Antony and Destiny by the Lake
October 09, 2010
Upon hearing the singing voice of Antony Hegarty listeners tend to divide in to two classes. There are those who find it a bit of a wonderment and who never want it to end, and there are those who, after 15-20 seconds, never ever ever want to hear that voice again. I am in the first class. Your own results may vary.
As an Antony and the Johnsons enthusiast, I am looking forward to next week's release of Swanlights. Until October 12, the album is streaming on NPR, and a listen there reveals that its songs include "The Great White Ocean." That song has actually been around since at least 2008, when it was used as the soundtrack to an animated short by James Lima, "Fallen Shadows," created for the purpose of selling Prada handbags and apparel. In the film, a woman's shadow wanders about in a vaguely surreal cityscape, musing on life and memory while Antony warbles mystically. (A large Quicktime version is viewable here.)
"Fallen Shadows" is somewhat obviously influenced by painters such as Di Chirico and Dalí, and some sequences -- the dancing compass in particular -- seem to derive directly from "Destino," Salvador Dalí's uncompleted project for Walt Disney. Dalí worked on storyboarding "Destino" at the Disney studios in 1945 and 1946, but only about 18 seconds were actually animated before production was stopped. Eventually, at the instance of Roy Disney, contemporary Disney animators pieced together a version of the film that saw release in 2003. Compare and contrast:
Antony and the Johnsons' music frequently walks the imagined line between popular and "serious" forms, and is oft inclined to slip toward the realm of the art song. An example of that tendency is "The Lake," a setting of a lesser-known poem of Edgar Allan Poe, released on an EP in 2004.
Animator Adam Schechter created a video for the song. Originally unofficial, the piece was subsequently endorsed by Antony and the Johnsons and now receives a link on the group's official site. The video bears no apparent relationship to the song or to the poem, and is instead a strange and somewhat incoherent tale of the death (?) and transfiguration (?) of a feudal fox. Or something of the sort. In any case, you may view it below. Poe's original text is beneath the video, for those inclined to read along and to take note of the liberties and variants in Antony's adaptation.
The Lake; To --
Edgar Allan Poe, 1827
In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less-
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.
But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon that spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody-
Then-ah then I would awake
To the terror of the lone lake.
Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremulous delight-
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define-
Nor Love-although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining-
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.