Home > Uncategorized > “Haunted” by Poe: A 15th Anniversary Tribute

“Haunted” by Poe: A 15th Anniversary Tribute

Originally published in two parts on 25 October and 30 October 2013 as “’Haunted’ by Poe: A 13 Year Tribute,” this revised version consolidates both sections into a single posting about Annie “Poe” Danielewski’s criminally neglected album Haunted, released on this date in 2000. I intended to write this as a single posting, but it ended up becoming so large that I split it into two. The first half considers some broader contexts in which music forms, the contexts that one can discern about Haunted, some personal musings on how it reminds me in some parts of my favourite classical music, and some final thoughts about the album’s significance.

Music recordings from practically any genre have a history, whether broad, personal, or both. Many accounts about recordings read as fairly straightforward stories, with myths that end up forming around them, whether for individual songs or entire albums.

Some recordings are even more deeply embedded within their historical contexts, whether it’s Bruno Walter’s performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic, just before the Nazi Anschluss in 1938; Leonard Bernstein leading members of multiple orchestras in a relatively better-known Ninth Symphony, performed in Berlin with the fall of the infamous Wall in 1989; or U2 recording Achtung Baby just a year later in the same city, in some ways trying to articulate something about the then-current geopolitical situation, with decades of entrenched Cold War paranoia and posturing rapidly falling with Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe.

Of course, personal histories can go into albums as well. The Achtung Baby example also illustrates such a possibility, with U2 on the verge of breaking up during its creation, and emerging with a new sound and renewed strength to continue to the present day. Listeners might read even more personal individual histories into such recordings, depending on their contextual knowledge. For whatever reason, I do this with Bernstein’s recording of the final scene from Richard Strauss’ opera Salome, committed to disc with the Orchestre National de France and singer Montserrat Caballé in 1977.

Caballé herself is at her peak… one of the finest Salome performers, in my opinion. However, especially considering that “Bernstein does Salome” seems like a very promising listening prospect (and an object of obsessive searching in pre-Internet days, when I first heard about its existence), the result ends up sounding lackadaisical, with a sense of forced drama. I remember feeling disappointed upon hearing it the first time, expecting something akin to Bernstein’s more truly thrilling accounts of other works (as can be found in many of his Mahler recordings). But what also came to mind was the fact that Bernstein recorded this during a period of serious personal turmoil, which somehow seems to manifest itself on the recording; he wasn’t at his peak here, although the performances of five Strauss Lieder were up to Bernstein standard. Of course, my detection of such a residual personal history assumes that Bernstein somehow “embodies” the recording, or even the music, admittedly a risk considering all the people who also contributed to it (with Strauss as the original musical creator, and Oscar Wilde having providing the inspirational text).

With smaller groups of musicians, or even single ones, identifying embodied personal and historical contexts can seem much easier. Based on my engagement with it, such a tendency feels quite palpable on the album Haunted (2000), self-produced and assembled on a Macintosh 9600 by singer / songwriter Poe (née Anne Danielewski, with various sources giving 1967 or 1968 as her birth year ), and released on the very apt date of 31 October. And yet, befitting the album’s title and release date, identifying an easily graspable “essence” somehow seems elusive, too… almost like an entity we think we can see, but that manages to evaporate before we can say to ourselves, without a reasonable doubt, that we did indeed see or hear something discernible and real.

Haunted acts as a complement to the book House of Leaves (which, admittedly, I’ve yet to read), written by Poe’s brother Mark (1966 – ). Poe also makes the album a tribute to their father Tadeusz Danielewski (1921-1993), a renowned theatre director; a filmmaker; and an acting teacher whose students included such names as James Earl Jones, Martin Sheen, and Sigourney Weaver.

Some of the top search results on Google for the elder Danielewski include a Wikipedia article, an entry from Internet Movie Database (IMDB), and some obituaries in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times from around the time of his passing. Another interesting one is from a forum on the family website for a Huntington family, which has a photograph of Danielewski pointing his finger while directing something. As the forum posting states:

The gesture in this photograph fills me with nostalgia and affection. I have had that finger pointed at me in exactly that manner at some of the most meaningful, educational moments of my life as an artist.

