If an artists’ work is a composite of influences from others, Beth Anderson’s Namely inverts that notion, creating a work from the names themselves of her influencers. The album consists of 65 short pieces, each using the name of one of Anderson’s varied influences as source material. Anderson applies a generative procedure to each name to create a text-sound poem that is performed as a vocal piece by the composer.
The collection of names reveals the intermedia nature of Anderson’s work — from the artist’s mother, to composer Julius Eastman, to Fluxus “founder” George Maciunas, to Other Minds’ very own Charles Amirkhanian. Each piece functions not only as a musical piece, but a work of concrete poetry, as author Jeremy Bushnell explains in his detailed liner notes essay.
In twisting up these familiar names, Anderson utters strange combinations of familiar words and creates new ones. By weaving a web of her own influences, Anderson is charting a map from which to navigate the rest of Anderson’s deep catalog, a necessary tool for understanding an artist whose work spans from text-sound poetry, to proto-No Wave, to near-baroque minimalism. Namely begs the question: What would a similar list of 65 influences on a different composer look like? And how would the composer translate those 65 names into a work of their own?
Anderson’s answer is at once loud and clear and deeply confounding. Namely is a work that invites a deeper dive, so jump in.