Totemism

This blog is dedicated to the first rate performer, singer and musician Diamanda Galás. Diamanda Galás (born August 29, 1955) is a Greek-American avant-garde composer, vocalist, pianist, performance artist and painter. Known for her expert piano as well as her distinctive, operatic voice, which has a three and a half octave range, Galás has been described as "capable of the most unnerving vocal terror". Galás often shrieks, howls, and seems to imitate glossolalia in her performances. Her works largely concentrate on the topics of suffering, despair, condemnation, injustice and isolation. She has worked with many avant-garde composers, including Iannis Xenakis, Vinko Globokar and John Zorn. Greatness exists independent of most peoples judgement or opinion. We only listen to the wise. The fools have no vote, this is not a democracy. Photos are published by the kind permission of the artist.

INTRAVENAL SONG by Diamanda Galás

Kategori: Allmänt, Diamanda Galás, Music, Wild Women with Steak Knives

INTRAVENAL SONG 1

 

This music is concerned with tendencies towards excessive behavior. An obsession, extremes omnipresent and encroaching upon the other, within microseconds, coalescing one moment and dissolving the next, towards an ultimate dissolution, which is the soul's own Implosion. You do not go to a hospital to inspire the recreation of your own Death onstage. You know it by heart. This need, this voracity for the extremes of consciousness I return to. An actor may simulate the desired emotive state through a skilled manipulation of external object materials, or he may use the raw materials of his own soul in a process which is the immediate, the direct experience of the emotion itself. This second concern is felt by performers who, not just professional, are Obsessional performers.

 In 1975 I decided upon the creation of a new vocal music which employs an unmatrixed production of vocal sound as the most immediate representation of thought. The primary concern is with the execution- sequentially, chordally, or contrapuntally- of different processes of severe concentration, "mental" or "sentient" states, for which vocal sound is used as the fundamental physical coordinate.

 A prechoreographed navigation through specified mental & sentient states, underscored by a subtext of personal and rather cinemato-graphic writing, determines the sonic/linguistic content/gesture. In this way, I immediately establish a contextual basis for the compositional interconnection among sonic & linguistic elements, an interconnection which, at the outset, is a part of the production of the individual materials themselves. During performance, I endeavor to move elastically through many different "states of severe concentration" or "trance states" with complete obedience to the rigor of each state, and simultaneously attend to the temporal demands of the macrostructure of the piece. . endeavors and concerns which reflect an obsession with the shared and unshared pleasures of both flagellant and flagellee.

Wild Women with Steakknives is a kind of bloodless and unmerciful brain surgery, a kinesthetic representation of the mind diffracted into an infinity of crystals... .the subtractive synthesis of mental entropy into various bands of absolute and mere schizophrenia.

Theatrically, this diffraction of the mind is made infinite through a ceaseless navigation of the following variables: physical body effort & shape; changing light series which are choreographed; vocal timbre chains; incremental change of room reverberation; manipulation of sonic spatial coordinates and trajectories through the use of four microphones sent to a triphonic sound system. With the exception of the changing light series, the performer has control over all of the above during performance. An obvious advantage of the use of multimikes is their service as a micromodel for the plastic performance space itself, also choreographed by the performer.

 About virtuosity... A vocal-timbral mapping onto this mental diffraction requires a huge repertoire of vocal sound at one's disposal as well as a completely elastic vocal ability, which enables the rapid navigation through these timbral elements. This is certainly not a new idea, but the absolute accuracy, the absolute detail I am referring to requires a virtuosity, a versatility with the instrument that has not been yet approached. The most minimal or the most maximal increment of timbral change over the smallest unit of time is required and, in many ways, resembles what is attempted in subtractive synthesis of white noise, wherein highly specified pitch/'timbre bands may be heard suddenly alone, in quick succession, or simultaneously. The question here is not one of a simplistic development of vocal virtuosity. Rather, it involves a redefinition of a most (cciurate sonic representation of thought via the most accessible, direct, and sophisticated music-making apparatus.

 

1Prefatory performance notes read at the conference on "The Oral Mode in Contemporary Art and Culture", Center for Music Experiment, UCSD, La Jolla, California, February 20, 1982. Perspectives of New Music,Vol. 20, No. 1/2 (Autumn, 1981 - Summer, 1982), pp. 59-65.

