New York composer/songwriter Corey Dargel's double album Someone Will Take Care of Me includes two song cycles, Thirteen Near-Death Experiences and Removable Parts, which deal respectively with hypochondria and voluntary amputation, a clinical condition whose sufferers believe they can only be whole if an otherwise healthy limb is amputated. Dargel deals with these dark topics (particularly the second) with unflinching directness but also with grace and empathy. The songs had their genesis as music theater pieces. A 2007 New York production of Removable Parts won Dargel the New Dramatists' 2007 Frederick Loewe Award in Musical Theater and received the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Best Performance-Art Production. Thirteen Near-Death Experiences was produced in New York in 2009. Dargel is the singer and he has top-notch collaborators: pianist Kathleen Supové, percussionist-composer David T. Little, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).
The songs of Thirteen Near-Death Experiences are gentle, melancholy reflections on the inevitable results of aging that seem not so much pathological as all-too-common feelings about mortality and the decline of the body. They range from the whimsical -- "Touch Me Where It Counts," in which a patient arranges to be sick enough for repeated trips to his doctor, with whom he is angling for a date -- to the achingly poignant: "Everybody Says I'm Beautiful," a sad acknowledgement of aging, and "Every Time You Undress Me," which voices the singer's doubts that his lover still finds him attractive. The subject matter of Removable Parts is made of considerably sterner stuff; in fact, almost every song includes cringe-inducing imagery. The music of the songs is mostly deceptively and gently lyrical, creating a disorienting dissonance with the gruesome texts and topics. The show has been described as "tenderly dysfunctional," and that sounds pretty accurate. Dargel's light tenor is well-suited to the songs, which in some ways could be heard melodically as fairly conventional, but whose accompaniments (especially the inventive instrumentations of Thirteen Near-Death Experiences, for ICE and Little) are wittily skewed enough to situate this music in the realm of the very odd. The album is engineered more like a pop than a classical album, with relatively compressed sound, but the sound is vivid, and it works well for this material. In spite of its veneer of simplicity, Dargel's music has a sophistication that should give it strong appeal for fans of the intersection between experimental rock and classical.