Tag Archives: amanda palmer

Sharing Experiences

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYLq_dmzHXs&feature=related]I was getting ready to head for bed the other night, when I happened to catch Amanda Palmer‘s discovery of her cover of Tori Amos‘ “Me and a Gun“.

I’d never heard the song before (I only have so much time), but what struck me, besides the strikingly different style for Amanda Palmer, was the discussion she pointed out about artists covering the songs based on supremely personal experiences.

Because apparently “Me and a Gun” is about Tori Amos’ experience being raped.

And the discussion (see Amanda Palmer’s twitter feed below by following the links) got me thinking about what we expect when we share our experiences through art, both as creators and audience.

I don’t know if you’re a content creator, but if you are, perhaps you can relate to the tension of knowing how much to label of your life in your work. The decision often happens simply, by answering a direct questions posed by an interested party. Or sometimes, the map remains hidden until only scholars would deign to investigate.

And if you’re predominately a consumer of created content, perhaps you feel the tension of gaining a privileged look into the normally distant and obscure life of another. There is the joy of feeling more connected to another through their openness, but it is tempered by the intrusion into the personal life of another. The disclosure of an intimate, traumatic event carries an air of awkwardness, regardless of the reason or forum for the sharing.

Because sharing experiences is not a unidirectional connection. To share an experience makes people who may have no other common link forge one. Because when we share our experiences, the person or people we share with will look for the aspect they have an understanding with. Because that’s what we do as people. It’s part of communicating with each other – finding the places where we can stand together and view the world in the most similar way.

Amanda Palmer’s cover song seems to be an expression of this very human search for connection. It is this same desire to connect with other people and sharing experiences that prompted me to learn Amanda Palmer’s “In My Mind” and perform it for the kids at work. And write blogs and stories and work to encourage high schoolers to find their voices. How do you share experiences?

What follows is the twitter links for the conversation on Twitter that started this post.
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When the world crumbles

I’m sitting in my car waiting for the time when I can meet my mom for lunch, and I’m listening to Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under and wondering what is going on with the world.

This morning started by reading NPR‘s Andy Carvin’s live tweeting of Qahdafi’s speech to Libya. He seems to have lost contact with the world the rest of us live in. Which would almost be laughable if he didn’t also control the means to begin the “cleansing” he threatened.

And then I read through Amanda Palmer’s blog about New Zealand. Which is about the same time I realized my heart was breaking for the rest of the world.

Because the world appears to be in the midst of another of those moments that have marked my interaction with the Earth – it’s tumultuous.

Perhaps you’re from a generation that managed to not have major uprisings or world breaking moments. I wonder what this looks like through you eyes. Is it more terrifying? Are you hoping it will all stop? Or are you more peaceful about it? Because for me, everything that’s happening in the Middle East and New Zealand falls in stride with the way of the world.

Growing up with family in friends involved in Desert Storm, watching the Berlin Wall tumble down at the hands of the people, seeing the revolutions and civil wars of the Balkans, seeing the horror of a home-grown extremist attack people who never harmed him, and then beginning college amongst the ashes of a terrified country makes for a perspective that sees how appalling the world can be.

But this kind of experience also places turmoil in a broader perspective. One that demonstrates the impermanence of each moment.

Because this too shall pass.

Which is no guarantee that the next moment will be better, but this moment will not last forever.

And so I will embrace this moment’s sorrow and joy and do what I can to help those in need. And when I feel like the next moment will never end, I’ll look back here and remember.

Evelyn Evelyn

USPS dropped the Evelyn Evelyn record I ordered through their website at my door last week. Put together by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley, this debut record is the work of conjoined twin sisters. I’ve been listening to it on repeat since I tore open the box and turned everything over in my hands. It’s officially on sale today! If you haven’t heard the music from this project, check out their myspace. That’s why I knew I wanted this album.

The twins are actually characters the artists are playing for their side-project. While there has been much discussion on Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley’s websites about the existence of the twins, and the ethical aspects of either wearing this persona(s), I don’t intend to enter into that part of the discussion at length here. I do appreciate concept albums and artists intentionally taking on personas to present work from a different perspective. And since I paid for the preorder record and cd, I’m evidently not offended.

I was looking forward to this album since the artists seemed very pleased and proud of the end product. I get excited about work that artists are excited about.

And I think the album is fantastic.

The characters of Evelyn Evelyn have a traumatic and sad back story, and in this record, they present their life story. Not in every detail; not in glory; and interestingly not in complete condemnation.

