Laurie Anderson is teaming up with Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal and composer/activist Jesse Paris Smith on the album Songs From The Bardo, an 80-minute improvisatory composition based on the Tibetan Book Of The Dead. Smith, the daughter of punk legend Patti Smith, first met Choegyal in 2008 at the annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall. They began discussing the work that eventually became Songs From The Bardo after the 2014 benefit, and they performed a shortened version of it with Anderson at the 2015 edition.
On Songs From The Bardo, Anderson narrates text from the Tibetan Book Of The Dead while Choegyal, Smith, cellist Rubin Kodheli, and percussionist Shahzad Ismaily provide the musical accompaniment. Smith plays piano and creates drone beds using a collection of crystal bowls, while Choegyal incorporates traditional Tibetan instruments like lingbu (a bamboo flute), dranyen (a lute-like stringed instrument), singing bowls, gong, and his own voice. “I have tried to channel the wisdom and traditions of my ancestors through my music in a very contemporary way while holding the depth of my lineage,” he writes in the album’s liner notes.
Today, the trio are sharing “Lotus Born, No Need To Fear.” The seven-minute track ebbs and flows under Anderson’s voice — receding into silence, settling into a meditative rhythm, briefly flaring up before drifting off into the background again. “Awakened one/ With a body like this/ You will see your home and family as though you were meeting them in a dream,” Anderson gently intones. “But although you speak to them, you will get no reply.” Listen to the song and find Songs From The Bardo’s full tracklist below.
01 “Homage To The Gurus”
02 “Heart Sutra Song – Gone Beyond”
03 “Awakened One”
04 “The Three Jewels”
05 “Brilliant Lights”
06 “Listen Without Distraction”
08 “Dancing With The Crescent Knife”
10 “Natural Form Of Emptiness”
11 “Lotus Born, No Need To Fear”
12 “Dividing Line”
13 “Moon In The Water”
14 “Awakened Heart”
Songs From The Bardo is out 9/27 via Smithsonian Folkways. Pre-order it here.