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Essays

 

The Annotated Echo, Chapter 1:

Let’s talk about the glass coffin:

Theatre, Fairy Tales, Smartphones, and Arrested Development in “Nick’s Mom”

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How I feel about adulting

 
 

My newest music video for my song “Nick’s Mom” is a mash-up of Snow White, Hamlet, and the Lady of Shalott.  But the personal source material begins at the end of the second millennium, in my childhood: I was nine when I decided to identify as a fairy instead of a human. Usually you stop believing in fairies when you get into your late childhood, but being me I had to do everything back-ass-wards, and when two new friends of mine suggested that the three of us were actually fairies from another planet inhabiting temporary humanoid avatars as a sort of social experiment. It all makes sense now, I thought, that’s the first thing anyone has ever said to me about this ridiculous boring world that makes any sense. 

I latched onto the fairy/alien changeling theory and spent the entirety of my pre-teen years studying all things occult and staring intensely at my pencil during math class in the hopes that I would make it levitate a la Matilda. As you can imagine, I was something of a loner and an outcast amongst my elementary school’s expanded student body.

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Snow White says her prayers as the Huntsman prepares to kill her

Pied Piper Children’sTheatre NYC

When I was ten, a new musical theatre company came to my neighborhood. They were casting a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  I remember the day I auditioned, and I remember what I was wearing, and I remember who I hung out with backstage. It was late August, and unseasonably overcast and chilly. I had a cold and it took a lot for my mom to drag me out of bed and open my mouth for strangers when I knew I wasn’t at my best. But I’m glad she did. Things went well, in spite of my runny nose and grumpiness, and after one call-back I was cast in the title role.

It changed my life or at least my self-image. Overnight, I went from being that tall, hairy kid who thinks she has psychic powers to…well, Snow White. Undisputed Beauty of life. True, I was cast on the basis of my voice; my singing abilities at age ten were so advanced that they probably would have cast me even if I resembled a stereotyped Wagnerian, but when I walked into rehearsal on that first day all they other kids knew who I was.

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Contrary Mary exiles herself to Toyland after her Mother tries to pimp her out to the 75-year-old Landlord

Pied Piper Children’s Theatre NYC

For the remainder of my pre-teen years, I did some more theatre, not knowing how far the roles I played would make their way into my psyche and my behavioral patterns: Like Sarah the Missionary (Guys and Dolls) and Marian the Librarian (The Music Man), I started having sex way after everyone else in my generation did; like Contrary Mary (Babes in Toyland), I have been pursued relentlessly by men three times my age and my solution to most of my problems is self-imposed exile…and as for my first role, Snow White…it’s complicated. Snow White is about a lot of things…Narcissism comes to mind…it’s one thing to be jealous of somebody who’s prettier than you; it’s another thing to try to kill her for that reason…or is that called Psychopathy…? Snow White is a tale of dysfunctional families, domestic abuse, exile, necrophilia…but let’s go Jungian and Campbellic for a minute and propose an idea that it is also about arrested development: let’s focus on one image: the glass coffin and the years that go by inside it. 

This image anchored itself in my consciousness only recently, for this reason: during the time that she spends in the glass coffin, Snow White is dead to the world but her body does not decay. Because she is a child when she meets the dwarves but a marriageable woman when she wakes up, it is a reasonable interpretative conclusion that Snow White spent puberty inside the glass coffin. 

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Everyone and everything I ever loved is a picture on my phone

Photo by Peter Carellini

Samantha Echo, “Nick’s Mom”

For the purposes of my video, the “glass coffin” is also a Smartphone. In the video, we see me in my Snow White costume from both sides of the phone: in one scene I am lying in bed flipping through my phone whilst dressed as Snow White and oblivious to the world around me, and in another I am clearly in a selfie video on a phone, as you can see when I tap the screen from within to end the clip. But it can be said that I am both literally and figuratively inside the phone, and both of these scenes could be references to the fact that social media and, for the moment, smartphones especially, seem to in fact embower and encase our individual and collective worlds, containing us like a coffin would, and indeed both a coffin and a phone have a glass screen.  I think in a way, social media and the technology associated with it are part of the mythology of our time. The use of Magic Mirrors to look voyeuristically into other people’s lives at things that are none of your business predicted our current culture’s preference for creeping on each other’s Facebook and Instagram profiles. Magic iPhone, Show Me Nick’s Mom.

