Why I Love: Scott Hardware on Diamanda Galás

Toronto’s Scott Hardware recently released Engel, his second full-length album, and first on Telephone Explosion Records. It marks the end of a three-year process of writing, recording and letting down his guard (for better or worse.) 

Here, Scott Hardware tells us why he loves the highly talented soprano, composer, painter and all round brilliant artist, Diamanda Galás.

Diamanda Galas on New Music, Adele, Taylor Swift, Don Rickles ...
Diamanda Galás

Writing about Diamanda Galás gives me anxiety. Anything me or anyone could write about her can only be their projection onto her work, and risks reducing it. It exists outside of the usual parameters for hearing music – there is no aesthetic, no tidy descriptor when you hear it – there’s only conjuring. 

Nonetheless, here are some of my projections:

When I’m listening to her I sometimes think it’s a shame that her work dwells in darkness. It would be so wonderful if she one day woke up and decided to transcribe paradise for us, but alas she lives on Earth, and has immersed herself in history and engaged with the present and as such she sings mostly of torture, cruelty and plague.

I try to tell my friends who love music, like Deidre Nox told me maybe five years ago, to listen to her. Somehow in this world full-to-the-brim with knowledge and media, Diamanda spreads by word-of-mouth. 

During my pitch, I implore them to watch some of her interviews. I like for them to start with an interview from 92’ in Toronto for the New Music. If watching her speak about AIDS, misogyny or her absolute roast of lazy-liberalism don’t implore you to take a deeper look at her output, nothing will. Because even in interview form, here she is again, conjuring – pulling the curtain back to reveal a bubbling tarpit. The segment cuts away from her speaking to share, as a factoid, that her brother Philip’s name is stitched into the AIDS memorial quilt between Foucault and Rock Hudson. Galás was an early member of ACT UP!, she joined two years before she lost her brother to the complications from AIDS. Through her work and in interviews she provides some of the most succinct and affecting commentary on the issue I’ve ever come across. 

Read a little about the influence of her Plague Mass performance at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1990, then listen to it. Jarboe (then of Swans) said of the the gig, “This Diamanda Galás performance was a place of here and now. This was true power. As a witness, one moved through walls of perspective.” Jarboe then ended that particular piece of writing by saying that “[Galás], as an artist, is without a living peer,” and this is what I try to communicate to people when I say, “you’ve got to check out Diamanda!”.

Sonically, it’s hard to explain what I love most about Diamanda Galás, so I’d rather explain what the music represents to me in broader strokes. 

She says in a newer interview “I’m happiest when I’m doing research.” You can feel in her work a thirst for knowledge, and that she takes her job (singing) seriously. This is someone who – and again this is my projection – wants to employ every tool in the box to make her music, which from what I understand has meant the ardent study of technique, the learning of several languages and a far and deep knowledge of philosophy and history. With subject matter so heavy and so eternal, I imagine you’d want to hit the nail on the head, and that’s what she does, every time. It’s a commitment to craft which will allow her a deeper and fuller expression. 

I’ve known her work for five or so years and still much of its’ splendour is only starting to reveal itself to me. Loving her music took work! And sonically speaking, now I feel like I can handle anything.

If you don’t know her and you’re intrigued, start with interviews! Then listen to Deliver from Mine Enemies Part 1 from The Divine Punishment (1986), it’s my current favourite.

If you do know and love her, let’s be friends.

Many thanks to Scott for writing about Diamanda Galás for us. If you didn’t know about Diamanda Galás before this article, hopefully Scott has tempted you to listen and you can definitely be friends! You can read more information on Diamana Galás in this Bandcamp article.

Scott Hardware: Bandcamp / Instagram / Facebook

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