a couple of weeks ago i had a voice lesson meltdown. those suck balls in the moment cuz that awful voice in your head tells you that you’re worthless, your voice is worthless and you’re never going to get anywhere. and you’re crying and you don’t exactly know why, except that everything feels wrong, and you have this sense that the world is ending, you’re going crazy because you’re hysterical and you don’t know why you’re hysterical, and there’s this impending doom because your throat is tight and trying to break through is like taking down a brick wall with a wet fish. one minute you’re a bit frustrated, but essentially OK, and then the trigger, the hitch in your throat that reminds you how scary it is not being able to breathe, and then everything just gets tighter because you’re too busy ruminating on all your worst fears and reservations.

i’m my own worst enemy. an absolute headcase.


as much as a meltdown/panic attack/anxiety attack sucks balls in that moment, it usually is a source of enlightenment. and even though you feel cruddy and emotionally drained after, at some point you realize how silly the whole thing was, and how silly you were for listening to those self-deprecating voices in your head in the first place. oh, and by the way, as tight as your throat feels, you’re not going to suffocate (or choke, or drown, or die).

voice lessons are therapy. and generally, when a round of panic and release happens in a lesson, i leave with some good advice. remember:

  • as much as you are driven to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself
  • you need to come to believe in yourself (i often say i know i’m a good singer, but i usually don’t believe it)
  • love yourself

but, i was particularly struck by one comment:

the vulnerability you think is your greatest weakness is actually your greatest strength.

do you know how freeing that is? i really suck at being free. like, total major fail. i suffer performance anxiety, in the sense that i never feel that i’m good enough, that my performance (singing or otherwise) is good enough, and i feel a constant need to excel, but i never attain a level that is satisfactory. no matter how many times people tell me i’m smart or that i’m beautiful, or that this particular performance was mind blowing. no matter how many As i get in school. it’s been that way since i’ve been a kid. perfectionism to the core. and perfectionism can never be fulfilled. it’s a losing game.

and i’m horribly emotional. i can’t stop myself from tearing up while writing this. it’s hard to tell people about upsetting things without completely falling apart. sometimes i just start crying over the silliest things. i was a “crybaby” as a kid, and that never quite left me. is it possible to feel too much? as much as it torments me, maybe not. maybe feeling that much allows me to reach some sort of deeper understanding that, when channeled correctly, could make my performance that much richer?

the two best classes i had in high school (besides choir, of course) were western philosophy and eastern philosophy. and the part that influenced me the most was reading rumi. rumi wrote a lot about vulnerability, in the sense that surrendering yourself brings you enlightenment. that letting go, surrendering yourself entirely is probably the hardest thing to do, but the way you can blossom from it, it’s transformative.

and that’s what i love so much about singing. when the stars align and everything clicks into place, there’s this feeling of having a universe inside you, that you’re taking in all the wonders of the world and sharing them with the world all in the same moment. taking that last step to be totally free, to surrender oneself entirely, is terrifying, just as terrifying as all the panic and anxiety and the feeling of suffocation. but it’s pure bliss.


bike ms: waves to wine day two

5:45 a.m.: i’m up for another day of cycling. my bed sucked so i’m not sure how well i slept, but i’m psyched to get in another good day of riding! i’m curious to see how day two compares to last year since they changed the route. the potholes were horrific last year, especially on some of the descents. ok, i’m chamois buttered up, protected with sunscreen (let’s hope) – time to go!


7:48 a.m.: start! we had a fab breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and breakfast burritos, took team photos and took off! rich and i are in for the long haul; everyone else is doing 50.

8:38 a.m.: first rest stop, 11 miles in. i caught on the tail of three guys and we went at a good clip for a few miles (bike karma: let some draft off of me later). the start is always awkward because the roads are bumpy and riddled with potholes. but then we reached the first rest stop and i realized we’re doing last year’s route backwards (at least for now). we also did a hill from the end of yesterday’s route.

9:31 a.m.: it’s comforting that we’re doing last year backwards because i’m going places knowing what happened last year and feeling good about how i’m doing. “oh that’s where i dropped my chain.” “that’s where i had that breathing attack. right now i’m feeling fabulous, and not like i rode 75 miles yesterday (except for this saddle riding up my tush). we were behind a guy and gal for a few minutes talking about the route and naming the cows. dolly, daisy …


10:40ish: came into rest stop three. we weren’t going to stop here but i lost rich and i’m hoping to regroup with him! in the meantime, i made a new friend from the mitzvah milers team and we rode a few miles together talking about beer, the ride, work, live music and the bay area. and i’m still getting complements on my socks! now i’m enjoying a treat.


