The Liberated Chanteuse


Alone Together

Running time 4:53

by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz

In the Hospital

by Patricia Goedicke

Performed as two benefits for Breast Cancer research, The Liberated Chanteuse was written with an emphasis on older women and the challenges of aging – especially the trauma of cancer. Moving from the shock of diagnosis -- the tears -- to the anger that can happen when one’s life becomes “medicalized,” the piece resolves on the compassion, care, and goodness that can be realized through the process.  The centerpiece of the work is a progressive, jazz interpretation of the poem, In the Hospital by Patricia Goedicke who granted permission to put the text to music. In addition to the cancer theme, The Liberated Chanteuse frees the performer and the songs from the typical sexist context in which torch songs are often sung. For example, many torch songs are usually about a woman who is head over heels in love with a guy even though he cheats on her, beats her up, and then walks out.  And although she is completely miserable, she still wants him back. When some of the torch songs were first written, this was considered romance! Today we'd call it pathology. The performance points this out in various ways. Yet it also takes the onus off the individual and looks to the social structure as a significant component in how women (and men) think of themselves and their love relationships. Indeed, many of the torch songs came out of a time when women were much more dependent on men, and didn't have the options or the opportunities this post second-wave, feminist era provides. The work also speaks to the present when love songs don't simply have to be about men and women loving each other. They can be about men loving men and women loving women. Overall, torch songs are deconstructed and reconstructed in The Liberated Chanteuse. An excerpt from the progressive-jazz interpretation of the Goedicke poem is presented here.

In the Hospital by Patricia Goedicke

When they came at me with sharp knives

I put perfume under my nose,

When they knocked me out on the operating table

I dreamed I was flying

When they asked me embarrassing questions

I remembered the clouds in the sky,

When they were about to drown me

I floated

On their inquisitive glances I drifted

Like a leaf becalmed in a pool.

When they laid harsh hands on me

I thought of fireworks I had seen with you,

When they told me I was sick and I might die

I left them and went away with you to where I live,

When they took off my right breast

I gave it to them.

The Liberated Chanteuse

A Special Event to Benefit Breast Cancer Research through the UCLA Jonsson and USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Centers

October 7, 1997

The Pacific Design Center

West Hollywood, CA

The Liberated Chanteuse

The Mermaid Tavern  1996

Topanga Canyon, CA


Gary Nesteruk  Piano

Rod Harbour  Drums

Don Kasper  Bass