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Her smile is like a total eclipse of the son

Rosemary Loar as Nick’s Mom

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Death and Rebirth in Nick's Mom


Death and Rebirth in Nick's Mom


the annotated echo, chapter 2: Someday I will open my eyes: Recycled video props; death and rebirth in

 
 
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Outtake from the “Nick’s Mom” Official Music Video

Circa late summer 2012 I purchased a slutty Snow White costume on the internet. In Summer 2018 I was in the UK for the first time and I bought a pair of red flowered fishnet stockings, which, from afar, made me looked like I had sliced my legs up pretty badly.  But in late Winter 2018, I married the two, wearing the stockings and the sexy Snow White outfit in the music video for “Nick’s Mom,” as well as on the Album cover of my forthcoming record “Ether Trash,” whose title means exactly what it sounds like: somebody who is trashy and ethereal.  (The Release Date is July 6th at the Bitter End NYC. Look out!)

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I go out to make music videos and always end up covered in blood.

From “Wednesday Guy,’ filmed by Sam Teichman

As a singer-songwriter with a particular fondness for the Narrative-driven Music Video, I find it very hard to get rid of things even if I seldom wear or use them, because the record shows that I never know when I might need them again. For example, I bought a bunch of prop body organs and stage blood in 2014 for the “Show Me Your Facebook” Video, as a satire of social media “TMI” trends, which I ended up reusing in the 2018 “Wednesday Guy” video for the scenes when I’m supposed to be a Mad Scientist creating a monster-man. I also collected a bunch of weird-looking glass bottles for that shoot, but I’m holding onto them because who knows when they’ll come in handy? As an artiste of the Music Video I can justify my hoarding as non-hoarding.  When you’re looking to create something original that illustrates a musical and emotional concept visually, the useless becomes useful.

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I maked a lab now I a scientist because youtube

Still from “Wednesday Guy” filmed by Sam Teichman

I wear the Snow White costume and the blood-looking stockings in almost every single scene: I wear it when I’m doing my detective work and trying to figure out what went wrong in my development while looking at a crime suspect board in which every suspect is me at a different age. I wear it when I play piano and when I look into my phone at images of me playing piano. It symbolizes both beauty and childhood and the combined sense of who I want to be—beauty because Snow White, in the fairy tale, is famously the most beautiful girl in her entire Kingdom, and childhood because, as the first Disney Princess, she’s a famous childhood icon. Significantly, there are a couple of videos from my childhood years when I was actually cast in a local theatre production as Snow White, and when you watch the video, it’s as if I never took the costume off, as if in fifteen years or more I just sat there in the same silly costume as my body changed, and the skirt shortened to a ridiculous length, as my colossal cleavage tore at the seams of the once gaping bodice; and here we have the costume as coffin, as another metaphor for arrested development (if you listen to my songs and read my essays and hear me talk, you are going to get a LOT of those). 

A still from the “Nick’s Mom,” official music video. Filmed by Peter Carellini.

A still from the “Nick’s Mom,” official music video. Filmed by Peter Carellini.

I haven’t taken off the costume in years.  I cry when I unzip the costume, as if I am unzipping my own skin, because it represents a kind of surrender.  I can’t be a child anymore, nor am I a legendary beauty, and as I take off the costume I don’t know what else to be, so I run a bath for myself and contemplate drowning. I go from Snow White to Ophelia in seconds flat.  

This seems like a disturbing end, but the additional subtext is that I am going into the bath so that I can be reborn, and in fact, in the epilogue, when the audience hears the voice of Nick’s Mom interchanged with shots of me moving about in my bath aka watery grave, I am moving around a lot and self-aware, and in fact the very last frame is me opening my eyes just like I said I would.  