12:30 p.m.: my plan to regroup with rich derailed; he blew by the rest point per our original plan. luckily i figured that may have happened so i left and found out around mile 40 that he was three miles ahead of me. so i worked my tail off trying to catch up, and passed the rest stop rich had stopped at. and then, the hills came. common theme in the two routes: you have to do a few hills to earn your lunch. i pulled into lunch, almost 55 miles in, a couple of minutes after rich. pb&j is amazing on a ride!

last year we joked that waves to wine was really waves to cows because we went by more farmland than wine country. but this year, due to the altered day two route, while rich was missing i rode by miles and miles of vineyards. 🙂

last 20 miles coming up!


2:25 p.m.: done! more later – but now, i crash!

final comments: unlike saturday, i was pretty hungry right after the ride, so i refueled with tri tip, beans, pasta and this tasty angel food cupcake thing. we were listening to the band and the guy next to me started joking about the band’s lack of a drummer (they just had a drum machine). turns out he’s a musician and i sing in a band, so we had a lot to chat about! always good to meet new people through a ride. 🙂

so, verdict on the day two route? much better! overall, the road conditions were better (of course, you can’t avoid bumps and potholes in the rural parts of sonoma county), the climbing was easier and the scenery was amazing. good job bike ms folks!

two years down: here we come year three! and next year, my team, the ministry of silly cyclists, is going to be legit: we’ll at least have team jerseys!



strava info day two:

bike ms: waves to wine day one

6:52 a.m.: waiting with erica and nancy at the start! pumped up and ready to go!

7:15ish a.m.: start!


7:50 a.m.: we stopped just before the golden gate bridge for the obligatory photo op! the ride through the city was wonderful: a tour of the ballpark, embarcadero, and the marina. it reminds you just how wonderful it is to live in the bay area!


8:30 a.m.: sausalito is gorgeous! we’re at our first rest stop and my bladder is very happy now! and fooooood – nom nom nom! 15 miles!

10:20 a.m. we’re at our second rest stop in stinson beach! not staying long. we rode by a bad accident – from what i’ve gathered a woman had a seizure on her bike and crashed, and needed cpr. good thoughts for her …

11:38 a.m. we’re over halfway done! 43.2 miles! this is when the pain starts to set in – my lower back is getting tight and i have a pain in my left shoulder near my neck. i must be holding tension there.

one of the awesome things about this ride is the camaraderie you have with total strangers. people are so cheerful, and i keep getting complements on my mismatched argyle knee socks!


we got to ride through the trees yet again, but uphill. that’s one of those things: it sucks cuz it’s uphill but it rocks because you’re surrounded by nature and you’re in the shade. overall, you get to conquer a hill and enjoy it! i finally took a pic.


time to re-apply sunscreen!

1:15 p.m.: they make you work for your lunch! i remembered that we went downhill to lunch last year, so every time we went up a hill and down i got excited, and then we had to do another hill! when i sped up, rich said, “claire must smell food!” we were so famished so lunch was tasty! we had done 57 miles!

3:30ish: we skipped the last rest stop because we were ready to be done! the last 15 miles were kind of hot and i had a cramp in my midsection – lame. one of the volunteers called me “red.” 🙂 🙂 🙂 i’m getting that a lot lately and i love it! even though i was hurting, i felt like this year was so much easier than last year. we’ll see how tomorrow goes. 😉 for now, i’m getting beer.


oh, and nancy and i had to stop in a really inconvenient place to get a picture in front of this bus. that bus is a special place for us!


day one strava info:

this is who i am.

something phenomenal happened a couple of weeks ago. i opened my eyes and realized that i’m an opera singer.

seems pretty basic, i know. but my identity as a singer is something i’ve struggled with majorly since i decided to study music in college, and even more so in the last couple of years as i’ve tried not only to convince the general public but also myself that i have the chops to be an amazing performer. so until that moment a couple of weeks ago, i couldn’t honestly say, “i’m an opera singer.” i didn’t believe it. i didn’t own it. instead, i just floundered in self-doubt and tears of rage and confusion.

