Sonic Magic with Zeena
In this week's 'Rock is Lit' podcast episode #22, Christy Alexander Hallberg invites Zeena back to the show to explain how and why certain music can have profound effect when composed and/or performed in combination with spiritual and magical practices.
To listen, open the link at-->Rock is Lit, Episode 22 with Zeena Schreck
Speaking of magic and mysticism in music, this Friday, March 3rd, Bandcamp is waiving the artists' fees on all music sales! If you haven't already, this Friday's a good day to purchase Zeena's music, as well as your other favourite artists at Bandcamp!
You can also follow Zeena's Bandcamp to get notified of upcoming new music releases!
[posted by t.m.]
Big Thanks to AFRICAN PAPER:
German online music magazine African Paper posted a great review of Zeena's 'Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau". Scroll below for the English translation of the original German language review.
Digital downloads of the album are at Zeena Schreck Bandcamp.
Perhaps one has to be well-travelled to realize that they're one of those people who don't settle for the illusion of home - I'm talking about an illusion here insofar as the ideas you have about your own life, that are always illusory in a certain way - you can or want to let those illusions in. The famous silent film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau wrote to his mother from Tahiti, where he was shooting his last film Tabu, that he only felt homesick to a limited extent, because no country, no house, no person's companionship could really give him any sense of home. He became particularly aware of this on the island at the other end of the world, which he felt bewitched by.
The compact but intense sound collage-like album, which Zeena Schreck - formerly of Radio Werewolf - composed about a fictional post-biographical episode surrounding Murnau, with accompanying videos by a certain Tnopud Salocin, begins with an excerpt of this letter, appropriately framed by the sounds of tropical tides and delivered in a slowed down, androgynous voice. The haunting tale that forms the backdrop to the music is about the abduction of the director's head from the cemetery in Stahnsdorf near Berlin - something that some may think is an urban legend but that actually happened a good ten years ago, and so the master's homelessness outlasts his physical life.
A feature of the album is the constant blending of the director's life and work. “Ill Omens”, whose melange of alienated, perhaps sampled instruments is reminiscent of a slightly sepia-toned grey, could be a congenial score for the bizarre skull robbery, and yet the tension, the coarse-grained and flickering humming and hissing, after which only the death bell remains, is reminiscent of many a film scene from Murnau's oeuvre. "A Drive up the Coast" is like a peaceful little miniature [fairground]: organ and waltz rhythm evoke a carnival atmosphere, and when you hear the sound of rain and the honking of a vintage car toward the end, you might even think of California, where Zeena herself spent her early years.
While the first three tracks have an effect of a soft introduction, the rest of the compositions get more to the point. With ritualistic percussion by drummer Hisham A. Bharoocha, hand drums and rattles, odd reverbs and orchestral quotes, "Tabu," which contains lyrics from the film of the same name, is a furious celebration of the dark side of the exotic, and contains in Zeena's recitation the warning to respect the eponymous taboo. In “The Phantom Bridge”, which draws from a pivotal scene from Murnau's best-known film Nosferatu, the voice sweeps like murmurs through a room, flanked by dusty bright bells. In a whisper, the voice tells of unknown places and things, but also of life leaving the body, while water ripples in the background. For anyone familiar with Zeena's background in Vajrayana Tantric Buddhism, entirely different dimensions might open up here, in the vampire's quotes.
In the final track, “Endlich Daheim”, which opens with the rattling of an old film projector, and whose lyrics are by Zeena herself, the whole spooky story about the open grave is revealed, in which the director seems to have actually found his home, decades after his physical death.
“Bring Me The Head Of F.W. Murnau” is a beautiful, concise piece of music that wraps the aura of old, fantastic film scores in a delightfully experimental guise, and at the same time doesn't seem implausible for a second. All this and the appreciation of the master is in no way disturbed by the fact that the signature of the musician herself is always present and sometimes becomes explicit through small and not so small hints. The already mentioned echo of a faded fairground somewhere in Karloffornia and the reference to tantra could also be purely coincidental and a projection of the reviewer. Less so, however, is the title which refers to an early Radio Werewolf release (and indirectly to another classic film, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) - but at that time it was about the head of an unpleasant journalist.
