Diamanda Galas writes:
It has come to my attention over the last years that the stage reviews of many of my colleagues are prefaced by the words,”Although now 45, he is still a strong performer,” or “Looking older than we last saw him, he still manages to convince.” It is time now for me to say the following words to the anemic cretins who write these desktop reviews of virtuosos: “Stick to reviewing plant life and leave the Witches alone.”
A true performer, like Liszt, like Horowitz, like Birgit Nilsson, often has an extremely long career span—and will be performing long after your life is diminished from tripping over your child’s bicycle and impaling upon yourself upon the Christmas tree of your wife.
A great performer is a vampire. We have trained to be thus. We have trained to enter the Pantheon. Of course we are punished for this, but no longer by the Gods, who have retired forever in despair—so dim is their reflection upon the humans they once challenged—but by the tiny minds of paralyzed voyeurs, who are incapable of discussing our work on any level, never literal, and now not even figurative.
If a performer appears upon the stage bald or with white hair after you have not seen him for ten years, this is not commentary for a musical review. I will quote Gregory Sandow who wrote that whether or not Charlie Parker performed only in his underwear was immaterial to how he played.
Liszt performed with long white hair, the master of the piano, and not less so for his age. Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein and Mary Lou Williams were masters only days before they died. Sonny Rollins cannot be condemned to the grave which is inhabited by small minds who lurk like worms awaiting a fresh kill. It is to escape these worms that we choose to be cremated.
…The witch’s focus is upon the production of a new turn of phrase, a new twist of the song, a new fight, the immolation of a lie if it takes the creation of a masterpiece to do it. The great witch Maryanne Amacher,who was felled only by a freak accident,had a house filled to the rooftops of unparalleled work and she slept on the floors of every studio to which she was invited worldwide—and created more bizarre work through the years.
The vampire knows that only new blood will sustain her. New blood, new research, new language study, and willful deconstruction and reconstruction, new meter, new arrangements, new writing, difficult performances—which later become great ones—through perseverance.
You who wait for the ticking of the clock so that you might one day proclaim that one of us is approaching our dotage should imagine instead your own life, which is is fading behind you, like a reflection of your netherparts, wretched, hanging, like the flanks of a tethered animal, too long unfed,alone, and unloved…
Read on: diamandagalas.com
Awesome… simply awesome. I saw John Lee Hooker when he could barely stand up, and he was one convincing witch. What about Charlie Rich? Keep it coming, Ms. Galas.
I too saw John Lee Hooker only a couple years before he died. It was a new years show on a freezing cold night in Calgary Alberta. Exciting music performed by inspired /enlightened musicians is timeless. Close your eyes and listen.
While I understand the frustration & I agree that it is ridiculous, the reason for it to me is clear. Over the past 40 years western culture (& the United States in particular) has become more & more inclined to see artistic pursuits as juvenile & a waste of time. (Why? Because of the devaluation of art that has led to a lack of money in the art field makes it a tough field to stay in when things like owning a home & having a feeling of financial security become as important as intellectual ideals.) Most reviewers (& artists for that reason) have been subjected to this mindset their entire life & some are even part of a second generation that only know this feeling of art being for lazy good-for-nothings or (best case scenario) a phase someone will grow out of.