i’m not quite sure what happened, but i found a moment of serenity that allowed me to push aside any past doubts and realize that, shit, my voice is coming out. and it’s wicked fucking beautiful. it has depth and richness and maturity, and it’s gorgeous. and since then, even on days i’ve struggled to let the right sounds free, i haven’t been discouraged. i’ve just accepted that there are going to be those days, but those days don’t undermine my value as a singer, or as a person. that’s a lesson i learned a couple of years ago, but a truth i didn’t believe until now.

do you know how brilliant that is? it lets me be free. i don’t have to suffer my own oppression. now i can continue to grow and blossom without having to stop and worry over things that don’t matter. i can just sing. because i am an opera singer. here i come.


today marks the beginning of the end of a journey i’ve been on for a little over a month. today, cleopatra, caesar and ptolemy take the checkerboard stage to bring my vision to life.

rewind to spring break. we (we being the mfa and senior bfa stufents) had been told at the beginning of the semester that we’d be creating a music festival in which we could make our vision a reality. then began the long process of submitting project proposals, then waiting for approval, and once i was chosen i met with the festival directors and they sent me away to develop my script.

i came back with a re-imagined play-with-music (i hesitate to call it a musical) version of handel’s “giulio cesare.” in my initial proposal, i set out to abridge an opera, and replace the arias with music that had the same intentions, but came from a variety of music eras and genres. i ended up with a script derived mainly from the recitative of the opera, with some of my own thoughts and flair.

the real twist, however, was the change in the plot line. i preserved some of the scenes and cut the rest (along with some characters) to create a performance that focuses on cleopatra rather than caesar. after all, the opera is really driven by cleopatra’s desire for sole power, and her manipulation of caesar and her brother ptolemy in order to get it. and she’s much more badass.

casting was somewhat revolutionary and yet very typical. my friend laura woodruff as cleopatra was an obvious choice. she immediately, to my delight, became cleopatra, from the very first read-through. we (i and the festival directors) decided that caesar should also be played by a woman. caesar is often played by a mezzo-soprano in the opera because the role was originally written for an alto castrato. keeping with that theme, ptolemy, another alto castrato role, would also be a woman, even though he’s often played by a countertenor. heather orth as caesar was another obvious choice. she and laura immediately took to one another – their stage chemistry is fabulous.

ptolemy eluded me for a bit. i asked a couple of girls but they were unavailable. one day, i was sitting in class, and i looked over at angelica kamen and knew that she was my ptolemy. she’s a soprano and pianist new to the department this year. i didn’t know her well, but something told me she was the person meant for the role. she accepted, and she didn’t disappoint.

we also took on ben malkevitch, who plays the piano, and did the english translations of some of the songs. he has been an absolute dream: besides being a talented pianist, he gets his work done in time, has great insight, and he keeps the attitude positive among the cast. he also helped with a couple of needed music changes in a pinch.

the best part of working with this group is they added to the creation and development of the piece. they suggested songs and took initiative on some of the staging. they all really stepped up. they really made the whole process a joy.

after a couple of weeks, we’re opening with the first of two performances tonight. of course, the music gods decided to thwart us with an obstacle: laura fell horribly ill earlier this week. but, because we’re resourceful, we’re still going on, with me singing from the figurative pit. i’ll be reading my way through such gems as “v’adoro pupille” from “giulio cesare,” “coin-operated boy” by the dresden dolls, and “in whatever time we have” from “children of eden.” should be an adventure. we had a run-through earlier today, and i was so impressed by how present laura was in cleopatra’s character, despite being terribly sick.

as caesar sings near the end of the show, onward ho!

blue skyys

two years ago a great man passed, and at the very least i can offer him a little real estate on my blog.

his name was ardavan davaran – “ardy” to many of us – and he was my friend.

but before that, he was a professor. i met him quite casually. it seems my name gets passed around among teachers/professors, so one day in the cafeteria i met the man through one of my other professors. the smile struck me first. so full of life and passion, and a genuine love for those around him. it’s always refreshing to meet people like that; it gives you hope that there is something inherently good in all of us.