One can gather from the photograph alone that Danielewski possessed a high level of intensity. By all accounts, it carried over into his homelife, including the way he related to his children. A 2001 Chicago Tribune joint interview with Poe and Mark describes the transient nature of their youth, given Danielewski’s keen interest in traveling the world to make his films and the financial instability that would result. Also mentioned is the toll taken on them (and, perhaps as well, determination instilled in them) by his high intellectual and artistic leanings. As Poe states:

My father was this extremely compelling artist-guy… Everything mundane was made epic by him. Could Mark have written this book without growing up with that guy? Absolutely not. He’d play us [Ingmar] Bergman films when we were 8 or 9, telling us, `Everything falls apart.’ Entropy — that was a big word for him — entropy. `Everything must rot,’ he’d say. `Trees rot, stars rot.’

Haunted likely wouldn’t have emerged without her father’s influence, either, whether intellectually or emotionally. A quote attributed to her on IMDB underscores the deleterious effect it could have as well:

I’d often find my dad’s voice echoing in my brain, paralyzing me while working. If you’re not careful, those critical voices can cut you off from doing anything.

For Haunted, the result is a meditation that centres on this complicated relationship, running the gamut of strong emotions that one could read as anger, defiance, acceptance, understanding, and love. Or, as Poe states in the joint interview with her brother, “youthful anger, if you allow it to be voiced, will mutate into a kind of respect and sadness.” This seems quite clear in the arc between the taunting “Not a Virgin” mid-album, and the almost ethereal melancholy of “If You Were Here” at the album’s conclusion (depending on which version one has; another concludes with a reprise of the seductive “Hey Pretty”).

Some of the songs have an ambiguous air. Whom exactly is Poe addressing? Her father? Other people in her life? Or, given the almost spectral nature of the album’s title and overall atmosphere, does Poe leave it deliberately vague? Whatever the case, Poe’s father himself contributes to the album as well, providing oblique or purportedly direct commentary on the songs and the ideas they express.

A few years after Danielewski’s passing, Poe and her brother found cassettes with some of their father’s musings on various topics. Excerpts from them ended up on Haunted, usually between songs or occasionally embedded within them. It’s interesting to note that, when the ability to record sound emerged near the end of the death-obsessed Victorian Era, one likely had the impression of hearing disembodied voices, almost akin to spirits. In the case of Haunted, which appeared around the end of the century that followed, someone who has passed appears every so often alongside the living Poe. This trait lends an already ghostly album an even greater degree of hauntedness. Danielewski’s influence and impact on his daughter is so great that Haunted requires his actual presence, and an apparently serendipitous discovery allowed this to happen.

My own serendipitous discovery of this album happened when my former spouse and I got together over 10 years ago, and she wanted to play it for me. I remember feeling impressed by it, as it sounded like no “rock” album (for want of a better shorthand phrase) I had heard before. No album is perfect, of course, but this was way up there for me overall; a tour de force in terms of scope, ambition, range of emotion, and quite possibly personal musical resonances tying with my “classical and opera” sensibilities. Interestingly, on a Ning page for Poe, one of the first things mentioned is the appreciation both Poe and her brother developed for music as a “universal language.”

I learned at a very young age that every one speaks a different language. Even if two people are both speaking English, their personal and cultural histories come into play—and not always amicably. Music, as a means of communication, can provide a way of transcending those differences.

Whether one thinks in that manner, or in a slightly different way with musics of the world potentially sharing some kind of universal grammar, it’s interesting how this notion of “universality” appears so early on in the text of Poe’s Ning page. Indeed, the number of musical genres attributed to Haunted indicates some degree of convergence among different genres. Wikipedia’s webpage for the album lists alternative rock, electronica, pop rock, and experimental rock. The page for Poe herself also includes trip hop, hard rock, and R&B. I suppose some might detect other influences. Of course, the last.fm page for Poe lists a riot of possible genres, including (given where her father came from) “Polish hip-hop.”

As mentioned before, while I’ve found nothing that refers specifically to “classical” influences on Poe, I can detect some vague affinities with such a “sound” as well. They’re admittedly subjective, and I run the risk of being completely wrong about them, as they seem to tie in with my own musical obsessions. And yet, I somehow know the connections are there, becoming clearer to me as I decided to revisit the album through headphones and more careful listening (which included pulling the headphone jack out slightly to pick up additional nuances). The posting will go into further analysis of such affinities, attempting to delve deeper into the album’s delights and dangers and exploring the album’s sublime aspects; how they make us contemplate the nature and complexity of our most important relationships, and how can they tie in with broader historical contexts, even stretching back many years and generations.

