My Brightest Diamond

Feeling The Pulse

Dec 16, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J Bookmark and Share


After My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden released her last album, 2011's All Things Will Unwind, she found herself in an existential crisis. Having spent most of her adult life learning how to craft meticulously-arranged, exhaustingly-detailed albums, she was met with the realization that her music wasn't translating into the era of iPod playlists and short attention spans.

A chain reaction of questions followed. Why do we listen to music? What role does it play in our lives? Why is it so ingrained in human nature? Why was she making music at all? A daringly individual songwriter, she had spent three albums weaving together strands of opera, cabaret, and string quartets in ways that were distinctly her ownshe knew she could make music to engage the mind and intellect. When it came time for her to start working on the album that would become This is My Hand, she wanted to engage the body.

"I wanted to make a dance album, but I grew up in a super-conservative Christian family, so Lord help you if you were dancing," she says. "But then when I was about 19, I was singing in a funk band, and I realized pretty quickly, once I started doing music in clubs as a woman, I wasn't going to be taken seriously as a musician if I dance. So I froze, and I did not allow myself to be in my body, because I did not want that kind of attention. I wanted my big ol' brain to get attention. So when you go to try to make a dance record after you haven't really allowed yourself to dance, you say, 'I don't even know how to write a dance song that feels like me.'"

With making a dance album ruled out, she decided to focus on creating a rhythm-driven pop album, or at least one that was as participatory as she could make it. Having read Daniel Levitin's The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, she examined the role music played in human evolution and decided to strip her music down to its tribal, communal rudiments. It's telling that the first sounds on the album are that of a marching band thundering into action, as they set the pace for an album that stays relentlessly focused on hooks and beats, from soaring sing-alongs ("Pressure") to ethereal balladry ("This is My Hand") and sleekly menacing anthems ("Lover Killer"). As her operatic vocals and ear for austere harmonics remain, it's not quite a dance album, but Worden has undeniably succeeded in making an album with a heavy, bloody pulse. But did she answer those original questions?

"I want to get to the point where I don't have to ask those questions anymore," she says. "I think for me, I needed to get back to remembering that it is so much in the cellularin our selvesto be musical and that it's a human right to be expressing your music. Not just to be expressing it, but it's a part of the fabric of your life. Now I just want to accept [music] and not feel like I have to justify what it is to me."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's September/October print issue (Issue 51).]

www.mybrightestdiamond.com

 

 

 



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