When past and present, life and afterlife, one's own and the other's are intertwined in this way, it becomes clear once more how illusionary the perceptions of time, space and what one takes for the self are in the end. The fact that you can still feel Zeena and the world of Murnau throughout is not a contradiction in terms. -admin/African Paper
[Original German Version HERE.]
[posted by t.m.]
Celebrating the 100 year anniversary of F.W. Murnau's classic film Nosferatu:
Beginning Friday 4th of March, Bandcamp is waiving their artist fees for 24 hours - a perfect time to order Zeena's first solo release, 'Bring Me The Head Of F.W. Murnau: A Ghost Story in Six Acts,' available at Bandcamp in both digital download or in a digipak CD limited edition (including download code).
About the Album:
After a long career in collaborative music activities, this is Zeena Schreck's first entirely solo recording project, placing the collector value of this project in historical context. (To order from Bandcamp, click here or on the picture below.)
Released on March 11, 2020, 'Bring Me The Head Of F.W. Murnau: A Ghost Story in Six Acts,' was inspired by news reports that the director's head had been stolen from his grave in Berlin.
The tone poems in this recording are sonic necromancy, reflecting the transition from the end of Murnau's worldly life to what his disembodied consciousness may have experienced in the afterlife. Many of the intricate sounds heard in these tracks were captured in field recordings at Murnau's former residence in Berlin and at his grave site in Stahnsdorf, Germany.
All music and vocals composed and performed by Zeena Schreck.
Genres: Ambient, Avantgarde, Electroacoustic, Experimental, Minimalism, Sound art, Soundscapes, Tonkunst, Tone poems.
For more details on the backstory, and the making of the recording, here's an in-depth interview with Zeena by Nicholas Diak about this recording.
To order, click the picture below .
[posted by Thomas]
“Big Thanks to my dear friend Fabiano Gagliano of the band Sacred Legion for adding me in the acknowledgments of their fantastic new debut album 'Silent Lineage'! At Fabiano's request, both the band name and album title came to me through a divination for the purposes of “christening” the newly formed band. And the rest is history, as they say!
[Scroll down for my review!]
Though 'Silent Lineage' is their first album, these well-seasoned musicians have decades-long experience in previous European-based Deathrock and Punk bands. Specifically, Fabiano Gagliano (also a visual artists) is formerly of Chants of Maldoror, Mirko is formerly of Human Disease, and Tony Volume is formerly of Idol Lips. The lads hail from Italy, yet Gagliano, in keeping with the necromantic and nostalgic themes of the album, conjures vocal qualities of deceased cult singers like Marc Bolan, Syd Barrett and Benjamin Orr. The original music in this album reflects an eclectic mix of '80s genres from deathrock, classic goth-rock and post-punk. Yet the music also hints of '70s influences like glam rock, prog rock, early neo-martial and industrial music with choice bits of sampling from cult films that film buffs will enjoy. The stark and mysterious cover art is Gagliano's creation. All lyrics are contained within the CD booklet. An excellent debut for this great new band!
My best wishes and blessings to all involved!
Check it out at batcaveproductions.bandcamp.com/album/the-silent-lineage
Released by Bat-Cave Productions
Exclusive in-depth seven page interview with Zeena in the April '21 edition of Derailed, a new magazine for cynics, renegades and survivors of the unimaginable, describes the article: "The Artist Discusses Inspiration, Early Life & 'The State of Suchness.'"
"My leaving my birth country wasn't just about my family. It was about the country itself. It's about what I went through with that national witch-hunt, the whole experience." -Zeena Schreck
To read online, go to Featured Story in the April 2021 Issue.
Order the print edition at: www.derailedmagazine.com/
NEW Review and Interview: Zeena Schreck and her solo debut Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau, by Nicholas Diak
Many thanks to Nicholas Diak for this fantastic review and exclusive interview with Zeena about her new music! [Re-posted below from the original at Heilige Tod - Interdisciplinary Analysis of Neofolk Music.]
Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau can be purchased digitally at Bandcamp or in physical format at this site.
Review and Interview: Zeena Schreck and her debut Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau
Tuesday, August 4, 2020 by Nicholas Diak
During the summer of 2015, the skull of German silent film director F. W. Murnau was stolen from his tomb. Remnants of wax from lit candles present at the scene spurred the hypothesis that occult work was afoot while the macabre nature of Murnau’s stolen skull drew parallels to his legendary horror output, in particular his influential expressionist film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922).(1)
Shortly thereafter, inspired by the event, multimedia artist Zeena Schreck announced a “sequel to Radio Werewolf’s mystical, musical piece Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera” that would be appropriately titled Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau.(2) Five years later, Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau (BMTHOFWM) was released in March of 2020.
BMTHOFWM marks the first studio release proper of Zeena performing music solo. Prior to this EP, Zeena had been a part of many musical collaborations and projects, such as Radio Werewolf, and had released some of her live ritual performances, such as her appearance at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, on compilations and YouTube. Per Zeena in regard to releasing a concept album instead of an album of her ritual performances:
“I definitely have future recording plans which will be in the areas of dark ambient and ritual music. [T]his first solo release was experimental in the sense I'd never done such a precise theme as concept album like this before. I like working within specific parameters though. Even in past recordings, when it might not seem obvious, I've almost always had in mind a particular framework within which to create the music. But this album was much more of a specific theme than I would normally do.”(3)
BMTHOFWM certainly has a thematic laser focus, concentrating on Murnau and some of his films, while capturing a certain silent film aesthetic, though paradoxically, with sound. Zeena pulls this feat off – a silent film with no images but instead with sounds – by incorporating elements of field recordings, minimalist-industrial, exotica, spoken words, and incantations, in conjunction with the brilliant German expressionist/Caligari style artwork that emblazons the release’s cover art that evokes some of the classic horror posters of the era.
Though Murnau is the subject of the EP, the filmmaker did not have a strong influence on Zeena at the beginning of the project:
“[Murnau was] not a huge influence. It was only his films Nosferatu and Faust that I had known and really liked since childhood, when they'd play on late night TV. I knew he'd worked with the occultist artist/architect Albin Grau on the sets for Nosferatu but working with an occultist doesn't automatically make you one. There is also the tie-in of my last name being the same as the actor who played Count Orlok, Max Schreck, in Murnau's most famous film Nosferatu. I'd also remembered the scandalous rumors about his untimely death that my godfather Kenneth Anger wrote of in Hollywood Babylon, rumors which, by the way, I've since learned weren't true. But aside from these things, I hadn't much knowledge of his life prior to embarking on this project. I know far more about him now.
Originally, I'd planned that this [release] was only going to be a single; not more than a two-track novelty piece inspired by a quirky event. But then, as I began researching more about Murnau and put flesh on the bones of this project, certain metaphysical portals started opening up. More material for more tracks developed than could be narrowed down to just a single. Yet I didn't want this to be a full album either. So, the logical middle ground was to make it an EP.”(4)
Through the process of researching Murnau, Zeena also visited the director’s home and his grave, gathering field recordings that would be incorporated into the compositions of BMTHOFWM:
“[I] intermingled various sounds from both locations in just about every track except the opening one, ‘Letter to Mother.’ Some of those field recordings were used in a straightforward manner, such as a fox barking, birds singing, the sound of some machinery or a metal gate clanging. Those can be detected fairly clearly enough. But other sounds used, I distorted in the editing to achieve certain auditory effects.
When I visited Murnau's grave, for the photo shoot to the CD, I was focused on getting the photos but hadn't intended on capturing field recordings at the same time. I'd already compiled field recordings taken at the former Murnau house in Berlin, which coincidentally happens to be right in my neighborhood. In addition to that, I'd painstakingly searched for specific samples corresponding to the exact years of Murnau's creative life and his death, such as the sound of the precise year and make of the car he was in when it crashed, leading to his death. Or a snippet of a song that would've been popular at parties in Hollywood that he may have attended. Things like that.