A couple of Octobers ago, I decided to listen to singer/songwriter Poe’s album Haunted (2000) after a rather long hiatus, following a conversation I had with someone at a coffee shop. We focused on music, politics, and the ways in which the two of them can intertwine. Somehow, I brought up Haunted, focusing on how Poe’s career became stalled for many years on account of some truly twisted legal b.s., precipitated by the merger of Atlantic Records (with whom Poe had a contract) with AOL Time Warner in 2001.

On the way home, while listening to some of the more high-octane sections of Richard Strauss’ orchestral piece Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”), I stopped it suddenly and decided to switch to the title track of Haunted instead. This was due in part to the coffee shop conversation, as well as the desire for something that still sounded as thrilling as I find Heldenleben, but somehow not as overpowering. And, with autumn finally arriving in its brisk and colourful glory, with leaves falling on yards and roads and houses, the atmosphere seemed just right.

To those who are familiar with the posturing of Strauss’ piece (actually somewhat tongue-in-cheek, given Strauss’ wry self-deprecating sense of humour, and yet still enough to pump one up), this whole idea might sound rather peculiar. How could one hear Heldenleben’s boisterous opening movement…

or the “in-your-face” attitude of the section after the protagonist puts his carping critics to rest, at the end of the metaphorical “Battlefield” sequence (starting around 5:50 in the clip below)…

and then move on to an “alternative” song written almost exactly a century later? One that’s more mellow, languorous, and ethereal than the aforementioned Heldenleben parts I was listening to?

Haunted has many other great songs, evocative of different moods and with varying soundscapes. My goal isn’t to do an in-depth analysis of each one. Rather, it’s more suitable to focus on the songs I find particularly compelling for one reason or another, which does a disservice to a rich and complex album like Haunted. That said, I suppose it’s better than Rolling Stone’s disgustingly dismissive and horrid review from around the time of Haunted’s release. This demonstrates that, whatever the genre or time period, musicians have carping critics that just don’t get it…

The first track, “Exploration B,” ties in immediately with the autobiographical nature of the album. Its vaguely mechanical aspect emphasizes the sense of alienation that we try to alleviate through various media technologies. In this case, Poe sings into her mother’s answering machine about her father’s passing (in real life, Poe’s parents divorced during her adolescence).

The title track begins with a few seconds of what sounds like “fuzzy” percussion and static, acting as a link to “Exploration B,” followed by a nocturnal melody that invokes a sense of unease. Over the course of four minutes, based on the lyrics and the musical structure, it moves from a sense of uncertainty, to one of renewed strength and resolution to move forward, despite (or perhaps even because of) being “haunted.”

This ambiguity is reflected in the song’s closing lyrics:

Come here
No I won’t say please
One more look at the ghost
Before I’m gonna make it leave
Come here
I’ve got the pieces here
Time to gather up the splinters
Build a casket for my tears

I’m haunted
(By the lives that I have loved)
I’m haunted
(By the promises I’ve made)
I’m haunted
By the hallways in this tiny room
The echos there of me and you
The voices that are carrying this tune

Ba da pa pa…

The music itself reflects a similar ambiguity as well, with dynamic harmonic progressions and complex instrumentation that (for me at least) evoke Strauss’ highly expressive and Romantic musical palette (which one can hear most directly in various film soundtracks). This becomes especially apparent after the rather interesting melody played by what sounds like a bass guitar (at “Build a casket for my tears,” around 3:35). Furthermore, a blog by someone named Kaylin provides an interesting analysis that mentions how the “background music [around 3:44-4:08, just after the aforementioned bass guitar riff] seems to form a wall of sound, it is hard to differentiate between the instruments.” Anyone who knows the term “wall of sound” will recognize its relevance to the discussion right away; it usually refers to music producer Phil Spector’s desire to create in rock music recording practice a “dense” and sonically deep soundscape, similar to that of the works of Richard Wagner, Strauss’ titanic forerunner in Austro-Germanic music.

Perhaps, then, the similarities I perceived in terms of instrumentation, harmonics, and sonic density account for the kinds of connections I made between Heldenleben and Haunted, and for the seemingly odd sequential listening choices I made a couple of Friday nights ago. I would even go as far as to say that there’s a heroic aspect in the song as well. Somehow overcoming one’s fears… or at least starting to do so, but with the aforementioned ambiguity pervading the song, even at its conclusion.

Here’s a live performance of “Haunted” that further underscores some of the rich harmonics latent in the song.