i took his shakespeare class in the spring of 2008. i’d had a shakespeare class in high school, and i’d always loved the work of the bard, so this class was going to be no exception. he was one of the best professors i’ve had because he loved what he taught, and he wanted to draw out the best in all of us. it was the little things that let you know that he was rooting for you. the smiles. the silly, offhand comments. he loved my writing, he loved my reading. i read in his eyes that he believed in me, that he thought i could do great things and go places. it saddens me to think that he never got to see me do those things, but perhaps he’s with us somewhere watching me, and someday he’ll see me sing my heart out and know that i did something important and reached out to the world with my voice, and possibly someday, with my songs if i ever write any. but the important thing is, he knew i’d succeed, that i was succeeding every day, and that i had something beautiful inside of me.

my friends jaclyn, panda, nora, and i had a place in our dorm that we called “the wall.” something made it on the wall if it was memorable or funny, or just downright strange. davaran made the wall twice, and both times in shakespeare class. once i accused him, in fun, of flirting with me and he shot right back with, “i’m not flirting. flirting is wishy-washy. i’m openly expressing my love for you.” i mean, what do you say for that? but that’s how he was – he loved people. he loved everyone, and he didn’t hesitate to let them know. and he gave of himself to them. one day i walked with him to his office, and he had me try on the sunglasses he was wearing, and once he decided that they looked fabulous on me, he told me to keep them, that he had a few pairs of the same glasses. i wore those sunglasses all the time after he passed, until i lost them. a very sad day.

the other time he made the wall, we were discussing the author of a book of essays on shakespeare. this particular woman was a trans-woman, and ardy went off on a tangent about how some people would be good as the opposite gender and others wouldn’t. he asserted he’d make a pretty good woman. maybe he would.

i knew him as a friend when we went to ashland together with some other professors and students, as well as alumni and other people related to the university. we danced. we laughed. i had my first vodka with him (he was a skyy man). we all lived that week.

i only had him for that one class. fall rolled around and i saw him on campus here and there. the following spring semester, we were shocked to learn that he was in the hospital and he had been secretly battling cancer, though you would have never known it the way he carried on. a couple of days later he was gone. it only took one of my friends looking at me for me to know he’d gone, and we cried together. and all i could do was wander aimlessly around campus crying as i ran into more people who discovered the news on my face.

some good came of it. i got closer to people who i had known, but not really known. people came together in their grief. but the beacon on our campus had gone. i think it was many weeks before i had fully recovered.

this friday will be two years since his death. today some of us got together in his former office, which has been taken over by a friend and fellow english professor. the room definitely speaks to ardy’s life and spirit. we put back some skyy and some tasty snacks and just talked. talked about his life. talked about what he did for us. i hadn’t been in his office since before he died, so it was a bit of a shock to be in such a different place, but he definitely lives on there, loving all of us.

black artist

i took a jaunt over to the art gallery on campus, and this lovely list graced the wall of the gallery coordinator’s office (btw, the gallery coordinator is super awesome – love her style):

credit: keri smith

  1. constantly compare yourself to other singers: guilty. i do it all the time. usually leads to singer’s depression, especially when comparing to famous singers, which is just silly and futile.
  2. talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on: this isn’t really a problem for me anymore. when i first decided to study music instead of biology, there was a fit of hesitation from the family, but once they realized that’s what i really wanted to do, they did cheer me on (even though i’m fated to live in a cardboard box and eat top ramen – luckily i’ve remedied that for the time being with a good day job that i actually enjoy).
  3. base the success of your entire career on one note/song/mistake/recital/performance/rehearsal: oh i am so good at this. i have one bad performance and i instantly believe i could never be successful. lucky me.
  4. stick with what you know: now i really deviate from this one, partly because i really don’t know anything! i’m all over the place as far as repertoire is concerned, and i’d really like to be a “mixed genre” artist. i have fingers in classical, musical theatre, rock, cabaret, and in those categories, many other pies.
  5. undervalue your expertise: geez, it’s like this woman was thinking of me when she wrote this. i really need to stop doing this one. bad bad bad claire!
  6. let money dictate what you do: if anything i’d half underline this. if i’d let money dictate what i do, i wouldn’t have majored in music in  the first place. but, it’s a valid concern. i’d like to hope though that i wouldn’t pass up something i’d love to do just because there isn’t enough money in it.
  7. bow to societal pressures: again, i would have stayed with biology if this was a problem. since high school, i’ve been pretty big on being my own person, and that last thing i wanted to do was become what society wanted me to be. and so now i’m a singer. and, ironically, somehow society seems to be okay with that.
  8. only do work that your family would love: hehehehehehehehehehehehe…
  9. do whatever the client/company/director/patron/etc. asks: i haven’t really run into this problem yet as i’m a fledgling singer.
  10. set unachievable/overwhelming goals. to be accomplished by tomorrow: everything i expect of and for my voice is reasonable. expecting it to happen overnight is not, and that’s where i cause myself a lot of unnecessary grief. time to cut that out.