The story of the twins is presented in both very personal, first person accounts and more distant, third person accounts. Interspersed between the songs are narrated pieces of their story introduced as a conversation between the sisters and told in a journalistic tone. The story elements contextualize the emotional content of the songs. Some might find the interruption distracting, but I appreciate the context.

One of my favorite aspects of the album is the way each song differs and relates to the others. The songs are easy to tell apart from the opening notes because every song roots itself solidly in a distinct era and genre (which they point out in “A Campaign of Shock and Awe” while they’re making posts like this complicit in the exploitation of the twins). The stylistic choice results in an album that walks the listener through highlights of more recent music history.

Beginning with the waltzesk “Evelyn Evelyn”, the album travels through carnival style music, through 20’s vaudeville, and on to 80’s power ballad complete with synthesized instruments and crowd chorus. Each stop brings the best elements of the style and combines it with current stylistic elements.

“Evelyn Evelyn” opens the album with the haunting sound of dying waltz from an ancient music box. Following a conversation between the twins discussing their joint identity and indicating that there is a longing for more separation. This theme of mixed identities struggling to find the fragile balance between combination and difference surfaces throughout the song progression.

More complicated than simple disgust or hatred for the other whose identity is inextricable, the Evelyn Evelyn songs look at the tension of embracing others’ assumptions of one’s identity while asserting individuality. The sisters are obviously close from the way they talk to one another, and yet songs like “You Only Want Me ‘Cause You Want My Sister” illustrate a desire to be acknowledged as separate people. What makes the journey of self and joint discovery complicated is the constant observation the twins live with.

At the end of the Evelyn Evelyn songs, “My Space” points to hopeful resolution of their identity crisis through the agency the twins find in creating their online identity. For the first time in their lives, they are in control of how people see them, and that makes them more willing to interact with other people.

It is this ultimate discovery of self and identity that I love about this album. Through a life story that would put the twins on the fringe of nearly any group, they come through and find a way to reconcile the life people assign them with the life they want.

These characters demonstrate why I love stories. Often the stories easiest to relate to are ones that take life and re-present it. In a way, the outlandishness of Evelyn Evelyn’s story makes the messages in their music clearer. In real life, the question: “How could people do this to these girls?” dominates what people can learn from the music. With Evelyn Evelyn, the questions gets set aside because they aren’t real people, and the power of the character’s decisions becomes clearer.

And I’ve entered into the discussion of the characters. Perhaps talking about the album is to talk about artists taking on characters. Perhaps it’s because art, like life, rarely fits into the assigned compartments.

And maybe that’s part of what Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley were trying to communicate with this project.

And maybe they weren’t.

But I do love the discussion this fantastic album has  incited. And I love the music the artists created. If you haven’t listened to them, check out their songs on myspace. Like I said earlier, the album is officially on sale today, so you can download it when you purchase it.

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One Piece,                                                                                                                                                                                          J.C. Hutchins,                                                                             Big Bang Theory,                       Castle,                                                     Neil Gaiman,                                                                                                                                Amanda Palmer,                                                               CAPS LOCK,                                        Halloween costumes,                                                                                                                      Disneyland,                                                                            used books,                                                                   Hibbleton Gallery,                         7th Son,                                        With a Little Help,                                                                                    small publishing companies,                                                                                                                                 slam poetry

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Creating the system

I’ve been spending time thoroughly enjoying following the links from people I follow on Twitter on my laptop instead of the tiny screen of my Blackberry. Today I followed the link Neil Gaiman posted on his feed to his blog post. In it he talks about how all of us online are learning how to interact in this community we’re creating as we go along.

Then I read Amanda Palmer’s (a very creative singer and performer) post about why she’s ok with taking fans’ money. In it she lays out this explanation:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money.
how you do it is a different matter.
maybe i should be more tasteful.
maybe i should not stop my concerts and auction off art.
i do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot.

BUT … i’d rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who i assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. we are creating the protocol, people, right here and now.

What stood out to me, besides her very logical explanation, is her comment about being part of the group adding to the foundation of the system we will leave behind too. So I started thinking about being a part of this creative team, and how I’ve always been fascinated by the lives and stories of those who have created the art from times before. Like the Modernists (note the T.S.Eliot quote in the header of this blog & the Marianne Moore chapter in my thesis). I’ve always wanted to be a part of the group that people point to when they talk about the founders of something. I realize that this is rather narcissistic, but I think most dreams are.

But what I realized is that I am a part of this community shaping the rules. I’m on Twitter, here, I read other blogs, I am connected in lots of ways to the community, which means that in some small way I am amongst the founders. And though  will likely remain among the many nameless in this group, it’s fun to watch and comment on.