vox extremis; antony hegerty and nina simone, two unforgettable voices that push the borders of sublime eccentricity

“epilepsy is dancing, she’s a christ now departing, and i’m finding my rhythm as I twist in the snow”…these are words to wake the calcified heart of all but the most jaded. this is a florid conflagration of romance, a sonnet to make byron paler and weaker.  the words are sung in a pained warble, in a range lower than a castrato, but with innocence  and pain that castrati would recognize and resonate with. it takes such a voice to give form and weight to the stories of abuse, loneliness and unrecogition, gender identity struggles and the black humor of being the ultimate other. the voice becomes a bridge. an otherworldly, beckoning walkway to that which is too strange and painful to leave in a traditional context, too strange and painful becomes victorious, affirming, and transcendent when sung by this voice.

 antony hegerty has become somewhat of a saint to certain elements of queer culture, and i can appreciate and understand this, but his work is a lighthouse, a gate swinging wide to experience, a pulsing heart beat to replace a fading one to anyone that has lost hope that we cannot be everything we know ourselves to be…and be ok. this voice in the end, says, it is strange, it is painful, it is not understood, but it will be ok.

nina simone’s voice was without gender-centeredness, without easily affiliated traits of male or female. It was a transubstantiation, it was the voice of the prophet kicking science to the weak and dishonest, it was a combination of an imagination of the queen of the nile infused with howlin’ wolf, it was…. extraordinary. nina simone had to expatriate herself due to the fact  at that time  no black woman, commanding and direct, would be able to live mississippi goddam and get away with it, and she had to live it, not just speak it. little girl blue sees her use her voice to full effect, using blues, opera and jazz indiscriminately as platforms for her strange phrasings, her accents and throaty whispers that mark and keep not just time, but place, awareness, longing, at the edge of the ear and spirit of the listener. Never was a voice more present.

 both of these voices have transcended the ghetto of “acquired taste” due to the fact that they are placed in the midst of outrageously good music. music that is crafted and formed, music that has both profound individual character, as well as touch points of familiarity that provide grounding for the listener. that is part of the genius of making what could be simply odd, palpable and wondrous.


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