so, i’m doing a fairly good job of not being a miserable singer. maybe i can un-underline a couple of these items in the next year?

my inner renée

i’m in the middle of practicing and i’m crying (again). i feel like all i do lately is walk on eggshells. eggshells at work, eggshells in practice, eggshells in my lessons. pretty much the only place i feel OK at the moment is curled up on the couch or in bed. i cry in my lessons, i cry while practicing at home, and damn-it, it’s really hard to sing when your nose is dripping on the floor. he keeps telling me that this is OK, this is normal, in fact, this is actually progress, so why do i feel like i’m just falling apart?

on top of that my voice feels horrible, and i feel horrible for constantly writing these depressing posts. funny thing is about 20 minutes ago when i was singing “cockeyed optimist” i was actually pretty content. now i’m trying to get through just the first line of “but who may abide the day of his coming?” and i can’t sing two words without getting a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes. add to that congestion that seems to be slime-ing up my throat and putting pressure on my ears, and exhaustion from singing contemporary hymns that just stretch my vocal cords like a taffy puller, and i’ve got a very unhappy situation.

gee, do i complain too much?

luckily, i bought a book yesterday (and i got it for FREE because i used borders bucks, that i got for FREE for taking surveys) and it’s such a delightful read. who ever knew renée fleming is funny? i’m reading her book the inner voice: the making of a singer and while she and i couldn’t be more different, i’m constantly shocked at the similarities between us.

example: she writes in the first chapter,

what i wanted were buckets of approval and love, and to be good. i was a notorious teacher’s pet, a straight-A student.

yep, that sounds like me. exactly like me. it’s probably what’s making me cry so much right now. i just want my voice to be good, and i’m constantly feeling like it’s anything but. nothing works, and being miss summa cum laude (it gets really embarrassing being introduced that way), it’s supposed to work. when it doesn’t work, that means i’m stupid, and heaven knows i’ve had many the anxiety attack coupled with breathing attack because i couldn’t figure something out and subsequently felt stupid.

and all i want is for people to like me. i spent a good part of my so far not very long life feeling very unloved by my peers, and it has left me scarred, always trying to please people, always trying to get people to like me. my dad says that everyone likes me, that i’m easy to like. but that wasn’t always the case, and i still don’t really believe it.

which brings me to something else renée writes just a few sentences later:

i was naturally shy—doesn’t every actor, dancer or musician claim a childhood crippled by shyness?—but if i was told to get onto a stage, then that was where i’d go.

shy, shy claire. claire who always hid behind her mom. claire the crybaby (that trait is coming out a ton right now). claire who is scared to talk on the phone. claire who doesn’t know how to play with others, is too scared to play with others even though all she longs for is to be with them.

renée continues on the next page

i longed to be a renegade, to smoke cigarettes in the bathroom and sneak off from school after lunch, but i never had the courage. instead, i kept up my A’s.

i always wanted to be the rebel, to go against the grain. i just didn’t have the guts. instead i got caught up in this good girl, straight-A student world, and that’s all i knew. people couldn’t understand why i didn’t want to cross over to the wild side for a little bit. but some of that came out. it came out in my somewhat odd form of dress. it came out in my weird hair colors. but i was still pretty straight-laced. something inside me though was pushing the norm.

the comparisons continue

in the face of so much accomplishment it was hard at times not to feel like a dull penny. … the only person i know how to be competitive with is myself. i can push myself to any limit, but i am worthless when it comes to competing again other people. those early horse shows nearly broke me. for me, fear manifests itself in a nearly catatonic state. the more panicked i feel, the more my eyes go dead. i become so utterly still that i could put down roots and grow leaves.

that crippling stage fright really hurt me during my first two years of college. i found it so hard to just let go in performance class, that i just ended up being frozen on stage. and then i’d beat myself up afterwards. self-inflicted mental abuse is not constructive, but it’s how i seem to operate.