So, getting back to the cemetery field recordings: It was only by fluke, while taking photos at Murnau's grave, that my camera accidentally engaged the video record. It wasn't until later that day, when downloading my data from the day's shoot, I realized I'd inadvertently gotten some unexpected and pretty interesting sounds while at the grave. Luckily, there was still time to mix those in before the final edit and mastering. For some unknown reason, I've always had strange energy clashes with electronic devices; something's always malfunctioning with them in my case. I've come to expect these ‘accidental’ recordings of environment sounds, with both my audio recorder and my cameras video setting. Whenever it happens, I always discover something interesting, humorous or just uncanny and bizarre that gets added to my sound library. This reveals how much is occurring all the time that we humans normally filter out but which, when cut out of the normal flow of everyday life, can be wonderful auditory meditations. I'm sure that those unexpected sounds at the cemetery made a difference in enhancing an underlying eerie quality to the whole thing.”(5)
Zeena’s field recordings directly tie into her concept of “sonic necromancy.” These field recordings she gathered communicate an additional essence of Murnau that would not have been present otherwise:
“Sound art differs from conventionally composed music in that soundscapes are generally thought to be like paintings done with sound rather than matter. They may or may not necessarily tell a story. In this case, however, there is story. Between many years of magical ritual practices, as well as early-life theater and film training, which includes techniques in character development, sense memory and improvisation, a fusion of disciplined training in all these areas creates conducive conditions for summoning of the dead. While my magical training and ritual experience is probably more generally acknowledged than my theater training, I mention the latter only in relation to this music project because I'm playing various characters or roles throughout. Whether we are hearing Murnau's own thoughts in the opening and closing tracks, or the female Angel of Death who's come to usher Murnau away from this worldly experience, or the ‘bardo beings’ who inhabit the intermediate state between the end of one life and the beginning of the next. All of those voices are different characters revealing different levels of metaphysical existence and understanding.”(6)
If BMTHOFWM sounds like a multifaceted release, it is because it certainly is. Though the EP only contains six tracks and clocks in at roughly 18 minutes, it is compact in its sound design, atmosphere, and ambitious scope.
The first track of the EP, “Letter to Mother,” has Zeena reciting a letter Murnau wrote to his mother against a background of crashing waves. In this track, Zeena channels her aforementioned acting chops, mimicking a deeper voice that would be Muranu. It is a somber recital that sets a melancholy mood that permeates the release.
Track two, “Ill Omens,” runs with this melancholy with a peppering of something menacing or foreboding. It is a track that is minimal on sound, but high on atmosphere. Closing one’s eyes, one can picture an old film with a scene of tiptoeing through a cave or a dimly lit forest, illuminated day-for-night style, while a Harryhausen-esque monster waiting to emerge from the shadows.
The third track, “A Drive up the Coast,” chronicles the last moments of Murnau as he died in an auto accident while traversing the Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Barbara in 1931. The track begins jovial, with organ music composed by Zeena that evokes a funfair or a period appropriate party in the background. Sounds of an open car window woosh by before (spoiler alert!) the sounds of accelerations, followed by a scream, tires screeching, and a crash.
Track four, “Tabu,” is a reference to Murnau’s final film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) that was released shortly after his death. An early tiki film, the story depicts two lovers, Reri and Matahi, as they try to escape Reri’s fate of being made into a sacred maiden for their island’s deities. The first half of the song is the most industrial-sounding music on the EP, with some minimalist piston-percussions. The last half of the song switches gears to the exotica genre, with primitive drumming and shakers, that channels the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter. Over the music, Zeena, reaching into her experience of performing incantations, recites the same decree that was uttered in Tabu that denoted Reri as forbidden, and not to be touched by any man.
