“Jill Tracy is the Queen of taking her listeners into another universe”
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
“Jill Tracy is the first musician I found who sells the passion, the emotional turmoil and tremendous, tragic beauty which lies there, waiting to be uncovered, in the darkest corners of experience.”
I guess it’s a good sign when 2012 begins with such a flurry of dream projects, that I have had no time to devote to a year-end review until now. Stay tuned for news about my upcoming 2012 collaboration with Philadelphia’s legendary Mutter Museum and new recording for Swedish publishers Malört alongside Einstürzende Neubauten. Visit the NEWS page to get the latest updates.
2011 was such a tough, challenging, but charmed year–this new website did not go live until September—so I wanted to make sure to feature the highlights for you here.
Of course, January means the famed Edwardian Ball, clearly the most lavish and fantastical event of the year–a costumed spectacle in honor of the late great raccoon-coated scribe Edward Gorey. For the last decade, I have had the honor to be hailed “Belle of the Ball” and perform in concert each year. The above photo is my favorite 2011 Edwardian Ball shot by Samuel Coniglio. Custom adorned top hat by the marvelous House of Nines Design.
I released “Under the Fate of the Blue Moon,” a waltz to make wishes come true–a dreamily enchanting piece I composed on the rare Blue Moon New Year and recorded the night of the total Lunar Eclipse Solstice Dec 20, 2010. I released the work as a free download. It’s my online wishing well. Make a wish, leave an offering.
BENEATH: The Bittersweet Constrain was a glorious accidental release. After several Hollywood music supervisors asked me for an instrumental version of “Haunted by the Thought of You,” I met with producer Alex Nahas in New York City to remix the tune. We both became more and more intrigued, as the absence of vocals invited many of the previously unused or little-heard tracks: strings, woodwinds, Chapman Stick, sarod, harmonium and others. I’m thrilled when people tell me they write or work to my music, and this is certainly a perfect soundscape, a dark, gorgeous portal. Brilliant cover shot by Michael Garlington.
In February, I joined host Chloe Veltman live on KALW, San Francisco public radio/NPR affiliate 91.7 FM as guest of the hour-long “Voice Box” program. The theme of the show was “singers who accompany themselves on the piano,” and it gave me a wonderful chance to discuss the variations, challenges– and funny stories that come with the territory. Listen to an archive of the show online HERE.
San Francisco mobbed famed City Lights Books for my murderous musical set with none other than the infamous Lemony Snicket himself (aka Daniel Handler) on accordion. This photo was taken by Audrey Penven post-show.
You best know Oakland filmmaker Bill Domonkos by our beloved award-winning short “The Fine Art of Poisoning,” and his collection of acclaimed videos for legendary masked band The Residents. I had the great opportunity to again collaborate on his latest– the surreal, sci-fi suspense NERVOUS96. Bill painstakingly crafted excerpts from my Musical Seance sessions with Atlanta violinist Paul Mercer, and our channeled music becomes the emotional dialogue for the entire film. It’s stunning. The NERVOUS96 musical score is available for download on Bandcamp!
New York Times best-selling author Melissa Marr named “Sell My Soul“ as the official song for her novel Graveminder. Marr says she listened to the tune on endless repeat for inspiration, especially while creating scenes in the Land of the Dead. I will be forever immortalized as the sultry singer in Mr. D’s Tip Top Tavern, alluring nightspot of the unliving. Marr also listed “Haunted by the Thought of You” in the playlist for her “Wicked Lovely” series.
My music is also on the official playlist for Cat Winter’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a YA novel centering around Victorian spiritualism.
I was a celebrity speller for Small Press Distribution‘s annual Bee In, hosted by West Coast Live’s Sedge Thompson. I went down on the word “abscess” befittingly enough. It’s always the tricky little words that get you.
After touring with the iconic David J (Bauhaus/Love and Rockets), he became so enamored of my dark post-classical piano interpretation of Bauhaus’ classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” that he took us into the studio to record it. You’ll hear more about the project later in 2012. Featuring my drummer Randy Odell and bassist Kenny Annis, plus strings player Ysanne Spevack (Smashing Pumpkins.) Talk about a goth girl’s fantasy come true. Oh, and I also spent my 2011 birthday with Peter Murphy!)
A wondrous shot of me with David J, shooting green screen on the set of the music video of the David J. +Shok collaboration “Tidal Wave of Blood.” I sing back-up vocals.
My favorite photoshoot of the year by far was one done with next to no prep, stealth, late at night, sneaking into the dark, ornate stairwell of a downtown office building. Photographer Audrey Penven and I wanted to play with shadow. I loved the idea of incorporating lace textures, perhaps shoot through lace. She had the incredible idea to project actual lace onto the entire shot.
The way these photos were achieved is innovative and fascinating. Please read the tale of the making of “In Lace Shadows.“ There are many more shots there too, plus a link to the full gallery.
One of Audrey’s Lace Shadows portraits became the landing page for my new website which I was ecstatic to finally launch in 2011!!
