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Lou Reed gives his blessing for 'Heroin,' rearranged for cello and voice

October 16, 2010 | 12:00 pm

BangonaCanOn Tuesday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presents "Music from Bang on a Can," a night of works by renowned postmodern composers David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon that's part of the Phil's Green Umbrella new music series.

Among the five multivalent pieces on the program is "Heroin," Lang's rewrite of Lou Reed's classic rock song.

When he got the idea to rework "Heroin" for solo cello and voice, Lang told me, he nervously contacted the famously ornery singer and songwriter to ask his permission.

"I told him, you know how Schubert and Schumann would set the same text by say, Goethe, to music? I said it was by having different musicians set music to a text that poetry got into the general culture. I said, I want to treat your text that way."

Lang sent Reed his demo and the former leader of the Velvet Underground called back. He responded, Lang said in a choked, gravelly voice, imitating Reed, "I've been waiting my whole life for somebody to treat me like that."

As on the audio clip below, "Heroin" will be sung at Disney Hall by Theo Bleckmann, a German-born vocalist, called the male Bjork, who has performed with New York's leading avant-garde composers, including Laurie Anderson and, for 15 years, Meredith Monk.

Click here for more about the Bang on a Can trio and the Green Umbrella performance and click to listen to "Heroin."

-- Kevin Berger

Photo: Michael Gordon, left, Julia Wolfe and David Lang. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman

Naxos recording David Lang: Pierced. Performance by Felix Fan (cello) and Theo Bleckmann (voice)