This just in… “On August 26th renowned singer, composer and pianist Diamanda Galás will release her new album, Broken Gargoyles via Intravenal Sound Operations. The album’s title refers to WW1 soldiers who were so facially disfigured that they were called “broken gargoyles.” The first incarnation of the work was played as a sound installation at the Kapellen Leprosarium (Leper’s Sanctuary) in Hanover, Germany (in keeping with the theme, the sanctuary was built around 1250 and served as a quarantine for those who suffered from the plague and leprosy in the Middle Ages). The work was finalized in collaboration with the artist and sound designer Daniel Neumann. In May Portugal’s Theatro Circo hosted “Broken Gargoyles” and this clip was made for that installation”.
Today another extract or two have the new Diamanda Galás album have been released, they can be found down there at the foot of this page under the press release (and yes I do know they’re set to private, we did check if we could before sharing them)
The devils stretch necks forward like giraffes.
The newborn has no head. She holds it up
before her,then drops back as terror clasps
frog-fingered at her spine with splaying grip.
But the great demons swell to monstrous height.
Their crown of horns tears the red sky asunder.
Earthquakes surround their hooves with fires alight
and through the womb of cities blasts the thunder.
Georg Heym The Demons of the Cities
trans. Antony Hasler*
The press release…
Broken Gargoyles was composed in 2020 though the first incarnation of the work was played as a sound installation at the Kapellen Leprosarium (Leper’s Sanctuary) in Hanover, Germany (in keeping with the theme, the sanctuary was built around 1250 and served as a quarantine for those who suffered from the plague and leprosy in the Middle Ages). The work was finalised in collaboration with the artist and sound designer Daniel Neumann. Talking of their work together he says, “It was a wild working method, all remotely, with all these different pre-existing and newly recorded fragments.” In May, Portugal’s Theatro Circo hosted the sound installation and Galás wrote them this: Broken Gargoyles refers to the cynical denomination of the soldiers and their war-disfigured faces. Surgery was performed upon them in order to send them to the backlines of the theatre operation. Some were released with no support, and hidden, special housing units were designed to house those with no arms and legs, and mutilated faces. Some of these dead alive were used for medical experimentation. Dalton Trumbo wrote of this last occasion in Johnny Got His Gun, in which his SOS tapping was ignored in order to continue medical study.
Broken Gargoylesfeatures verses by German poet Georg Heym, “Das Fieberspital” and “Die Dämonen der Stadt”. In “Das Fieberspital” Heym describes the horrific state of people suffering from yellow fever who live in paralysing fear of death and swirling delirium owing to their brutal treatment and isolation in medical wards in early 20th century Germany. “Die Dämonen der Stadt” also addresses such grim portents of World War I; in this poem, the god Baal observes (like a gargoyle) a town from a rooftop of a city block at night-time and lets a street burn down during dawn.
The album’s first part, ‘Mutilatus’, contains the Heym poems “Das Fieberspital” and “Die Dämonen der Stadt,” and concerns the suffering of the soldier in the trenches and during innumerable operations in the hospital.
‘Mutilatus’ was originally recorded in 2012-2013 in collaboration with recording and mix engineer Kris Townes and serves as a welcome into a parallel world of doom and delusion foretold. Sustained, portentous low-end piano rumble and Galás’ solo and multiplied voices create evanescent masses of tonality and, pertinently, a resonant frequency clash or harmonic distortion. You can hear it and feel it: she is inside her subjects, as if to emphasise with the sweaty diffusion of the patients’ feverish minds. When this extraordinary introduction of ‘Mutilatus’ recedes in an approaching chilly ill wind, Galás intones over subdued whining electronics, cawing birds, semi-human verbalisations and something somewhere between these things. Representing the doomed, their punishers and perhaps her listeners in all our delusional wisdom, she rasps out words, or the sound of words; the electronic whine rises and falls. Then piano, left-hand low, and “vocalese” so high in deliberately splintery disfigurement, which gives way to the piano’s pulsing beat-figure darkly looming over the hill amid a babble of human voices and dark clouds of ravens.
The often sisyphean sound throughout Broken Gargoyles plumbs great depths in the album’s second part, ‘Abiectio’(humiliation, dejection, despondency), which draws from the Heym poems “Der Blinde” and “Der Hunger” and the last verses of “Das Fieberspital”. Feedback moans over impending piano thunder, Galás rough-grain wheezes, bawls and howls. Multilayered voice becomes a flock of winged creatures. The affected vocal throngs reach out diseased limbs, mangled faces. Where humans become beasts become… A blind man is forced outside of an asylum to die, with the order “Look into the sun!” Galás makes the inference that the sun burns him alive. A man made delirious and dying through hunger and the sun (again) forces open the jaws of a hound in order to devour him and ends up falling into a dark crevice, where he disappears. The voice at the end of “Das Fieberspital” speaks as one with a burned throat might, through what sounds like an electrolarynx –– again a herald to fire, dehydration. This part of the poem observes the patients laughing in derision and delirium at the priest who approaches the bed of a man dying of yellow fever in order to give him the Last Rites. The dying man impales the priest with a stone he had been sharpening.
The album’s title referencesKrieg dem Kriege!, a photographic book by the German anti-militarist Ernst Friedrich from 1924 documenting the atrocities of World War I, including the album’s nominal “broken gargoyles”, which is how the facially maimed soldiers were termed by their hospital keepers; the disfigured soldiers also had to wear metal masks to better hide their monster faces –– blown apart by shrapnel, burned by mustard gas and further mutilated by medical “researchers” –– from public view.
Who is the beater and who is the beaten? What about the pain of the punisher? Galás stirs the damaged minds of the hospital surgeons and guards with the victims’, obscuring her cries as the pain ebbs and flows, panting or pummeling. She creak-croons as each party to this disaster would, sinister though not altogether cruel. Her piano’s stout low end comes down like a jail door; her voices hover, theremin-like. Her people, her “characters”, ascend and descend, haltingly reharmonising, weakly but determinedly pushing forward toward their demise, or what their fates have in mind for them. Galás’ highly original use of studio effects and electronics melts down to amplify and ambiguise her soundstage, its storm clouds of sonority tormenting, perhaps comforting a roomful of zombified mummies surrendered to those who likely regard them as hunks of meat to root around in like hogs, to wade through like puddles of putrid chaos.