-minute multimedia piece, from Nonesuch Records, is about Hurricane Sandy, which flooded Anderson’s New York City studio in 2012.
“We were planning to spend a cozy evening watching the storm,” the avant-garde composer, musician, filmmaker, and visual artist told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2018. “You had to be there, watching the river almost become alive. To see it rise, and sparkle in the moonlight, was truly awesome. It was powerful and beautiful.”
When Anderson returned to her studio on Canal Street, though, she found that decades’ worth of her personal archives, artworks, instruments, and papers had been destroyed.
“My archives … had turned into oatmeal. My first reaction was absolute devastation,” she said. But she found a silver lining: “It reminded me I still have way too many things. I need to be simpler. I was feeling weighted down by all this stuff.”
In addition to releasing Landfall, Anderson has recently published a book, All the Things I Lost in the Flood, a series of essays on language, politics, technology, poetry, and live performance.
Anderson, the widow of late Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed, had previously been nominated for Grammys three times. Her first nomination was back in 1984, when “Gravity’s Angel” was up for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals.