"Mythologies" to nowy, znakomity album uznanej chicagowskiej
wokalistki, pianistki i kompozytorki Patricii Barber, którą magazyn
"Time" dość trafnie nazwał "perfekcyjnym skrzyżowaniem Diany Krall i
Susan Sontag". Płyta przedstawia konceptualny cykl 11 jazzowych utworów
opartych na mitologii greckiej i postaciach z "Metamorfoz" Owidiusza.
Każda z tych ponadczasowych opowieści jest bogato ilustrowana
współczesną oryginalną muzyką jazzową i niezwykle barwnym głosem
wokalistki. Jeszcze przed premierą płyta zyskała szerokie uznanie
krytyki. Jak pisze Howard Reich z renomowanej gazety Chicago Tribune,
"Mythologies", to "ambitny artystycznie, nowatorski cykl pieśni...
Ekspresja tej muzyki przyprawia o zawrót głowy... Piosenki także
znakomicie bronią się oddzielone od całości materiału, są to szalenie
ujmujące kompozycje jazzowe!"
Inspiracją dla płyty stała się teatralna adaptacja "Metamorfoz"
Owidiusza w reżyserii Mary Zimmerman, którą Patricia miała okazję
obejrzeć w Nowym Jorku. Po powrocie do Chicago, nadal pozostając pod
ogromnym wrażeniem spektaklu, pianistka z wielkim zachwytem przeczytała
"Metamorfozy". Postacie przedstawione przez Owidiusza wydały się jej
genialne, jednak zbyt ogólnie nakreślone, co pozwoliło Patricii użyć
własnej bogatej wyobraźni. Podejmowanie się pracy nad koncepcją takiej
płyty w pojedynkę było zbyt ryzykowne, ale stało się możliwe, kiedy w
2003 roku Patricia Barber otrzymała prestiżowe stypendium artystyczne
Fundacji Guggenheima (Guggenheim Fellowship).
Z całą pewnością "Mythologies" - to jedno z najambitniejszych i
najbardziej poruszających dzieł w karierze Patricii Barber i jedno z
największych wydarzeń na jazzowym rynku płytowym.
words & music by Patricia Barber
Barber - piano & vocals Neal Alger - guitar Michael
Arnapol - bass Eric Montzka - drums
guests: Jim Gailloreto - saxophone (tracks 1, 2, 10) Choral
Thunder, directed by Shelby Webb, Jr. - background vocals
(tracks 10, 11)
with additional vocals by: Paul Falk
(track 7) Grazyna Auguscik (track 11) Lawrice Flowers
(tracks 7, 10) Airreal Watkins (track 10) Walter
"Mitchell" Owens, III (track 10)
Patricia Barber offers a song-by-song description
of the album:
- "The Moon" actually predates my getting the
Guggenheim Fellowship [the song opens Barber's 2002 release Verse]. "I
am fascinated with the moon, how writers have written about the moon,
and how poets have been moonstruck. I started reading everything I could
get my hands on about the moon. I asked colleagues of my partner, who is
a professor at the University of Chicago, to send me moon poetry. I
thought perhaps I had a new angle on the subject, but wanted to make
sure. The Moon, as character here, is a performer, broken-hearted, but
she still has to dress up and step onto the universal stage every night.
If she doesn't, it stays dark down here and all Chaos will ensue. This
is her dilemma."
- "Morpheus" is very dear to me because I
have sleep issues, bad insomnia. It's a prayer to the God of Sleep to
send his son, Morpheus, the God of Dreams. It is one of my favorite
songs of the entire song cycle.
- "Pygmalion" is very much in a
classic American song form, written in that 32-bar style. There are a
few harmonic variations and of course, what a wonderful story, how he
waits for this cold piece of rock, this statue of a woman to come to
life. That was easy for me to generalize to the universal question: "Can
I will you to love me? Can I will the fantasy to life?"
"Hunger" is one of Ovid's fun characters. When I was reading about
Hunger I was just dying imagining all the possibilities. She's such an
ugly character, thin and voracious and mean with greenish skin. In our
society it's chic to be thin so I had the idea to simply turn the story
on its head and I made Hunger chic and glamorous and mean. It's dark but
it's funny. It has one of my favorite lines of the entire song cycle:
"Now the Hunter is prey and the Hungry are meat..."
