In our newest recording of music by composer Mark Abel, Time and Distance, GRAMMY®-winning soprano Hila Plitmann brings her full emotional range to “Those Who Loved Medusa,” — a powerful story and evocative musical setting that connects ancient Greek legend with our present day’s #MeToo movement. Watch the new “Those Who Loved Medusa” video by Tempe Hale on YouTube:
Mark Abel on Those Who Loved Medusa:
Those Who Loved Medusa is derived from a poem by Kate Gale, the Los Angeles literary figure whose verses I set a few years ago in The Palm Trees Are Restless (recorded by Hila Plitmann on the Delos CD Home Is a Harbor).
The work begins with a cloud of shimmering crotale tones sounded by percussionist Bruce Carver. Ritualistic shapes and gestures in the music embellish Medusa’s dramatic account of her violation by Poseidon. Her scapegoating by the deity’s jealous wife Athena is depicted through an obsessive rhythmic episode, culminating in Medusa’s horrifying transformation and the vengeful epithet: “You are creature.”
By this point, both poem and song are in need of an exhale. Gale provides it by reminding us how ancient history’s outrageous theory of female “culpability” in the act of rape is still with us today. The music reacts by sinking into forlorn harmonies before Medusa steers the focus back to the crime at hand. Vowing to “hold my head aloft,” she finds herself taking refuge in her monstrous new identity: “Turn me into that thing you fear. … Wet, ripe, swollen. … That thing demanding.”
Her spasm of agitation is dissolved with the help of the magical ethnic instrument known as the rainstick, and the music moves forward, depicting the men who sought out Medusa in her cave of exile on an Aegean island. Plitmann closes out the song by singing movingly of the lovers who “braved the forest, found my lips.”