Raising funds to hire a seventeen-piece chamber orchestra for my new record, the first to be released under my own name. A concept album to confront, exorcise, and transfigure, the dangerous psychic currents underlying the new worldwide fascist movement.
For years I've relished the commissions and fellowships I periodically receive, which allow me to work within the world of "classical" composition, parallel to my somewhat busier career in underground bands. Now, after four years of work and research, I've finally finished writing what will be my first officially released, major statement bridging those two realms: Simple Answers, a song cycle/concept album for tenor, soprano, mezzo-soprano, chamber orchestra (5 winds, 3 brass, piano, 5 strings), percussion, and electronics. It's my most ambitious project to date, by far. I feel on fire.
Lyrically and conceptually, the songs of Simple Answers are rooted in a dark and seemingly unlikely intersection of influences which have haunted me for the past four years: Bulgarian-French feminist psychoanalyst/philosopher Julia Kristeva, legendary American comedian Patrice O'Neal (RIP), and the recent, frightening rise of fascist ideology and sentiment worldwide.
While fascism isn't regarded as a central focus of Julia Kristeva's work, the theme recurs throughout like a haunting refrain. Her seminal works Black Sun and Powers of Horror both address fascism, less as a literal political ideology, and more as a calamitous spiraling result of conflicts deep within the human psyche, entangled with depression, infantile narcissism, the feminine (particularly the maternal body), unresolved issues with language itself, mysticism, as well as an original esoteric philosophical category Kristeva calls the Abject. A true believer in the transformative, alchemical power of art, Kristeva also analyzes how these subtle, violent, psychic forces are re-directed and transfigured by writers including Céline, Duras, and de Sade.
I place Patrice O'Neal, whose comedy is known as much for its articulate, nuanced, and vulnerable humanity as for its cruelty, misogyny, and nihilism, firmly in this artistic lineage. To me, as to Kristeva, fascism isn't something that can be smashed, but a psychic realm of conflict, danger, and occult power within us all, that must be faced, understood, and sublimated, in order that it not consume the world with the simple answer of its flames.
Comprised of five long-form songs and three intricate instrumental pieces, Simple Answers is slated for release as a double LP (with high-quality digital download) by the highly respected New York experimental music label Northern Spy Records in 2018. The lavish gatefold packaging for the release will be designed by the great Zev Deans, known for his music films, animation, and set design for Portal, Ghost, Behemoth, and my band Psalm Zero. Funding for the project is roughly 50% in place already. The plan is to record at the in-demand Brooklyn studio Strange Weather. Most of the budget will go toward hiring the seventeen musicians of the ensemble, including Peter Evans (trumpet), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Russell Greenberg (percussion), Kelly Moran (piano), Daisy Press (soprano), Amirtha Kidambi (mezzo soprano), the string players from Mivos Quartet, and other world-class virtuosi from the New York contemporary music scene.
The professional recording and release of this project will make it possible to book live performances of the piece in the future and, with the distribution and reputation of the Northern Spy label, people around the world will be exposed to this non-academic, hybrid vision of what modern composition can be.
On the deeper level of psychology, politics, and spirituality, I believe that Simple Answers will be a valuable contribution to the eternal, and right now particularly urgent, practice of communally exorcising hate and violence in the place where we often look last: inside.
Some rewards for more generous patronage include a full bound concert score of the entire Simple Answers song cycle, signed by me, and a limited edition cassette/download featuring two previously unreleased instrumental Looker chamber pieces, from 2015 and 2009.
"[Any] text (and any subject) is polyvalent, polylogical, plural, unfixed. . . . the subject is always in process because s/he is always on trial, being tested against the various contexts in which s/he has his/her being." - Julia Kristeva
"I love all ideas. I believe any idea is the shit! But what fucks ideas up is people." - Patrice O'Neal
Risks and challenges
Many of you who have mail ordered merchandise from me in the past, including those who donated to the Kickstarter campaign I did six years ago for Extra Life, experienced some frustrating delays in shipping. My apologies. This time around, I will be hiring people to mail out all the prizes/pre-orders to donors, an expense which is already factored into the campaign budget.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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