One begins Vena Cava at a sort of sonic/psychic ground zero. Dead center between twin spotlights, microphones and music stands, looking both angelic and wraith-like Diamanda Galás presents herself as an explorer of the ultimate in solitary confinement; the human mind ravaged by mental illness and/or AIDS-related dementia. Vena Cava features a more inward Galás than that seen in Plague Mass, the celebrated work she perfumed last year--in evolving forms-- at St. John the Divine, The Kitchen and elsewhere. Its aural environment is at once intensely claustrophobic and distressingly vast, with electronic drones, cricket chirps and gospel songs echoing endlessly in this seemingly infinite emptiness. Her writings embody the psyche of someone apparently at the threshold of death, portraying the fragmenting persona's warring factions. Galás's shaman-like gifts of self-transformation and self-transcendence are dramatically evident in Vena Cava. (The title refers to the body's major artery that returns blood rom the heart). Catch phrases, multiplication tables, obscenities and heartfelt please for love are repeated--frantically, obsessively--as Galás' protagonist struggles to achieve some sort of interior logic. In the works brilliant culmination, she grants the audience a moment of lucidity, pleads for remembrance from those who loved her and faces her final "judge" to a distorted, deafening rendition of Silent Night. Vena Cava is one more astonishing offering from our greatest vocal performer of her generation.
- Robert R. Conroy
On the evening that I went to see the performance a member of the audience ran from the theater and had to be retrieved from the middle of a busy street (this, after cringing between parked cars). I took to friends to see the performance, both of them experience panic attacks during it. It is, of course (as I am not qualified to diagnose), supposition on my part to speculate as to why this occurred. I would suggest, however, that for many of us these states of "dis-ease" hover over us like specters; in a way which makes them ( fort he modern mind) far more terrifying than any supernatural evil. We feel our sanity challenged daily, and that our tennis grasp upon it may be slipping. Vena Cava further invokes the fear of loss of control over our own actions and cuts across history form Homer to Dante to Huxley, casting its chilling shadow from the fear of deity to the fear of the star and industry. From the nether reach of this shadow emerge all forms of tyranny and religious hysteria, for through these practices we attempt to regain control. Vena Cava brings into clear perspective the ultimate terror over which we can exercise no control, and which we all must eventually face; something which can hardly be examined with a rational mind: our own mortality. As you sit down to enjoy this work keep these shadows of death and madness clear in your mind. IT will facilitate your journey over styx into bedlam.
- Michal Flanagan
The writing of Vena Cava was inspired in great part by the work of Philip-Dimitri Galás 1954-1986
released September 6, 1993
Composed, written and performed by Diamanda Galás
Produced by Eric Liljestrand
Additional tape production by Blaise Dupuy
Live performance recorded at The Kitchen, NYC Februray/March 1992
Original lighting design by Dan Katlowitz
Dedicated to Scott MacCauley
Edited at Sorcery Sound and Passport Studios.
Miramar Productions, Seattle Washington; Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass Silent Night used with kind permission of BMG Records UK Limited on behalf of MG Records;; Various Artists A Music Box Christmas (Silent Night) provided courtesy of Columbia; Ray Connif Santa Claus is Coming to Town provided courtesy of Columbia Records, written by J.F. Coots and H. Gillespie, published by EMI United Partners
Additional musical material: Porgi Amor (La Nozze di Figaro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (175601791) Hush Little Baby written by Inez Fox & Charlie Fox (Public Domain); Amazing Grace, written by Arne/Newton
(Public Domain); There is a Balm in Glead (Traditional) vocals by Philip-Dimitri Galás; When I Am Laid in Earth written by Henry Purcell (1659-1695); accordion music performed by Philip-Dimitri Galás.
Thanks to Bobbie Tsumagari and Arranged Introductions, Scott MacCuauley and The Kitchen, Carlotta Schoolman, Mary Griffin, The Samuel Felischer Memorial, Philadelphia, The Ford Foundation, Meet the Composer, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Barba Maier, Serena Toubib, Linda Greenberg, Cassei Roessel, Galás Family, Daniel Miller, Robin O'Hara, Steve Keever, Vera Berens, Patrick Derivaz, Greg Guarion, Scott Guariono, Eric Latzky, Scott Lehrer, Aldo Hernandez, Jedediah Wheeler, Jennifer Uniack..
Special thanks to Felice Ecker.
Very Special Thanks to Carl Valentino.
Minister of Information for Intravenal Sound Operations: Michael Flanagan
Photographs of Ms. Galás: Robbie Lourenço.
Photograph of Philip-Dimitri Galás: Kent Strother
Visceral Photography and Art Direction: Fred Sodima
Computer Therapy: Robert Bial and Patrick Gibson at H-Gun Labs
Diamanda Galás is a Greek-American avant-garde composer and performer, whose work confronts the subjects of violence and
despair with political conviction and austerity. Galás rose to prominence in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the recorded trilogy, Masque of the Red Death, and the performance work Plague Mass, which addressed the AIDS crisis in a time of deafening political silence and inaction....more
This is powerful and evocative stuff; the interplay of harrowing pathos and light.
At times, it sounds like Kate Bush in an oil drum full of nails rolling down a hill, at others it is transcendent. Like seeing the beauty of cathedral ornament, while feeling the cold dead stone of the structure. Paul
The mallet percussionist and improviser's solo debut is flush with nostalgic melodies and stirring dissonances—a rich, experimental universe well worth exploring. Bandcamp Album of the Day Jan 15, 2021