renée also mentions in her book that jan degaetani told her, “don’t train all the naturalness out of your voice.” that seems to be all i’ve been doing until a few months ago. when i started with gregory, he told me i had at least three different voices: my natural, beautiful mezzo voice, my boy soprano voice, and my countertenor voice. the latter two needed to go – i was just affecting them based on what i had been hearing and what i thought i needed to do to produce a good sound. i was listening to my iPod at work today and an andreas scholl track popped on and granted, i think he’s a fabulous countertenor among a field of countertenors who sound wispy and artificial, but i only listened for about 10 seconds and then switched the track. i felt disgusted, almost violated, as i realized that just a few months ago, i sounded like that. it wasn’t even that i disliked the sound, but that i disliked the sound on me. what the heck was i thinking before?! *shudder*

anyway, back to renée. in chapter two she talks about her education and her voice at the time:

at that point my voice was a minefield of problems: i couldn’t sing softly, i was physically tense, and i had no high notes. everyone knows that a soprano with no high notes isn’t going to go very far in the world.

the second and third points she makes really apply to me. tension seems to be the root of all my problems. i can’t chill. i don’t know how to relax. i haven’t figured it out yet; i’d really appreciate if it would just click but i don’t see that happening. the tension makes my jaw hurt. it makes my voice hoarse. and it really holds me back. not having high notes – that was a wall that had to be brought down. i ran from high notes, because they scared the living daylights out of me!!! thankfully i’m starting to get them now but they are still a bitch to sing. and, while i’m not a soprano, they’re still pretty darn useful.

and then i hit this part of the book:

no voice is discovered on a desert island without having been corrupted by the desire to imitate a passing seagull, and mine was no exception. i’d been performing so much and mimicking the mature sounds of my parents and other adults for such a long time that i had developed some bad habits along the way.

ding ding ding! hit the nail on the head. geez, it’s like this woman knows me or something. it’s really true that we learn about ourselves through observing others. renée fleming is the last person i thought i’d find that with, but life had a way of proving us wrong, doesn’t it? i have a feeling reading this book is going to open some doors, tear down some walls, and turn on a few lights for me. i’m going to go sing now, and then i’m going to continue to find myself through renée. *hugs*

amanda palmer performs the popular hits of radiohead on her magical ukulele

here it is. the review. try not to be too excited.

first off, i feel a little unqualified to be doing a review on this album, only because i haven’t actually heard the original songs by radiohead that are being covered by amanda palmer (with her magical ukulele). this is very sad indeed, and will be rectified soon. but in the meantime…

i’ll dive right in with track one.

1. fake plastic trees

so i bought the album online (you can get it here) and put it on my iphone (the ONLY album i have on my iphone – i haven’t even synced the album with my ipod yet) so i could listen to it when i felt ready, and that moment came when i drove to costco on my lunch break to get gas (it’s 15 cents cheaper!). i started this song up and within five seconds i knew i was going to adore this album. i have to admit, i was skeptical. i’ve never considered myself an admirer of the ukulele, or anything hawaiian in general, but there’s something rather charming about it on this album, and in a strange way, it’s so amanda palmer, and so not amanda palmer. maybe that’s why i like it. this song really establishes the mood for almost all of the CD (“creep” pretty much being the exception – you’ll hear my thoughts on that in a bit), and it’s a mood that i’m not used to from amanda, or at least i didn’t think i was used to, but then i think of songs like “the perfect fit” and realize how silly it is to say that. anyway, the song is brilliant. it’s cute. it’s soothing. great start to the album.

2. high and dry

i’m wondering how much amanda connects to these songs. i’m getting this vibe that it’s a very introspective album, even though she’s singing someone else’s songs (but that makes total sense, because i learn a great deal about myself singing other people’s songs). i sense that she’s meditating on something. of course, that could be total bs, but i want to believe that we’re getting yet another side of amanda on this album. it’s a quality reflected in her voice, and it’s really sticking out to me on this song (which is a fab song, by the way).

amanda also mentioned in her blog that if you tweet about the album, you can get a free download of a special piano version of this song (don’t worry, if you aren’t twitter savvy you have the option of posting to facebook instead). check it out here.

i’m just opening the special track now (i downloaded it less than an hour ago), so here on my on-the-spot thoughts! the quality of the recording (audio quality only, folks) is not so wonderful, but it’s live. 🙂 i’m inclined to like this over the album version because she did it on piano (and amanda is the piano goddess – she draws the craziest things out of a piano) and it has this intimate room ambiance that’s gut-wrenching. i was spewing all that emotional stuff a couple of paragraphs ago – that’s amplified in this special track (so go get it!).

