FT on Diamanda Galás – Artforum International

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FIRST ALBUM BY DIAMANDA GALÁS, The Litanies of Satan (1982), was reissued last year, and now his second LP, Diamanda Galas (1984), is finally available again after being out of print for 37 years. In high school I traded a pen pal for a concert bootleg from Einstürzende Neubauten for a whistle m3rd generation cassette copy of the two albums, one on each side; these vital reissues, beautifully remastered by Heba Kadry, restore the recordings to crystal clear clarity. Both albums are a testament to how the American singer’s creative approach and vision was fully formed and radical from the very beginning. The second album is also proof of Galás’ lifelong quest to give a name and a voice to unspeakable pain and historical injustice. Although she is best known for her period work in response to the HIV / AIDS pandemic, three albums known collectively as Mask of the Red Death (1982-1988) and a live review of the trilogy entitled Plague Mass (1991) – it was not HIV / AIDS that radicalized Galás, either creatively or politically. Her live debut in 1979 was a performance of an opera by Vinko Globoker about the arrest and torture of a Turkish woman for alleged treason, taken from an Amnesty International report. Long before her loved ones died of a mysterious illness that plagued homosexuals, the artist was tirelessly committed to exploring the limits of the power of the voice not only as a musical instrument, but also as a musical instrument. weapon, curse and living memorial.

Diamanda Galas consists of two pieces, lasting fifteen and seventeen minutes. Each composition has its own sonic palette and sinister theme: “Panopticon,” written long before most Americans had heard of Foucault, is a brutal account of incarceration, drawing inspiration from Jack Abbott’s 1981 book. . In the belly of the beast; “Τραγούδια από το Αίμα Εχούv Φονός (Song of the blood of the murdered)” is a Hadean elegy to the victims of the ruling junta in Greece from 1967 to 1974, written and performed in Greek. Like much of the artist’s catalog, this album asks a powerful and pointed question: what would it be like if, just once, just once, just once, just once, just once, fire and brimstone rained down on those who truly deserved punishment. ?

Diamanda herself is the only instrument on either track. “Panopticon” also makes extensive use of band effects; “Songs” is built from the voice alone. Using a self-invented technique of multiple microphones, an array of voices, and an infamous and truly breathtaking vocal range, Galás sings, screams, moans, growls, sings, thunders and mumbles in uncompromising worlds of sound. The two compositions highlight the double-edged extremes of his voice: the lacerating force of his highest register and his lowest guttural depths. Words and operatic flourishes alternate with howling glossolalia, terrifying echoes and silences. Meaning breaks down into fragments of sound that merge into raw feelings and language. But the compositions are no less distinct. The former throbs with anger, jerky and distorted, the latter overflows with sorrow, ethereal and infernal.

While much of Galás’ work has set to music the words of others – starting with “Les Litanies de Satan”, taken from verses by Charles Baudelaire – the two pieces on Diamanda Galas use the singer’s own lyrics. His poetics are somewhere between Antonin Artaud and Paul Celan, two admitted touchstones. In a typical passage from “Panopticon”, the voice of the jailer attacks the listener with repetition:

What is your name
What is your name
What is your name
Your name is that of a condemned man
Your name is that of a condemned man
You don’t have a name

Nineteen years after this album, Galás would set Celan’s “Todesfuge”, one of the most famous poems ever written on the Holocaust, to music as part of a composition on the Armenian genocide. But even here, decades earlier, we find her grappling with the same fundamental issues of aesthetics and expression: how do you represent the unrepresentable? How do you express the horror, grief, anger and violence so deep that the language itself falters and fails in its attempt to describe it? Galás responds with a kind of indirect and free musical discourse, moving in and out of various characters, conveying event, setting and affect rather than engaging in a fixed point of view. She does not hesitate to speak in the brutal voice of the aggressor, and where she gives voice to the victim, it is always with all the force of all their anguish and their revenge, and never on saccharine tones. universalist moralization or nationalist memorialization. It doesn’t tell you how you’re supposed to feel; if you have a heart and a soul and the music is loud enough, you will feel it. Play at maximum volume.


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