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Diamanda Galás (born August 29, 1955) is an American avant-garde composer, vocalist, pianist, organist, performance artist and painter.

Diamanda Galas

Diamanda Galás

Galás has been described as "capable of the most unnerving vocal terror", with her three and a half octave vocal range.[2] She often screams, hisses and growls. Her works largely concentrate on the topics of AIDS, mental illness, despair, injustice, condemnation, and loss of dignity. She has worked with many avant-garde composers, including Iannis Xenakis, Vinko Globokar and John Zorn.


Diamanda Galás was born and raised in San Diego, California, to Greek Orthodox parents. She studied a wide range of musical forms before moving to Europe. She made her performance debut at the Festival d'Avignon, in France, in 1979, performing the lead in the opera Un Jour comme un autre, by composer Vinko Globokar, based upon Amnesty International's documentation of the arrest and torture of a Turkish woman for alleged treason.

Galas' first album was The Litanies of Satan, released in 1982. Her second album, "Diamanda Galas", was released in 1984.

Diamanda Galás' work first garnered widespread attention with The Masque of the Red Death, an operatic trilogy which includes The Divine Punishment, Saint of the Pit and You Must Be Certain of the Devil. In it, she details the suffering of people with AIDS. Shortly after the recording of the trilogy's first volume began, her brother, playwright Philip-Dimitri Galás, became sick with the disease, which goaded Galás to redouble her efforts. Philip-Dimitri Galás died in 1986, just before the completion of the trilogy.

In 1988 Galás joined ACT UP, the AIDS activist group.

In 1989 Galás took part in Stop the Church, a demonstration at Saint Patrick's Cathedral to protest John Cardinal O'Connor's opposition to the teaching of safe sex, as well as abortion education. It was organized by Act Up and WHAM and was the largest demonstration against a religious organization in American history. Galás was one of 43 people to infiltrate the church, posing as a parishioner. Soon after services began, she, along with other demonstrators, walked quietly to the center isle of the church and lay down, while others chanted, blew whistles and shouted. She was arrested and charged with trespassing and disrupting a religious service. After appearing in court several times, she was granted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD).

In 1990 Galás performed at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York, the recording of which was released in 1991 as Plague Mass, in which she criticized the Roman Catholic Church for its indifference to AIDS.

Galás also sings in a Blues style, interpreting a wide range of blues songs with her unique piano and vocal styles. This aspect of her work is perhaps best represented by her 1992 album, The Singer, on which she covered Willie Dixon, Roy Acuff, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, as well as Gloomy Sunday", a song written by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress in 1933 and translated into English by Desmond Carter.

In 1993 Galás released Judgement Day, a video of her performances, and Vena Cava, a live album, recorded at The Kitchen in 1992.

In 1994 Galás collaborated with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, a longtime admirer of the singer. The resulting record, The Sporting Life, was released the same year. She was also featured on the soundtrack for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.

In 1995 Galás contributed her voice to the eponymous album of British synth-pop duo, Erasure, at the invitation of the lead singer, Andy Bell.[3]

Galás has published one book, The Shit of God, in 1996. It contains many of her original writings. Also in 1996 Galas released Schrei X, a live recording.

In 1997 Galás contributed vocals to the album Closed on Account of Rabies, a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe which also included Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Marianne Faithfull, lending their voices to the tales of the legendary author. Galás' reading of "The Black Cat" was the longest recording on the compilation.

In 1998 Galás released Malediction and Prayer, which was recorded live in 1996 and 1997.

In 2000 Galás worked with Recoil, contributing her voice to the album Liquid. She's the lead vocalist on the album's first single, "Strange Hours", for which she also wrote the lyrics, and can be heard on "Jezebel" and "Vertigen" as a backing vocalist.

In August, 2004 Galás released the album Defixiones, Will and Testament: Orders from the Dead, an 80-minute memorial to the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian and Hellenic victims of the Turkish genocide. Defixiones refers to the warnings on Greek gravestones against removing the remains of the dead. In December 2004 Galás released, La Serpenta Canta a live album including material recorded between May 1999 & November 2002.

In 2005 Galás was awarded Italy's prestigious Demetrio Stratos International Career Award.

In 2008 Galás released Guilty Guilty Guilty.

Galás' vocals from her song "Orders from the Dead" were used on the album Aealo by Greek black metal band Rotting Christ, released in February 2010.

In 2011 she collaborated with Soviet dissident artist Vladislav Shabalin for "Aquarium", a sound installation inspired by the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The event took place at Leonhardskirche in Basel (Switzerland) from 12 to 19 June.*[1]
Film work

Galás has often worked in the film industry. She was the voice of the dead in The Serpent and the Rainbow. A cover of the Schwartz-Dietz song "Dancing in the Dark" appears in Clive Barker's film Lord Of Illusions during the closing credits. "Le Treizième Revient" and "Exeloume" appear on the soundtrack to Derek Jarman's The Last of England. She contributed vocals to Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film Dracula as a group of female vampires, as well as John Milius's 1982 film Conan the Barbarian as the voice of a witch. Excerpts from Galás' "I Put a Spell On You", "Vena Cava", "The Lord is My Shepherd", and "Judgement Day" can be heard in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.

1982 - The Litanies of Satan
1984 - Diamanda Galás, re-released as "Panoptikon"
1986 - The Divine Punishment
1986 - Saint of the Pit
1988 - You Must Be Certain of the Devil
1989 - Masque of the Red Death Trilogy: The Divine Punishment, Saint of the Pit, and You Must Be Certain of the Devil
1991 - Plague Mass (Live)
1992 - The Singer
1993 - Vena Cava (Live)
1994 - The Sporting Life, with John Paul Jones
1996 - Schrei X (Live)
1998 - Malediction & Prayer (Live)
2003 - La Serpenta Canta (Live)
2003 - Defixiones, Will and Testament (Live)
2008 - Guilty Guilty Guilty (Live)
2009-? - The Cleopatra Set (Live)


^ "Diamanda Galás". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
^ "Diamanda Galás". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
^ "Interview with Erasure". OM Magazine, Russia. Retrieved 1997-07-08.

Further reading

Batchelder, Edward. "The Politics of Disquiet: Diamanda Galás in conversation with Edward Batchelder." New Music Box — "People & Ideas in Profile." November 1, 2003. Interview and accompanying video.
Bluefat.com (eds.). "The Woman who knows too much: A conversation with Diamanda Galás, avenging queen of the damned." Interview from March 2008.
Fischer, Tobias. "Interview with Diamanda Galás." tokafi, August 24, 2005.
Golden, Barbara. "Conversation with Diamanda Galás." eContact! 12.2 — Interviews (2) (April 2010). Montréal: CEC.
Hellenism.net (eds.). Interview with Diamanda Galás. July 2009.
Sound installation "Aquarium"[2]. 12–19 June 2011.

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