This Week in Posivibes: Diamanda Galás

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The otherworldly singer performed this weekend for the first time in NYC since she departed the city in 2008, and we can only hope that it is the first of many. Her performance was entitled “Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes” for the poem by Cesare Pavese, and took place at Harlem’s St. Thomas the Apostle Church as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival.

When people speak of Diamanda Galás’s performances, it is with the air of reverence typically reserved for those truly singular experiences, those rare moments when the sublime arrests us. Of her live shows, the New York Times illustrated Galás’s art using a quote from Marina Abramovic:

The performance artist Marina Abramovic remembers the first time she saw a piece by Ms. Galás. “She was covered in blood,” Ms. Abramovic said. “The audience and her became one beast together.”

It’s that vim that has propelled Ms. Galás to continually breach the limits of music, improvising, mixing classical bel canto singing with demonic shrieks, muttering and glossolalic runs. Her vocal range is stunning, though the precise parameter is unknown. Theories put it at anywhere from three and a half octaves to eight octaves, and, like the Gyuto monks of Tibet, she can invoke more than one at a time.

AIDs advocacy remains vitally important to Galás’s work and heart, the New York Times reports, as is the rise of the Islamic State and feminism in the light of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Galás also spoke with Pitchfork recently about the music that defined her sound over the years, citing the albums that described her life in five-year intervals: a history through Chaka Khan, Johnny Cash, and horror movie scores. Watch a video of Galás performing with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on the John Stewart Show below.


Liz Wood is a freelance editor, fiction writer, and current student in the NYU MFA program. More from this author →