As a word of caution, I’m not saying that Haunted sounds like “classical” music in a broad sense. Poe doesn’t sing in an “operatic” style, either. Rather, the techniques sound similar to those employed by Strauss, but within a “rock” or “alternative” or whatever popular idiom (once again, broadly speaking). And it, in fact, sounds better than many “crossover” attempts to fuse the two genres all-too-explicitly. In any case, I perceive similar aural sensations of tension and release, probably due to the slight deviations from “expected” progressions and greater instrumental density that inform more chromatic composers like Strauss. Granted, once we’re familiar with a piece, whether it’s by Poe or Strauss, we expect them, but they aren’t as “predictable” as they would be in pieces with fewer flats and sharps.

So “Haunted” still carries some of the same aforementioned elements that I associate primarily with (but not exclusively to) Strauss, bringing the song to its compelling resolution… even if the “hauntedness” is a part of its ambiguously celebratory aspect. As well, the track technically concludes not with the song’s resolution, but rather with the first appearance of Poe’s father’s voice (What is it, Annie?), along with that of a little girl who seems to embody Poe as a child. This sets a precedent for other such segues that connect many of the songs on the album into a broader narrative.

Thinking about my own musical hauntings and obsessions, there are other interesting affinities I find with Strauss as well. One includes the conclusion of the anthem-like “Control” (the song after “Haunted”), which contains soft sequences of notes in the strings, starting around 5:25.

Acting as quite a contrast to the power of “Control” (which overall sounds more Heldenleben-like in terms of mood than “Haunted,” but not so much in terms of the musical traits mentioned earlier), the string notes seem to hint obliquely at the main motif from Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration). Interestingly, this accompanies Poe’s father talking about his apparent obsession with entropy. The motif appears throughout the piece, but most prominently in the final section, which begins around 18:50.

While not a fully-blown allusion, the sonic wisps of strings evoke some intriguing possibilities of an answer (or answers), which may ultimately remain elusive.

Aptly, musical entropy seems to ensue, a motif that also continues throughout the album… at least, as alluded to earlier, entropy in terms of definitive conclusions to the songs. If they don’t signify difficult issues, they at least represent some of the ways in which one tries to obscure them. Among the latter is “Not a Virgin,” also mentioned briefly in the previous posting, and which interestingly occupies the central point of the album.

The lyrics and the guitar pluckings, with notes that seem to bounce all around the scale (including some carefully-chosen “wrong notes”), lend the song an almost deliriously obscene aspect, in which one can find unbound petulance and posturing, directed at past and prospective partners. About 2/3 into the song, Poe’s father says something barely comprehensible; depending on the source, it’s either, Shut up, I tell you! Or, We’re not like that, you know!

Poe sneeringly laughs in response. Yeah, right… Whatever! Perhaps a remembrance of past disagreements with him, and whenever she had decided to start speaking her mind to him… that she’s all grown up, no longer afraid of his apparent and perceived power.

Interestingly, the chorus sounds less “atonal” (for want of a better term). Here are the lyrics:

I’ve been taken
I’ve been hung up
I get down and start it over again

I’ve been open
And I’ve been closed like a book
And burned down like a written sin…

A sense of enjoyment, perhaps… at least of an (at the risk of overusing the word) ambiguous sort? Maybe a sense of feeling like “flying,” at least sonically, alongside the aforementioned petulance and posturing? That’s what I hear, but something else as well. Oddly enough, there’s yet another Straussian connection, which is not quite as obvious as the one mentioned before, but still compelling. In an odd way, I connect the chorus with a specific section of Strauss’ opera Salome, where the title character realizes she desires to kiss the mouth of the prophet Jochanaan (or John the Baptist, or “Johnny” in U2’s “Mysterious Ways”). It isn’t the first time she says it in the clip below, right at the beginning, but a few seconds later, when she repeats, “It is your mouth I desire, Jochanaan” (Deinen Mund begehre Ich, Jochanaan).

In both “Not a Virgin” and Salome, they are miniature musical puzzles enclosed in a larger one (whether song or opera). Both have an ascending section of notes, which makes one wonder how they will resolve. Of course, neither entirely “resolves,” as they move on to the rest of their respective works. Of course, the fact that both works have something to do with sexual desire and virginity (possession or loss) seems an obvious extramusical connection.

Either that, or I need to lay off the Strauss for a while. Or get out more…

“Hey Pretty” continues in more or less a similar vein extramuscially, but it’s more seductive and inviting, again in both the lyrics and music. More or less like the enigmatic theme that appears at the opening of (and throughout) “Haunted,” it sounds nocturnal, but less spooky. Again, more seductive, and perhaps acting as an indication of being more comfortable in one’s own skin.

