Lilith was borne of the need to decolonize the body: to constellate grief, accept not-knowing, transform anguish, and consider submission and resistance, which hang in the air during sickness and spiritual descent. I needed to make the lowest physical (and darkest emotional) point in my life a transformative process. I wished to turn away from my limitations and toward my empowerment. I was twenty-one years old, a classical singer, sick, and at odds with my body, which spoke a language that, despite trying, I could not understand. In tandem, the cold reality of sexism revealed itself to me: more than a mere unpleasantry or some impersonal statistic, its presence shook me, evident in the culture surrounding me and, with sudden, heartbreaking awareness, in the most intimate parts of myself. How many times in a masterclass would a young soprano be praised first for her looks, and second for her artistry? How many operas will remain exempted and defended from accusations of misogyny? How many times have I regarded the mirror-as-reminder, that the gaze of another supplants my own? How many hours have I spent pursuing Beauty—whose Beauty?—, admonishing myself in the practice room for not being someone else’s ideal? Body. Bodymind. Integrated and complete. I wished to stop apologizing and stop pleasing; I want this body, this self, unapologetic and exquisite.
Lilith is a coming-together and a coming apart. It is rebirth through deconstruction. It is both process and product, conversation and performance. It is thinking through music and thinking about music, about bodies and the human component of sound. And it is about gender, power, objectification, and self-objectification; the urgent desire to tear apart Beauty and replace it with…what? Perhaps with personal vulnerability, or even a multiplicity of perspectives. Perhaps with the recognition that art is worth struggle and discourse, worth striving for and talking about. Mostly, Lilith is the pursuit of something Else, whatever and however that may be.
The five of us embarked on this project without answers, trying to push through something—a something that we are not alone in trying to make sense of; a something that our composers felt within themselves, restless. And so, more conversations. More nuances. More questions. Less certainty.
-Margaret, on behalf of Lilith
Margaret McNeal, soprano
Dylan Younger, clarinet
Kyle Stalsberg, viola
Jon Hanrahan, piano
Dan Reifsteck, percussion