3. no surprises

love the intro to this song – it’s a very nostalgic, whimsical sound. and amanda’s voice is so soothing. speaking of which, her speaking voice is amazing. so deep and chocolaty – i could definitely be gay for amanda palmer’s voice (and that’s saying something, considering i’m usually put off by women and would much rather have men for friends and lovers). my voice is fairly low when i’m not overly excited, but amanda palmer’s voice is in a whole other zip code (but that’s ok, because i can still sing as low as she can). anyway, back to the song. she duets with herself, and it’s brilliant. i really need to stop gushing about this album, or you won’t take me seriously.

4. ideoteque

this is the first up tempo song on the album (notice i said up tempo, not up beat), and it has that hint of amanda palmer erraticism. wicked. she layered in some harmony too that is chilling. i’m pretty jazzed about this song. i think i’m going to leave it at that.

5. and 7. creep

now this is where things go south for me. it’s such a shame, because i was actually familiar with “creep” before APPTPHOROHMU and i think the song is gorgeous (has anyone seen the trailer for the new film about facebook/social networking? they did a great cover of the song with a child choir sound). i’m going to mash track 5 and 7 together because they are the same song, and i feel the same way about both of them, even though each live version (i just accidentally typed liver. oops.) has some variations.

bottom line: i worry about amanda’s voice. especially after the issue she had with vocal nodes. i listen to these tracks and i’m afraid she’s going to snap a vocal chord or something. it’s weird i would be so put off by it, because she belts the shite out of her voice all the time, but i was not digging it at all on “creep”. it’s also a huge break from the feel of the rest of the album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it sure catches one off guard. in no way do i want to bash amanda palmer, but the poor thing sounds like she’s being strangled at points, and it’s not a sound i wish to listen to for extended periods of time. so i’ll just skip these tracks. which is actually not a bad idea, because …

6. exit music (for a film)

this is BY FAR my favorite song on the album, and it sits between the two butchered versions of “creep”, so it rectifies that situation a bit. i love this song so much, i’m going to post a video of it that was made last year at the sydney opera house (and the video is just as gorgeous as the song):

i can’t even give you a coherent review of the song because i’m so mind-f*cked by it. i don’t know that i’ll ever pinpoint exactly what it is about this song that i love so much. well, for one, there are strings (mmmmmm cello) and amanda does these things on the piano that could make even the hardest man cry (song just ended and i’ve pushed the back button on the player – impossible to listen to this song too much). i’m convinced i have to sing this song at some point. it’s just so RAW. which is what amanda does well. and then there’s the voice, that same voice i mentioned earlier – the tone of her voice is an instant hit with this song. this song is just downright epic. i’ll have to look up radiohead’s original.

funnily enough, the title is spot on – this song must be featured in a film. someone had better put it in a film, if they haven’t already. even better if they use amanda’s version.

so that’s my take on the album. i give her 7 out of 5 stars, even though i have to plug up my ears when both “creep” tracks come on – “exit music (for a film)” earns two of those stars on its own, easily. anticipating this album has re-energized my love for amanda palmer (and the dresden dolls) and i wouldn’t be surprised if her art influences me much more in the future.


a poetry minute

All religions, all this singing, one song.
A response to Rumi.

All religions, yearning for warm bathing light,
minds tantalized by the ecstasy of Sophia’s embrace,
hearts blind to Allah’s tender kiss, all religions.
Grasping wildly in the cold shackles of shadow,
all religions, your Father waits within you,
but you are deaf, for all this singing.

All this singing, hearts bound in animosity,
tongues of fury united in a song of ignorance,
rousing pools of sorrow, all this singing.
If only God’s children would join in dulcet tones,
all this singing, divined by Adonai for lovers’ lips,
to mingle together in succulent truth, one song.

One song flows through the hearts of men,
liquid passion for life and light,
souls married in the quest for truth, one song.
Stop this spectacle of blood-soaked earth,
one song, Mazda calling you home,
all become one in purpose, not name.

©2010 Claire Karoly