Going back to Salome, which has its share of similar nocturnal soundscapes, there’s a similar play with tonal conventions. It borders on the atonal, but not quite. This is especially the case in the scenes that prominently feature Narraboth (captain of the palace guard Salome’s mother and stepfather), whom Salome seduces to bring Jochanaan up from his underground prison. Just the opening notes (a few seconds or so from around 1:30), along with a minute-and-a-half or so from 12:00 (up to 13:30), should suffice for illustrating the point, even if it might sound a bit more “silvery” and “moonlike.”

Interesting similarities, but again I could be all wet, too. In any case, I know that I like “Haunted,” and I suspect some of it has to do with the richness of Poe’s own musical palette, which brings Strauss to my mind at least… even if it’s in a “very different” genre.

“Spanish Doll” is the third-to-last song (and fourth-to-last track) of the album. It, of course, evokes the kinds of sounds one might associate with Spain, including flamenco.

But for whatever reason, while listening to that song more recently, I went in reverse in terms of shifts between genres, as it reminded me of another piece from the Austro-Germanic tradition of composition. Rather than Strauss, however, it brought me to Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. More specifically, the third movement Scherzo, whose spooky soundscape seems to share some family resemblances to the mood of other songs within Haunted… including some of the ones that brought Strauss to mind.

There’s certainly a bit of this element in “Haunted,” as well as in the previously-mentioned chorus in “Not a Virgin.” Of course, it would be specious and hyperbolic of me to say that Poe embodies a continuation of the Austro-Germanic tradition of composition, somehow re-emerging in rock / alternative music. Rather, what I’m driving at is a separate notion; that there exist connections between the soundscape of the Mahler Seventh Scherzo and “Spanish Doll,” along with some other songs mentioned previously.

But how to explain this?

Well, in the last posting, I mentioned Poe’s interest in music as a “universal language”, which one could also consider an interest in “universality of musical grammar”, an underlying point of Leonard Bernstein’s 1973 series of lectures at Harvard. But even more compelling is how Bernstein does something similar, and more potentially relevant to Haunted, in his 1985 documentary The Little Drummer Boy. Bernstein had a special affinity for Mahler, and this documentary focuses on the “Jewishness” in his music. In the case of the third movement of the First Symphony, which features “Frère Jacques” played slowly (Langsam) as it portrays animals participating in a funeral march for a hunter, he provides an example of its potential connections with numerous types of music. In particular, the klezmer section. Bernstein playing relevant samples on the piano to illustrate his point:

There is undeniably a trace of gypsy, or Hungarian, or even Arabic, Moorish, in the use of that harmonic minor scale. To say nothing of the constant flirting between minor and major modes, so typical of Slavic music… And that’s one of Mahler’s trademarks, as is his use of other archaic modes, like the “oriental-sounding” frisson mode, which is distinguished among all over modes for being the only one to have an initial half-step, from which so much weepy-waily Arabic Moorish Spanish mazurka flamenco music has derived. But later on in this same funeral march movement, Mahler uses the frisson mode like this… But again, you have to ask, why is all that specifically Jewish, rather than gypsy, plus Arabic, plus Hungarian, plus Slavic, plus whatever? Well it must be precisely that whatever… this product of centuries of wandering, exile, adapting, re-adapting, assimilating, dissimilating; in a word, diaspora. I hear a sob in this music… a strangled sigh that simply sounds Jewish… in the most universal sense.

And in addition:

Mahler’s highly original music is basically the German, or Austrian, language inherited from Bach and Mozart and Schubert and Bruckner, but sometimes overlaid with echoes of the diaspora. Bittersweet communal memories of being strangers in so many lands throughout so many centuries.

While he might have used somewhat different terminology today to describe various musics, Bernstein’s analysis of the ways in which they inform Jewish music generally (and Mahler specifically) remains fascinating to contemplate. More can be heard here, with links to other clips from the documentary:

But what’s this to do with Poe? If the connections don’t seem apparent just from listening, recall the discussion earlier about aspects of the Mahler Seventh Scherzo that I perceive as sharing affinities with some of Poe’s songs. This connection to the Mahler goes back to my listening of “Spanish Doll.” In discussing the klezmer music from the third movement of Mahler’s First Symphony, Bernstein mentions its affinities with “Arabic Moorish Spanish mazurka flamenco music,” among numerous others. With the exception of mazurka, these connect with Spain and its history. Recall that, many centuries ago, Muslims occupied that part of the world, with various cultural influences remaining to this day.

