Unseen Worlds
December 19, 2012 7:46 AM   Subscribe

"I was sitting with some friends in Woodstock when a telephone call was forwarded to me from someone who claimed to be from NASA, and who wanted to use a piece of my music to contact extraterrestrial life. I said, 'C'mon, if you're for real you better send the request to me through the mail on official NASA letterhead!'"
Laurie Spiegel is a composer and a humanist software developer.

Spiegel began her career at Bell Labs, where she designed computer art and music, informed by the concept of informational entropy as a function of time.

Spiegel later became a video artist-in-residence at New York's WNET/Thirteen Experimental TV Lab, working alongside Bill Viola and Nam June Paik.

Spiegel's 1977 composition "The Expanding Universe" was included in the Voyager Spacecraft's Golden Record, and was reissued this year to critical acclaim.

New Yorker review

Pitchfork review
posted by obscurator (10 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
This is great.
posted by deo rei at 7:51 AM on December 19, 2012

This is a great post on an amazing person. A year or two ago I had a chance to collaborate with Laurie Spiegel, Dan Sandin, and Tom Defanti on a virtual reality installation. Laurie did the audio, Dan did the interaction, Tom did the pushing, and I did the VR systems programming. Just an example of the type of thing she's doing these days.
posted by rlk at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have been listening to the Expanding Universe reissue like it is my full-time job.
posted by activitystory at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Laurie Spiegel is also a graduate of one of the smallest and most unique four year colleges (previously on the blue) in the States, which I can't imagine didn't help mold her into such full on awesome.
posted by dis_integration at 9:17 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even if you don't know her name, you might know her work: her 1972 track "Sediment" was used to great effect in the recent film adaptation of The Hunger Games.
posted by teraflop at 9:23 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Husband's been enjoying the reissue too and gifting it to friends like nobody's business. She posts on FB (about whether cloud computing is bad for the environment, thoughtful stuff like that) and, IIRC, there's footage of her doing her rad thing on the OHM comp. Spiegel's brilliant and inspiring.
posted by ifjuly at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ha, I should have RTFA'd before commenting; "Sediment" is mentioned in the very first link.
posted by teraflop at 10:00 AM on December 19, 2012

What a fantastic & well deserved article! Thanks so much for posting this.

How wonderful that Max Matthews & Bell Labs were so open to creativity & exploration to give her a point of entry & allow her become her own self. Awesome.
posted by yoga at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love her. She's a smart and talented woman. It's almost impossible to not admire her.

I took a walk while listening to Unseen Worlds and I was amazed at what a beautiful journey it was -- it went from being kind of spooky into something beautiful and transcendent. It was amazing.

The Expanding Universe is, of course, incredible. A few friends and I have talked about how remarkably modern it sounds -- you can hear a lot of her influence in artists like Autechre and Oneohtrix Point Never (just to name two) except she was doing it first and doing it better.

And that's why it delights me to no end that all these women who were pioneers of electronic music are finally getting the recognition they deserve. They were -- and are -- amazing and broke so much ground for the artists that followed them. I'm glad Spiegel is getting her due.
posted by darksong at 7:20 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Spiegel has been getting a lot of well-deserved coverage this year; the latest addition is an interview with Geeta Dayal for Frieze Blog.

Pertinent to dis_integration's perceptive comment above, here is an interview Spiegel did with the Shimer alumni magazine in 2004. My favorite quote:
For anyone at Shimer reading this interview, don't worry too much about what you're going to do after Shimer. It'll happen, and it may not be anything you could predict because it may not be something that has been done before.
posted by shenderson at 2:57 PM on December 22, 2012

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