The site backgrounds were created by visual FX artist and friend Robert Rossello. (You remember his gorgeous artwork for Diabolical Streak!) We collected and created imagery–all from my personal collection– Even the textures like feathers, fur, old medical perscriptions, antique charts of constellations, opium poppies, apothecary bottles, my talismans– were all individually crafted.
2011 was my first year officially working with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. I did a myriad of things–from scoring several film shorts and performing live for their press conference, to moderating the panel “Variations on a Theme,” discussing the craft of scoring silent films with some of the best in the business. The photo above by San Francisco’s Examiner’s Omar Moore shows me introducing F. W. Murnau’s epic Sunrise.
The most thrilling part of the SF Silent Film Festival was finally getting to collaborate with the wonderful UK pianist Stephen Horne. I got a late night email from him days before the festival saying he envisioned my voice as part of his score to the sultry 1915 femme fatale shocker Il Fuoco. We literally put the score together in a matter of 2 days. I was so proud and inspired by the work. Absolutely riveting. The press agreed:
Ahhh, the sheer delight on my face as I reveal seductive tales about the deadly mandrake root! Within a garden of poisonous plants no less! (Photo by Julie Michelle)
The dark side of the Garden came to deadly bloom in October at the historical San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers as I teamed up with Wicked Plants author Amy Stewart and produced a perilous event within the exhibit. We called it appropriately enough “The Fine Art of Poisoning: Perils, Pleasures and Protocols.” The beautiful white glass Victorian dome is a sight to behold in the dark, so I wanted to give the public a chance to explore it at night, under my guise.
After hours in the Conservatory of Flowers with Wicked Plants author Amy Stewart and a giant tarantula. This event was such a success that the Conservatory and I are in meetings to create an ongoing night series together!
When producer/writer/filmmaker Jordan Stratford invited me to perform at Victoria British Columbia’s Craigdarroch Castle as part of his great Victoria Steam Expo, it fulfilled a wish I made when I first visited. This was an ideal location for my “spontaneous musical combustion”– composing works on the spot in front of the audience, manifesting the musical spirit within the location itself. Every place has a story, every object holds music. My job is to be the gatekeeper, and open the portal.
Nothing on Craigdarroch Castle’s official website will tell you it’s haunted. The 1890 treasure is simply hailed “Victoria, British Columbia’s legendary landmark.” It’s when you begin talking to the locals– and even people who work within its lavish walls– that you begin to hear secret tales of its 39 rooms, 87 steps, 4 floors, 18 fireplaces, tower, and tormented past. I wanted to immerse myself within its surrounding and bring it to life.
I encountered a wonderfully strange bond with this antique Steinway in the front parlour. The staff at the castle said this piano never gets played. I spent most of my time at it, it seemed to have the most to say. Please indulge in the Blog post “Antique Steinway, Haunted Castle and a Long-Lost Love” to hear my account of this Victorian conjuring. (Photo by Maggie Binnie O’Scalleigh)
There were many memorable shows in 2011, including a double bill and collaboration onstage with Tuvan throat singer Soriah. In this photo by John Adams, I’m speaking to the crowd at a moving benefit for friend and fellow performer kSea Flux.
Sacramento Horror Film Festival presented an evening called “The Elegant Dark with Jill Tracy,” where I not only performed a concert, but shared my stories, short films, and Q&A with the audience. I was really inspired by the opportunity to present my various passions and mediums all together, and plan to do more full sensory shows like this.
I was honored to pen the forward for Maria Alexander’s decadent and deadly collection of absinthe-inspired verse At Louche Ends (Burning Effigy Press) recalling my days performing in the then-illegal emerald underworld. NYC artist Katelan Foisy’s gorgeous painting adorns the cover. An intoxicating dose of words and visuals from three powerful women.
NPR’s beloved long-running radio show Hearts of Space devoted an entire program to my music to celebrate the October season. Haunted– a Jill Tracy Conjuration aired on over 200 NPR stations, celebrating my instrumentals, film score work, and haunting, ambient songs. I was astonished and delighted as they rarely devote an entire show to one artist. Thank you Stephen Hill and everyone at HOS! They tell me the show got a tremendous response. Click on the link to hear the archive. It’s Program 961.
“We consider Jill Tracy a Bay Area treasure…like Grafeo coffee, Scharffen Berger chocolates, and fine Napa Cabernets.
As a lyricist and songwriter, Jill Tracy plies the literary currents popularized by Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Edward Gorey and other 19th and 20th century storytellers of the netherworld: spinners of tales of the mysterious, the strange, and the macabre.
Her sound begins with an unadorned dark cabaret trio of contrabass, drums and parlor piano; it expands on recordings into the Malcontent Orchestra violin, viola, cello, and low woodwinds, plus guitar, Chapman stick, electric bass, harmonium and the odd sarod. She calls it “post-Classical Noir” and glams, goths and Dark Romantics of all ages love her with a crimson passion.”
NPR’s Hearts of Space
Here’s to a magical 2012. I’m glad you’re along for the ride.