 

 Photo:Kent Strother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

You Don't Know What Love Is

Kategori: Allmänt, Diamanda Galás

You Don't Know What Love Is (Music:Gene De Paul | Lyrics:Don Raye)

The interpretation of this jazz standard song from 1941 by Diamanda Galás has more in common with the ballad playing by Sonny Rollins than singers as Chet Baker or Billie Holiday. She sings it in a passionate, and of course, haunting way. Her singing is melancholy too, but her idea of melancholy may be different from yours. Her performance embodies the amalgam of emotion and intellect in an unprecedented manner. Not about remorse, or about regrets but about more the secret land of loss of which we are all too familiar with. Separation comes in many forms; a physical reality as in death or as a frame of mind.  The lyrics are the Alpha and Omega of her deeply felt approach. Every inflection is considered and thoughtfully executed. Through and through, I find myself yielding to the growing stillness of darkness. Singing is just another way of being silent. Was there ever a better anagram: silent - listen

Photo:Allan Amato
 

Lonely Woman

Kategori: Allmänt, Ornette Coleman

A few notes notes on the vocalism of Diamanda Galás and ‘Lonely Woman’[1] by Coleman/Galás

I just can’t die now – all interiors sing

Let me put the record straight -- a goddess or a she-devil is encountered, not defined. My approach to an understanding of the vocalism by Diamanda on "Lonely Woman" by Coleman/Galás are mere suggestions. I'm by no means a connoisseur of jazz music, let alone the freer form of it. However, I think I can think inside the box. Form can hold great riches or it can hold nothing. Form is nothing without content.

Coleman, describing to Derrida (in an interview he made with Coleman) the personal origins of his most famous composition: 'Before becoming known as a musician, when I worked in a big department store,one day, during my lunch break, I came across a gallery where someone had painted a very rich white woman who had absolutely everything that you could desire in life, and she had the most solitary expression in the world. I had never been confronted with such solitude, and when I got back home, I wrote a piece that I called' “Lonely Woman.”

This is a lovely anecdote. However, it doesn't shed any light on the work in my opinion. It is also said about the work, that the melody line of "Lonely Woman" mimics the intonation of the human voice, hence the title. My guess is that the latter is in focus for Diamanda's attention, and astounding rendition of Coleman's work.

The singing

You have probably read somewhere Diamanda mentioning the bel canto as one of her singing approaches. What does it mean? What does that imply? One part of the bel canto method is to produce an even vocal cantabile line -- vocal legato as the unrelenting flow of tone, which is the result of binding one sound to the next. One of the difficulties in singing the rather extended vocalise as it is done in the aforementioned work, is the lack of consonant assistance. You need to cope with this issue with good management of breath control. That is part and parcel of the rock solid foundation in her vocal edifice. Artistic creativity and beautiful vocalism are in no way separated from each other.”First a musician, secondly a singer” is perhaps one of the oldest lines in the book, but nevertheless most certainly true about Diamanda Galás. Just like the cornet and sax play mirror-sound-images of one another during most of this tune, Diamanda's improvised singing and piano part will occasionally cut out to let the vocal line adventure out solo, but even then, the complimentary solos match each other. Her soaring, full-bodied vocal solo line emanates a third-dimension intensity and immediacy, bathing in kaleidoscopic fluctuations of light, colors, shapes and images. The communicative parameter--indeed, vocal technique without the parameter of communication has minimal value. Thusly, the art of singing is the art of communication. What strikes me, while listening to Coleman/Galás, is her awareness of how harmonic language molds the melodic, dynamic nuance, the vocal coloration and, how to maintain the stabilized basic timbre of her vocal instrument throughout all the registers. If I was asked to place the voice in a bright-dark range -- I would say it is dark crimson, burnished in the forest of the night, like Blake’s tiger.

The art of re-composing

Music concerns the organisation of sound over time, the key word here being organisation. Since any act of listening involves patterns of recognition and memory, based on what has been and will be sounded in the piece. It is here where Diamanda Galás gives us an object lesson on the art of re-composing and a re-creative interpretation. She explains lucidly her approach:

"My first desire was to sing it in the way horn players would LIKE to play it. The greatest horn players always try for a vocal sound, and phrasing when they begin playing a piece like this, which is so lyrical and melodic, long lines of legato with changing timbre. So I did it solo first, with a kind of crap tape in the background of a looped phrase I played on piano, to establish the tonality. In retrospect,I think it could have been approached differently, without the tape. Then I wanted to outline the chord structure more concisely, albeit the solo line does that also.So I next stepped to the piano to flesh out the piece in an orchestral sense, bringing in the voice over the chord changes and improvising both the vocal and piano work simultaneously while adhering to the chord structure. I did repeat a section of the piece twice, to gain a longer solo time by using the repeated section as an ostinato to give more solo room before moving to the next section."

 

 


 

[1] 'Lonely Woman' appears on the double album 'La Serpenta Canta', released 2003 on Mute ‎Records.

 

 Photo: Kristofer Buckle