"Icarus", in my version, doesn't crash. He just keeps flying up until
you can't see him anymore. I grafted the Nina Simone story onto the
Icarus story and dedicated the song to her. It starts with Daedalus,
Icarus's father, crafting the wings. The second verse is about Nina at
the Midtown club outside of Philadelphia in her chiffon dress. They both
know that only by taking a big risk will you ever fly.
"Orpheus", as I wrote it, is an actual sonnet. It is based on one of the
most beautiful stories every written. He was a musician appealing to
Hades to let his love, Eurydice live again. I tried to find a
contemporary angle – so my modern day Orpheus is a gardener. This is a
sad, sad song.
- "Persephone" is fun, fun, fun - she's such a
wonderful character. There wasn't quite enough in Ovid about her. She's
in Book Five - abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld and then in
Book Ten as one of the judges of Orpheus's plea. So I went back to
Homer, the origin of the written story of Persephone, and I read Dante
because I was curious about Hell. I seized poetic license and created a
story in which Persephone ends up liking her power down there. She is
the only god who can traverse the upper- and underworlds. She becomes
Virgil leading an angel through hell, trying to corrupt her as she is
showing signs of weakness. She will use anything at her disposal to get
what she wants. It's a song of seduction.
- "Narcissus" - I had
notes written down that this would be one of my "smart" songs because of
the obvious double-entendre possibilities. Then I started reading
secondary literature about Narcissus and it was very interesting - it
was slightly moralistic in its judgment of the danger of "Narcissistic"
love as being homosexual. Being gay myself, I thought, why not embrace
that idea? If homosexual love is Narcissistic, and you don't know
whether you're making love to yourself or to the other, how much fun is
that? That's what it's about and it turned out to be a very sweet,
simple, lyrical, beautiful song, with a musical twist in that it's in a
time-signature of 10/4. It could be the gay wedding song.
"Whiteworld" was the first song I wrote after I won the Guggenheim [the
song appears on Barber's 2004 release Live: A Fortnight In France]. It's
the only song that isn't titled with a character - it's about Oedipus.
He was clearly a young, arrogant man who killed his father. I read the
Sophocles version of the story: "I came to a juncture of two roads" -
the bridge of the song is actually Sophocles verbatim. There, an old man
hit him. He not only hit him back but he "had to kill them all." Given
historical and current events, the song wrote itself.
"Phaethon" also wrote itself and is about another arrogant young man -
he thinks he can drive his father's chariot - the chariot of the Sun.
But he can't - he doesn't have the skill or the maturity so he ends up
scorching the earth until there are very few species left. At the end of
the story Mother Earth pleads with Zeus to kill Phaethon before every
single last species is dead, which he does. It has a lot of obvious
modern-day parallels. I asked some wonderful kids from the Chicago
Children's Choir to rap a list of endangered species over the final
section of the song.
- "The Hours" are two Goddesses in Ovid.
They are everywhere, watching. They simply watch us as we squirm and
scream out in pain and they do nothing but mark time. They never lift a
finger. So the song is railing against their callousness, and it is an
homage to human courage in the face of Death. I read the writing of
Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, to try to understand what it feels
like knowing death is coming soon. I also consulted my doctor, who took
me through the University of Chicago hospitals and talked to me about
life and death. It gave me some purchase on the subject. I had to have
my favorite choir, Choral Thunder, sing it. If this song doesn't bring
tears to your eyes, nothing will.
"The Hours" is very dear to me
- it's about time, life and death. But it's also about life as a
performance, or more accurately, a performer, writing about our life as
a performance. Mythologies starts with a recording of a small tape
recorded solo piano performance, the introduction to "The Moon." It is a
distancing technique; it is there to remind you that this story is being
told by a performer and that we're all performers on the universal
stage. "The Hours" acts as a matching bookend to "The Moon," and says,
"this performance [is], in fact, last, and sweetly in vain, so let me
entertain you one more time."