July 27, 10 p.m.
Festival Club at Arsenal
One of the most original and extraordinary female vocalists of the past decade, Diamanda Galás, who is blessed with a vocal range extending over 3 ½ octaves, will be one of the main stars on stage at the 13th T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival.
Versatile vocalist, opera singer, piano virtuoso, composer, performer, and multimedia and audiovisual artist are just a few of the terms that have been used to describe this prolific artist. Part of the music scene since the late 1970s, she was quickly recognized for an iconoclastic, original approach to jazz and blues that saw her tear down existing forms and conventions. Born into a musical family, Galás began her music career as a pianist on the improv scene in San Diego and Los Angeles, while she made her international debut at the prestigious theater festival in Avignon, where she sang the lead role in Vinko Globakar’s opera Un jour comme un autre. She had breakthroughs with her 1980 performance Wild Women with Steak Knives (1980) and her debut album The Litanies of Satan, which were followed by later works that received both critical and popular acclaim, such as Plague Mass, Defixiones: Orders from the Dead, Vena Cava, Schrei X and The Refugee.
She is currently focusing on musical programs based on the texts of both classical poets and contemporary writers who have faced persecution. Her latest project, Espergesia, based on the work of Cesara Vallejo, is a series of a capella performances in places where the echo resounds for at least 20 seconds.
The sounds that Galás is able to produce go far beyond the traditional perception of singing: her voice is a one-of-a-kind instrument that she uses with incredible virtuosity. One of her hallmarks are her smooth transitions from operatic vocals through to a full range of emotional howls, mysterious murmurs, theatrical whispers, and frantic screams right up to radical vocal experimentation, an area where she has no equals. Through her voice, Galás can take listeners on a journey to a place ruled my primal instincts, where there is no room for intellectual analysis or classical perceptions of beauty. This outstanding artist is not afraid to take on controversial, challenging, or unpopular subjects: in her compositions and songs, she denounces intolerance, hypocrisy, complacency, and all forms of social injustice; she fights for the rights of the disabled and marginalized, taking the side of oppressed and excluded groups and individuals. The list of people that Galás has collaborated with on creative projects is impressive, especially in terms of quality, including one of the most important avant-garde composers of the 20th century, Iannis Xenakis; a jazz reformer, John Zorn; John Paul Jones, the bassist in the legendary rock group Led Zeppelin; and also with the very interesting synthpop duo Erasure.
It should come as no surprise that an artist blessed with such an extraordinary vocal talent would be interested in movies: her voice has appeared in such films as Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow, where she lent her voice to the dead. It is also Diamanda’s voice that we hear in the sounds issued forth by the vampire in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. And she provides her voice for the part of the evil witch in John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian. Her recordings have appeared on the soundtracks to such films as Derek Jarman’s The Last of England, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, and Hideo Nakata’s Ring 2. In 2010, along with director David Pepe, she made the experimental film Schrei 27, a moving audiovisual examination of loneliness and suffering.