Michael Gira

Somniloquist

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Michael Gira, frontman for Swans and Angels of Light, is also a writer of fiction. He published a book called The Consumer, an extreme collection of Gira's continuing obsessions with power in interpersonal relationships, intimacy, violence, and how beauty and revulsion concerning it can become confused to the point that they become one in the same. Hearing Gira deeply as a singer with musical backing is one thing; the music and resultant soundscapes provide both a tunnel into the listener and an escape hatch out of the lyrical content. Gira's baritone is so lulling, especially on later recordings, that his voice can become an agent of hypnotic sensuality. His speaking voice, reading these works unadorned by musical accompaniment, allows for no escape from his subject matter. It's pure, gentle, almost tender in its recounting of these tales. Most of these are first-person narratives, spoken from the point of the victim -- or, perhaps it's better to say, the one who appears to hand over power to another. That "other" is almost always the beloved, the one who wields power. While it's true that this sounds like Gira writes about sado-masochism, it is also true that he writes about much more than this, and when he does write about S&M -- if it can be reduced to such a common magazine term -- he portrays the actual relationships that exist between people involved in acts of extreme torture, murder, and suicide. The important distinction is, all of these characters, whether it be the killer or the one who has been sacrificed and speaks from beyond the pale, come from Gira's imagination, the safe place to allow such notions their free play and association. His discipline in writing them down and reading them to an audience allows for those dark places in the mind to be given air, and seen for what they are -- to borrow from Edgar Allan Poe, they are tales of mystery and imagination. Gira's writings and this reading are not without humor, either. In a later work titled MTV and the Cult of the Body, he takes on the most easily identified cultural obsession and turns it inward onto the speaking subject who moves through many changes, including being able to encounter the most famous woman in the world, his obsession, as he does his job cleaning up the gore and debris after a plane crash. Yes, it's grim -- grimly funny. Gira's reading isn't for everybody; in fact, it's for very few. It's for those who are over 18, those who can discriminate between fact and fiction, and those who reserve moral judgment as they evaluate a written text and its oral presentation. Finally, it may be for those who are merely curious about the extremes of human behavior and the many variations of what Western culture calls "love." According to the characters in Gira's stories, many of these are much more selfless and pure examples than what pass for "normal" relationships between intimate partners.

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