Hear Laurie Anderson Read From Tibetan Book of Dead

Laurie Anderson and Jesse Paris Smith support Tibetan artist Tenzin Choegyal on “Jigten,” the final track from the trio’s upcoming collaboration Songs From the Bardo. On the track, Choegyal sings text from the Bardo — the Tibetan Book of the Dead — over a contemplative backdrop of dranyen (a long-necked lute), orchestral strings, and piano. It’s a slow crescendo that suggests more joy than mourning in its beauty. Anderson speaks softly — “Awakened one, listen without distraction” — toward the end of the song. The album is due out September 27th.

“The music is meant to help you float out of your body, to go into these other realms, and to let yourself do that without boundaries,” Anderson wrote in the record’s liner notes.

She and her collaborators premiered the work at New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art in February. In addition to the dranyen, Choegyal plays the gong, a Tibetan flute, and singing bowls on the album. Anderson speaks and plays violin. Smith plays the piano, crystal bowls, and a gong. They also teamed with cellist Rubin Kodheli and percussionist Shahzad Ismaily for the recording.

They previously released the album’s “Lotus Born, No Need to Fear,” which featured more of Anderson reading from the text, specifically the Bardo’s passage titled, “Characteristics of Existence in the Intermediate State.” “The lords of death are the natural form of emptiness,” she says on the track. “Your own confused projections, and you are emptiness, a mental body of unconscious tendency.”

Choegyal has said that he hopes the work honors his ancestors, since his family had to flee Tibet for India. “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 wrote in the liner notes.

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