Interestingly, Bernstein mentions the music of Slavic people as well. Of course, the Polish are considered Slavic, and Poe’s father, Tadeusz Danielewski, was originally from Poland. What`s more, mazurka, the “odd one out” in Bernstein’s quick listing of Spanish musics, is a “lively Polish dance.”

I can’t say that there is a direct connection among all these aspects, including the Spanish and Slavic musics, but the evidence seems sufficiently compelling for further contemplation. And yet, there are other connections that somehow make sense. Most obvious is the wandering that Poe’s father engaged in… as well as Poe herself, as when she left home in Utah for New York City at age 16, after her parents’ divorce. As mentioned in the first posting, which refers to a Chicago Tribune interview with Poe and her brother, Danielewski’s spouse and children wandered the world with him in his pursuit to make documentary films.

In the generally upbeat-sounding “Walk the Walk” from earlier in the album, Poe offhandedly throws out the following lines:

Hey everybody when my daddy died
He had a sad sad story written in his eyes…

It could refer to what Poe describes in the aforementioned interview:

At the end of his life, I think he hated himself and thought he was a failure, that he’d made some horrible decision by committing himself to the arts. I remember him telling Mark, `Nothing you can write is real. It’s worthless.’

Another possibility relates to what Danielewski likely witnessed during his youth. In 1795, Poland ceased to exist, its lands remaining in the hands of the Prussian (eventually German), Austrian (eventually Austro-Hungarian), and Russian empires. With the end of World War I, just a few years before Danielewski’s birth, Poland was reconstituted, with the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary, as well as the collapse of the Russian Empire at the hands of Communist revolutionaries. When Danielewski was 18, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Soon after that, Germany invaded Poland, starting the outbreak of World War II in Europe. As Germany wreaked horrible vengeance upon Poland, Danielewski joined the Polish Underground. As part of the Warsaw Uprising, he was arrested by the Nazis. He was sent to a prison camp, where he remained until he was liberated by American soldiers.

These last few sentences encapsulate several years of personal history, but one can only imagine what Danielewski witnessed during that time. Whether or not that was a part of the sadness alluded to by Poe, we might never know. In any case, setting aside a deconstruction of my own idiosyncratic listening preferences, there’s another aspect as well. While Haunted is intended to tie in with Poe’s brother’s House of Leaves, it’s a more explicitly personal album, too. The range of emotions evoked by both music and lyrics make it an overlooked treasure in the genre of “rock” (broadly speaking), especially with the broader sense of history it also carries, and how it can carry over into one’s personal life.

With all this in mind, it now seems appropriate to mention the final two songs on the original album. But they should be listened to as one song, as they both bring some sense of resolution and closure to all that came before it. For me, they’re among the pieces of music that can evoke strong emotions at their very mention, or even just thinking about them; others include Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), both written near the ends of both composers’ lives, as well as “My Weakness” by Moby. I won’t bring such connections into this discussion, however, as I’ve already noted numerous ones already between Poe’s songs and works by Strauss and Mahler. The same as well with the sense of “wandering, exile, adapting, re-adapting, assimilating, dissimilating” (to re-quote Bernstein on Mahler and his apparent influences) that also seems to pervade Haunted (What’s more, “Amazed” includes a sitar as well, broadening the scope of the album’s influences). I think they’re all implicit in the text and subtext of the album`s last two songs as well; despite her complicated relationship with her father, Poe finds a way to express respect and love for him. And what makes it even more compelling is the riot of music and lyrics and emotions that come before the otherworldly gentleness of “If You were Here.” And “Amazed” acts as the crucial bridge, melting seamlessly into it:

I’m certain many of us can relate to this notion as well, too, especially in the closest relationships we have… or had. How we miss someone close to us when they’re gone, or anticipate how we will feel when it happens. Or anticipating, when our time passes, whether we will be missed by the people we care (or cared) about, even if we might have somehow screwed up our relationships with them. Can we find the compassion to walk someone else’s walk (whether their personal history, or the broader circumstances of their sociocultural contexts), or at least to understand them… and even possibly use that experience to forgive them their trespasses, whether large or small, against us? And what can we do to be better to those we care about?

Whatever I might think, Haunted isn’t an album that will redeem humanity if people just listen to it, and (even if it came out in late 2000, less than a year before 9/11) it probably won’t be considered a definitive “concluding work” musically of the 20th century. But it’s certainly a compelling album that offers many rewards to listeners willing to embark on an intense musical journey, with a deep emotional range and sense of history, and let it seep into their souls.

Please listen.

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