“The Phantom Bridge” is the EP’s fifth track and this one digs right into the vampiric roots Murnau is best known for. A spoken word track, Zeena recites some of the inter titles from Murnau’s Nosferatu which in turn were taken from Stoker’s Dracula. The music in this track is, as the title suggests, ghostly, with spirituals wisps, shackling noises, tiny bells and chimes.
The EP’s final track, “Endlich Daheim,” is perhaps the most ambitious track on the album, that not only underscores Murnau’s career, but demonstrates Zeena at her most artistic. Prior songs on the EP has Zeena reciting texts from other sources while “Endlich Daheim” contains both original organ music and lyrics by Zeena, sung in a haunting and beautiful style. A sound of a 1920s projector starting up beings the track with the music proper evoking the feelings of being at a funeral - Murnau’s funeral - with Zeena’s poetry acting as a eulogy.
The end result is that BMTHOFWM is a superb solo debut for Zeena and an excellent experimental release all around. Atmospheric, haunting, and magical, but also cinematic and fully versed in filmic pop culture that it celebrates. Born from a macabre act of stealing the skull of Murnau, the EP easily could’ve embraced grotesquery or morbidness, but instead the CD comes off as sincere. Aside from these observations, Zeena herself had her own goals for the release:
“Well, after a few years of unexpected obstacles, as well as unexpected serendipitous occurrences which led to creating much more material for this than I'd originally planned, I guess the main thing I wanted to accomplish was getting it completed at all! Jokes aside, the fact is, there's still someone out there who has taken and kept the skull from Murnau's grave. This is at the heart of the project. I wanted to pull all of the unusual elements surrounding this case together into one cohesive creative expression. The music in this project is created to facilitate opening the mind to all possible questions surrounding that event, and even to, on a transcendental and metaphysical level, provide even bigger answers.”(7)
Five years after the act, the mystery of who absconded with Murnau’s skull remains unsolved. Of course, thoughts have drifted to Schreck as a possible culprit, which she both playfully and adamantly dismisses: “[S]ince many have already jokingly asked me – let's nip this in the bud right here – NO, it wasn't me!”(8)
Sincere thanks for Zeena Schreck for allowing me to interview her for this writeup and providing the images. All images used in this article are copyrighted by Zeena Schreck and used with permission. More information about Zeena and her projects can be found at the following websites and social medias:
1. Nigel M Smith, “Nosferatu director’s head stolen from grave in Germany,” The Guardian, last modified July 14, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/14/nosferatu-director-head-stolen-germany-grave-fw-murnau.
2. “Coming Soon From Zeena Schreck: Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau,” Heathen Harvest, last modified July 21, 2015, https://heathenharvest.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/coming-soon-from-zeena-schreck-bring-me-the-head-of-f-w-murnau/.
3. Zeena Schreck, email message to author, June 16, 2020.
“Coming Soon From Zeena Schreck: Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau.” Heathen Harvest. Last modified July 21, 2015. https://heathenharvest.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/coming-soon-from-zeena-schreck-bring-me-the-head-of-f-w-murnau/.
Schreck, Zeena. Bring me the Head of F. W. Murnau. KCH KCHCD01. 2020. CD.
Smith, Nigel M. “Nosferatu director’s head stolen from grave in Germany.” The Guardian. Last modified July 14, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/14/nosferatu-director-head-stolen-germany-grave-fw-murnau.
Posted by Nicholas Diak at 6:58 PM
NEW Release! Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the LA Punk Scene by Mikey Bean Featuring Extensive Radio Werewolf Interview
At long last, IT'S ALIVE! Congratulations to Mikey Bean for his long awaited mammoth, encyclopedic documentation of the roots of the Los Angeles deathrock scene, which was an integral part of the later goth movement. Within the 630 page history, is full chapter on Radio Werewolf which includes an exclusive interview with Zeena (sample pages below).
Can be purchased NOW directly at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/mikey-bean/phantoms-the-rise-of-deathrock-from-the-la-punk-scene/paperback/product-24320734.html
Book description and product details in screenshot below.