Thursday, November 19, 2009

the asylum's principle inmate

image source: last.fm
I will attempt to respond to Kayla's comment yesterday asking me to talk more about Emilie Autumn.  And I won't cheat by pointing you to her Wikipedia article (although the link is here, just in case someone really wants to read it.)

Emilie Autumn is an American violin prodigy who started playing at the age of four.  She ended up in various preforming and music schools, but left one particularly prestigious school (Indiana University School of Music) when she clashed with university officials over her unconventional fashion and music tastes.

She performed in a baroque ensemble called Ravensong in the 90s and put out a classical violin CD in 2000 called On a Day....  Two years later her "fantasy rock" CD, Enchant, was released.  During this period she had a very edgy Elizabethan/fantasy image, wearing fairy wings that she had made herself with combat boots (see how she made those wings here.)

 In 2003 she was a performing violinist for Courtney Love's debut solo album and toured in a band with Love called The Chelsea.  When the band stopped touring she began to work on her next CD, Opheliac, which specializes in the victorianindustrial genre for which she is currently known. "Opheliac" has been the basis of all her tours and promotions up to the present, even though she has come out with several additional albums and singles (mostly a continuation of the victorianindustrial genre) and releases of previous material since the CD came out in 2006.

She has toured mostly in Europe since then, as her music has made a big impact on the German music scene over there.  Hey, the Germans are more hard-core goths than Americans, and they're more risky with their music choices.  But Autumn's popularity has apparently swelled enough to justify a North American tour this fall, much to my delight.  Okay, I jumped up and down screaming when I got the news, prompting several people close to me to inquire whether I had actually landed a career-type job.

One thing that is not mentioned in any biography information I have come across is Autumn's personal life, which is strange, considering that Autumn actually spent time in a mental health institute.  I don't know when that happened, but it inspired her book, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, which comes out on December 15, 2009. In this interview with Evi Hoste, Autumn says that she suffers from bipolar disorder.  In my personal opinion I believe her illness and experiences in a lunatic asylum influenced much of her "Opheliac" album, especially due to her claim that she suffered from PTSD when she was released from the asylum.  In that same interview she also says that she thinks her image as a performer who wore fairy wings changed to the lost Victorian girl one probably due to the changes in her mental state.  I am assuming her stay at the asylum happened sometime between 2002 and 2005, since the change in her image as a solo artist switched in that time period.

I came across Emilie Autumn in the spring of 2008 purely by accident on YouTube by clicking through videos at random.  The first I listened to was "Rose Red," a song from her Enchant album.  I liked it, especially the violin playing, so I clicked on another song, "Marry Me," from the Opheliac album.  This song had the most ironic lyrics making fun of arranged marriages and the institution of marriage, especially to a rich asshole, as a security blanket for women. The more I listened to songs from the Opheliac album, the more ironic lyrics I came across and the more I fell in love with it.  Her use of the harpsichord and violin along with synthesizers in many songs was also a plus to me, as a musician.  They seemed like such odd instruments to put together, yet worked so well in her created genre. 

Autumn is very experimental with music and specializes in improvisation, another skill I also heavily admire.  Improv is hard to do.  I used to do it all the time as an alto saxophonist in a jazz band.  Six years later I was decent for an amateur, but definitely not good by professional standards.  Autumn blows me away by her skill with improv:


If anyone has any questions or information to add, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

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