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.

All The Way

Kategori: Allmänt, Diamanda Galás, Unreleased recording

All The Way (Music: Jimmy Van Heusen | Lyrics: Sammy Cahn, 1957)

Diamanda's approach to this song makes me reflect on the singer's art and the reality. First things first.The opening chords of the work on the piano are Debussy-esque with finely brushed strokes of deep cutting  blues. Nothing is over-loaded or sentimental,and the music glides seraphically free. Time stops and Diamanda, who knows how to unfold a story takes the lead. She is a very emotional singer but it is obvious that her task is not to experience an emotional high in performance but to transform sentiment through artistic means. The singer's art consists of knowing how those experiences would feel and how to translate them into communicable representations. She does not express herself or wallow herself in her own emotional bathwater. No señor. Between the lines Diamanda Galás teaches that art is not reality. Art consists of the disciplining of reality for the portrayal of emotion.

 
Photo:Austin Young
 

O' Death

Kategori: Allmänt, Diamanda Galás, Music, Unreleased recording

O'Death (traditional dirge)

O' Death is a traditional American folk song. Its original author is unknown.
O' Death is found in white and black-American tradition from Texas to the
Georgia Sea Islands and is availabletoday in widely contrasting settings:
unaccompanied vocal solo, hillbilly duet (with guitars),bluegrass band, voice
and piano etc. Some place the song on the lips of a dying slave beaten
by a cruel plantation mistress, or on the lips of a Kentucky hill-preacher
stricken by the Lord for ignoring His call. Diamanda's performance of this dirge
is monumental and larger than life. Her mezzo-tinged soprano offers a dark
coloring to sound the miseries and consolation of death. Her singing has, through
and through, a striking sense of immediacy. She has taken the essence of being
and purified it into an otherworldy ambiance. We are enriched through heightened
perception. We have in a flash been granted a conception of being that we did not
previously have, and that is the sign of a truly great artist-singer. The piano part is
darkcolored and concentrated, but also profoundly lyrical and fiercely alive in every
fiber of its troubled being. The beauty and ease of her singing, and the natural ability
to float her voiceeffortlessly is a wonder. O'Death,replete with gratifying legato.
This is an unreleased recording.
 
 
[A dirge is a somber song or lament expressing mourning or grief, such as would
be appropriate for performance at a funeral.]
 
Photo:Allan Amato
 
 

'Round Midnight

Kategori: Allmänt, Diamanda Galás, Instrumental, Music, Unreleased recording

'Round Midnight (Music:Thelonious Monk,  1944)

This  is Thelonious Monk’s best-known jazz composition, being the most-recorded jazz standard written by any jazz musician. Diamanda Galás’ approach is as if she has torn the chordal material into shreds and then put together the pieces again into a more austere, angular and edgier work. Don't get me wrong. The melody is elegantly played, and there is no doubt that it is Monks 'Round Midnight', we are listening too. Diamanda's rendition is disconsolate and persevering, at the same time. Music, tempo rubato and piano timbre has again provided both pause and spur. Her playing remains a marvel of stylised elegance and dazzling fluency. Fleetness complemented by a Saint Vitus Dance magic. Her playing brims over with a colour and nuance worn with an enviable ease and lightness. Again, the term ‘technique’ takes on an entirely new meaning. You will wonder at the finest gradations of tone and phrasing which has nothing to do with driven tempi or high-octane bravura, but only with the most concentrated wit and vitality. Her reworking of the chord structures deserves an essay, but not here, not now and not by me. She explains what it takes for a musician to do Monk's work justice:"A thorough study of the changes inside and out. A thorough  study separately of the melody". As a novice listener I think it implies that, once you are familiar with the melody, listen closely to the bass line. It is occult arithmetic, and I can only speak about the shadows. Observation is one thing, perception another. This is an unreleased recording.