SEE I OPENED MY EYES SEE I’M NOT DEAD

SEE I OPENED MY EYES SEE I’M NOT DEAD

 

 
 

The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein


The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein


Oz is a woman's world:

Frankenstein, the wizard of oz, and the anxiety of creation in 

 
 

"Wednesday Guy" is a torch song about a troubled but popular nerdy/artsy guy with daddy issues ("He knows a lot of big words, but he doesn't know any sentences..."). The subtext is that the narrator is attracted to him not in spite of but because of the fact that he is so screwed up.

My nosy friends and fans and associates love to ask me "ooh, that's about a specific person, isn't it?"  I always answer honestly because I'm a lazy liar-- "yes and no; it's about four specific people all smushed into one, like in Frankenstein when you smush together different dead people's body parts and make a monster."

This metaphor inspired me. I decided to make my music video a re-enactment of Mary Shelley's famed Frankenstein story, with me as the misguided doctor who creates a monster and then abandons him and has to deal with the consequences.  Except in the video, I seek to create a boyfriend (a.k.a. sex robot) for myself--in this, I will be creepily both mother and lover to my creation. The Oedipal implications are there, but I also see it as an exploration of power dynamics and the sense in which all relationships--up to and including sexual ones--are about power.  (By pure coincidence, we have now entered the age of the Sex Robot, according to the Media that be.)

I also make a scarecrow and bring him to life as a second attempt to make my own boyfriend, after my corpse-reanimation creation goes awry.  This is an homage to another work of old-timey literature (L. Frank Baum The Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900,  Frankenstein in 1818), but it is also a very personal, primal reference to my first crush:  I watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time when I was four and Ray Bolger's portrayal of the Scarecrow in the 1939 film made me swoon with a totality that my small and soft little girl self could not comprehend.

This memory got me thinking about the Power Dynamics in the Wizard of Oz.  My dad has a theory that the Wizard of Oz, although written by a man, takes place in a Matriarchal Universe. It is a place where females have all the power.  The Wicked Witch comes and goes in a puff of smoke and terrorizes everyone; Glinda the good comes and goes when she pleases in a bubble and transports Dorothy across realms; Dorothy melts the Witch by pouring a bucket of water on her.   By contrast,  the only men we encounter are severely handicapped:  the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are both completely immobilized until Dorothy frees them (and they allegedly lack a heart and a brain); the Lion is psychologically and socially hemmed in by his own cowardice (and thereby cannot conform to the gender or species norms of his community); the Wizard is revealed as a fraud and a con-man with no real power.  Magic and strength belong to the females of the story. Oz is a Woman's World. 

MY VERY FIRST MEME inspired by Wisecrack Edition's analysis of Nihilism as portrayed in Bojack Horseman  and Rick and Morty!

MY VERY FIRST MEME inspired by Wisecrack Edition's analysis of Nihilism as portrayed in Bojack Horseman

and Rick and Morty!

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Evan Alexander Moore as Wednesday Guy

in his Scarecrow Incarnation. oo la la

The Scarecrow's journey, as it applies to my video concept, takes on a bit of a new meaning for him.  It occurred to me for the very first time this morning when I was procuring straw (of both the real and fake variety, city girl that I am)  that when Dorothy takes the Scarecrow down from his post, it is the first time he has ever been able to move.  In this sense, she is kind of like a Mother Figure to him , as she gives him the gift of mobility, which, of course, his insensitive creator--the unnamed farmer--never did.   Then, of course, he stumbles around like a toddler for a while, learning to walk.

These comparisons--between mother and lover and creator, between straw man and toddler--also got me thinking in a meta sense about myself as a creator.  I was inspired by a Nathaniel Hawthorne unit in my Literature Class at Hunter College to wonder if there is a kind of wannabe-Scientist subconscious urge present in the mind of a Writer who decides to write about a Scientist. Literary talents such as Shelley and Hawthorne, living after the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, saw Science becoming more powerful: perhaps they felt inferior on some level, as mere writers, and they wrote about science, because, well, those who can't do science will write about science.  Are artists aware of themselves as doing the inferior kind of creation? I'm probably projecting on to them because, for a very long time, I have struggled existentially with my role as a mere singer and a mere writer on a planet where some people can make iPhones and cure diseases.  

Hopefully this insecurity and existential angst informs the heartfelt-ness of my performance in the video.