You and I and Me and Them
So I did an unexpected thing. As a violinist, it is very rare, very very rare, to use my vocal chords in a performance. Yet, 2020, the year of volatility, the year that changed that. I screamed at my violin, I pleaded with my violin, and I cooed at my violin. We came to an understanding after that.
And no, the unprecedented happenings of 2020 was not the cause of my emotional outburst. I have to thank Amadeus Julian Regucera and Laurel Irene for that. By now, perhaps you are wondering, is it a love story gone wrong? Who are they? What happened? Let me assure you, there is nothing salacious to this tale. Shall we start from the beginning?
Late in 2018, I met a wonderful vocalist by the name of Laurel Irene. All I recall from that moment in time was cold rehearsals in East side LA and a wonderful show in Zipper Hall. A year later, Laurel contacted me to collaborate on a piece she had discovered - Amadeus Julian Regucera's If Only After You Then Me. My interest was immediately piqued. There were harsh sounds, there were bowing acrobatics, and most of all, I get to use my voice. What is not there to love? Oh did I forget to mention? I got to frighten my neighbours.
Rehearsals were sporadic. There were times where I felt I would never get the vocals right. Rarely am I coherent in verbal communication, how will I successfully coordinate syllables and bowing and breathing and vocal dynamics and …… yes, there were moments when I was internally overwhelmed. But, both Laurel and I paced it. She was a sweetheart too, allowing me to find my own pace in speech performance.
The original plan was to perform it live for her festival "N.E.O. Voice Festival", in addition to making a music video. However, 2020 and its string of maladies happened. Virtual it is. A click track, some video and sound equipment, two living rooms, Laurel's magical skills with videography, and David Harris' ingenuity with sound later, a video materialised. By the way, thank you Laurel and David for the amazing media work. It could not have happened without you two.
I will admit, performing this piece — a home recording still count —was cathartic. Dormant frustrations were released sans guilt. I knew they were gone when I became too weary to even whisper anymore.
So what is the narrative behind this weird and wonderful work?
According to Amadeus, If only after you then me was designed as companion music to his 2012 piece for vocalist and violin, litany (we included litany in our performance). We also have to thank Duo Cortona (vocalist Rachel Calloway & violinist Ari Streisfeld) for making this happen. They began performing litany across many platforms and after some time, decided to commission Amadeus to write If only after you then me for the 2015 Resonant Bodies Festival in Brooklyn, New York. Composer's note — In performance, the entirety of litany follows If only after you then me attacca.
Now onto the exciting part - why am I screaming? Why is Laurel spewing profanities? (I do wish I got the chance to curse, such blasphemous language is always so fun)
In Amadeus words:
The piece is a monologue (in a person’s own mind), a dialogue (between intimate partners) or both. The text was written as the music was written and is therefore an integral part of the piece’s rhythm, flow, texture, and surface. Words and sounds (from the players’ voices, bodies, and the violin) are fragmented and choked; they are submerged and then exploded to the surface; darkness and anxiety give way to calm and space. My music deals in contrasts and the world of If only after you then me is a study in my particular form of emotional and expressive schizophrenia.
So who am I and who is Laurel? I will leave it up to you to decide.
For anyone who is interested in the actual text of the piece :
every graphic thought narcoleptic fantasy //in my memory you’re a rare creature jagged apparition swollen body desperate predator//If only after you then me//I wake I breathe I wait I want I need I watch I sleep I dream I kill I’m born I die I eat I watch I touch I fuck I feel I feel I need I want I feel I need I kill I kill I fuck I want (cut, my mouth my tongue my lips my face my neck my skin your) Memory, like a deep wound carved into my mind; I remember, you, like a scar. Running my hand over the dead flesh. our lives, an abattoir. meaningful. lying there, awake. sitting.//here//I can see you sleep eyes turned inward I can’t join you so I watch//so close you are too far (sweetly towards a dream I feel your eyes on me you are too far)// if you don’t hear from me send help//don’t promise//don’t choke//your memory like a scar//a destructive love airtight co-temporary periodic chaos//a memory, a scar, your memory, a scar//your mouth and eyes your skin your skin your flesh wet flesh a rare creature a jagged apparition swollen body desperate predator gorgeous teen flesh a black cigarette blood red razor blades mouth eyes eyes face eyes face lips flesh a rare creature gorgeous teen flesh every fiction every collision a composite disaster love is a fashionable emotion eyes mouth lips eyes face eyes your mouth our lips your mouth our eyes your face my hand your eyes my mouth your neck our skin your hair our lips your sweat my mouth your ear our skin your hands my mouth your neck your mouth your skin your sweat your room your city your city your your body is our bodies bodies are we are bro ken we we bro ken we are we we are help please every graphic thought don’t help send don’t hear from me send help if only don’t don’t don’t CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT you’re too far so tell me your words one text message at a time me please your body is bodies are we are me please//[litany]//screaming head, clenched teeth, white knuckles, sweated brow, bloodshot eyes, exhausted and empty, effeminate, endlessly eradicated, Elysium, emasculate, emphallic, embolism, encephalitis, eviscerate, extirpate, entropy, ephedrine, enuresis, excrescence, encyst, eternal return