About this time last year, The Debutante Hour finally got around to recording one of the very first songs that we ever played in public. And now it’s that time of year again, the perfect time to express that creeping sense of dread that often accompanies the onset of the season. I’m actually really looking forward to Christmas this year, but I think that this song captures something essential about its approach. Listen here: I’m Afraid of Christmas.
I feel it coming on.
I’m feeling wrong right out of the box.
Waking up makes me sad;
I forget why I want what I want.
Every spare moment I’m obsessing
about all the time I spent messing
up, which is just about every relationship I’ve ever had including my parents and probably god.
I feel it coming on,
and it doesn’t make any sense since
my mom’s a Jehovah’s Witness
I’m afraid of Christmas
I’m afraid of it every year.
Every year I think I can beat it; it’s just time.
And I’ve been through time before.
I’m Afraid of Christmas
not for what I won’t get but for what I can’t let go
like last February, like my dad who died eight years ago,
like my favorite hat I remembered as I shut the cab door, that was 2004.
Like everytime someone I loved wanted something from me that I couldn’t give but really I wanted to, which is just about every relationship I’ve ever had including my parents and probably god.
It makes me feel like my life is something warm and satisfying that’s not happening to me but to those nice people over there.
Ex-boyfriends and other things I used to believe in they all start to bother me more that it’s almost Christmas.
I’ve been fooled by this before.
Was it Bing (damn you Bing!)
who infected my heart with things expected
like the notion of some clear emotion —
something you can just feel when you feel it.
That good is just good and everyone has it.
And longing’s just long, and it’s meant to end.
And all you have to do is listen for sleigh bells in the snow…
now I know…
I’m so afraid of Christmas.
You should have seen me last year.
I almost didn’t survive Christmas.
But I’m glad I did, because I get to be with you this year.
I’ve gone into a networking frenzy today, and finally signed up for Twitter (see sidebar).
I also set up a Maria Sonevytsky youtube channel, where I’ve posted three short videos from some of my fieldwork in Ukraine in 2008-2009.
What prompted this manic surge of virtual activity? One word: Prezi.
I saw a presentation at the Society for Ethnomusicology conference last November that blew my mind, not necessarily for the ethnomusicology of it (though I recall that it was actually cool), but for the swooping, soaring visual design of the presentation. Definitely not Power Point. I asked the young woman what the program was called – Prezi – and then forgot about it until yesterday.
Yesterday, I sat down to make my dissertation defense presentation – because that is happening on FRIDAY, hip hip! – and attempted to make my power point program swoop into my map of Ukraine. No dice. My brain fog lifted for just long enough that I remembered of a swooping visually-driven presentation program, and I tracked it down on the internet. Prezi. Free for educators! Yes!
And then, excited to make something visually alluring, I started combing through field materials, discovering gems that I haven’t listened to recently. And I made an insane (but visually engaging) Prezi presentation, 10% of which I will actually be able to show on Friday. But never mind! I also edited together a few short videos, now on my youtube channel, and then decided that the most appropriate course of action was to tweet to nobody about that.
The first film I edited together features Mykhailo Nechay, the last Hutsul mol’far (shaman), who was brutally murdered in his home July. (There’s a detailed Ukrainian-language article about the murder here.) I visited him numerous times over the last three years, sometimes bringing my American friends to have their future’s prophesied – he is also one of the main subjects of the first chapter of my dissertation. I was really shocked and disturbed to learn of this tragedy. He was an individual with wide and inclusive beliefs, a practitioner of native and spiritual healing who considered himself both Christian and pagan. I use the language of Ukrainian Christianity to say, Вічная пам’ять.
Just back from a week in the Carpathians, where I had an opportunity to visit with some of the key figures in my dissertation on the Hutsul side, attended a rainy festival (Polonynske Lito) and finally carpe diemed up to the top of Pop Ivan on possibly the most ideal day of hiking weather this year. Today, Franz and I bade farewell to Alison Cartwright, who is flying home and then making her way to her new Colorado home.
We’ve decided to stay in L’viv this week so that I can attend a four day singing workshop with Natalka Polovynka (of Майстерня Пісні) and see the Yara Arts Group performance of “Raven” that I managed to miss in NYC. Afterwards, we’ll mosey to Simferopol by way of Odesa.
First full day in Kyiv was a blast – I got to sing, see old friends, sample various green borschts around town. AND I just got exciting news – a confirmation that five Crimean Tatar traditional musicians and two dancers will be coming up from Crimea to perform at our exhibit opening on June 7th at the Honchar Museum in Kyiv. Apparently, they will also be traveling with many qurabye, those exquisite and crumbly Crimean Tatar cookies! We have been instructed to have tea on hand…
This is the site where I’ll keep a log of all my current and past projects. You’re invited to look around and listen. If you want to get involved with the Chornobyl Songs Project, if you’re interested in a copy of my M.A. Thesis, or if you’d like to book The Debutante Hour, you should contact me.