Sunday, December 4, 2022

Jazz Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant Loves MF Doom and Wuthering Heights

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Cécile McLorin Salvant has been busy since the release of her last album, 2018’s Grammy-winning The Window. Later that year she premiered Ogresse, a “musical fable in the form of a cantata” that begins: “There’s a woman / lived in the woods on the outskirts of town / her skin was chocolate brown / upon her head she wore a crown / of bones, human bones.” (The woman goes on to devour her lover.) The piece, which she premiered to a packed audience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and went on to tour across the country, was central in the MacArthur Foundation’s description of her work when the program awarded her a “genius” grant in 2020. 

COURTESY OF THE LABE L S .

This month she released her soaring sixth album, Ghost Song (Nonesuch Records), with a track list that opens on a hauntingly pared back, addictive cover of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights,” and includes original (and personal) songs like the musing, Blossom Dearie–esque “I Lost My Mind,” which crescendos into an ambient, electronic repetition of “I lost my mind, can you help me find my mind?” Here, she shares her inspirations.

Novels about “people living with different kinds of ghosts, dealing with their memories” and “struggling with their ambitions” fed the album, including Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.

Salvant has befriended the artist Robyn O’Neil, whose podcast, Me Reading Stuff, feeds her creative practice. “I love her drawings, her composition notebooks, her taste in poetry and the letters she writes.”

The 2016 documentary Into the inferno, by Werner Herzog, is filled with “images of oozing lava I want to eat and Herzog’s memories; people fearing and drawing power from volcanoes, and the myths that revolve around them.”

From Werner Herzog’s Into the Inferno

Courtesy of Netflix.

Salvant calls the artist MF DOOM’s “wit, humor, irreverence, creativity, casual virtuosity,” and dizzying references—on the 2004 album Mm..Food, and always—“a forever inspiration.” Also: “Anything about or around food is major for me.”

Mm..Food by MF DOOM

COURTESY OF THE LABE L S .

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