PhantomFemme is a Queer, intersex femme artist and activist in long-term relationships with multiple Disabilities. I ended up that way because I’ve been involved in music, mainly singing although bits of piano and violin too, for as long as I or anyone else can remember. I’ve also been telling stories since I was little as well. And, as I went through the process of growing up in a Disabled body/mind (huge thanks to Eli Clare for the term), then getting introduced to Feminist, Queer and Critical Disability theories in my academic work and becoming involved in various kinds of activism, my music and story-telling became deeply entwined with my desire to work for social justice. Though, this built on the desire I’d already had since I was ten to use the power of music and story-telling as tools for liberation. At that time, of course, I fell completely in love with the story and character of the Phantom, especially as portrayed in the (ahem, original staging of the) Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical! As you’ll read elsewhere here, Phantom was a powerful force for liberation for me as I struggled with ableism. But it achieved that without being in any way preachy! It allowed me to express what I was experiencing, which I often had no other language for, and gave me loads to think about over the years especially with regard to gender, class and race, all while being awesome entertainment! 🙂 So that’s what I hope for my own art, my music and my writing, to achieve.
A prof back in undergrad once said to the composition class I was taking “write what you want to hear”. And it’s advice I’ve taken to heart. LOL I wasn’t finding the music or the stories out there that I longed to hear, so I broke down and started writing them myself! My music I describe as “music-theatre punk”, because it grows out of my love for the great musicals of the 1980s and since, especially, of course, for Phantom! But it also reflects the wide range of other stuff I listen to. 🙂 And since a musical can be written in any style or genre, that gives me wide latitude to experiment with different sounds!
Musical Influences (so far, and in no particular order except for the primacy of Phantom):
Phantom of the Opera (original ALW stage-production), Les Miserables (especially as it sounded back in the 80s and early 90s), early Sarah Brightman, 80s and 90s Pop/Rock, every choir I’ve ever sung in, Evanescence’s first album Fallen, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Stratovarius, Arvo Part’s choral music, Tchaikovsky and other Romantic period music, James Horner’s film scores, the musical Fun Home, Leonard Cohen, the awesome activist roots/rock band Emma’s Revolution, the musical Jekyll and Hyde (especially the early concept-album with Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder), Andrew Lloyd Webber (lots of individual songs heard out of the context of the shows they come from), lots of other songs from musicals heard on the radio and/or Spotify!
My writing, meanwhile, when its not academic, ranges between magic realism and outright fantasy, LOL probably the result of having grown up in a NeoPagan household (though, I myself ended up a Christian, if an eclectic and probably heretical one as far as certain traditional, exclusionary doctrines go). And I also sometimes write poetry. And like my music, my writing reflects my favourite reading!
Writing influences (again, so far and in no particular order of importance except for Phantom stuff):
The original novel of Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, countless Phantom Phanfics, Nancy Drew mysteries (don’t laugh, I grew up on them), 3 Investigators mysteries (ditto), Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, Ursula Leguin (especially her short stories), countless Star Wars fanfics, the description tracks from countless described movies, Elizabeth Kostova, countless short stories and poets I’ve stumbled across, the amazing short-story collection entitled The Lone Ranger and Tanto Fist-Fight in Heaven, Prof. Rowley’s Fantasy and Topography of Imagination course.
Basically, though, whether I’m writing a song, a poem, a short-story or a novel (no, I haven’t actually gotten any novels done yet but it’s a hope LOL), my hope is the same – to tell stories of the power of love to triumph over evil and injustice. Yes, I am an unashamed idealist! But, as the awesome British protest-singer Billy Brag recently put it, (though I’m paraphrasing a bit) there’s a war being waged on empathy. Because, as Brag also observed, kill empathy and you destroy true solidarity which he defined (when asked by a troll in the audience) as “empathy combined with activism”. And I know which side I want myself and my work to be on! Because, the side of love, and its offspring empathy, is the side I believe both the Gospels and Phantom are on (actually, I believe that’s the side all great art is on). So, to be true to them, to really live out both my faith and my Phanship, that’s the side I need to be on too!
Indeed, being on the side of love, empathy and justice, and actively working for them in the world, is at the heart of what I’m coming to call Liberation Phanship. I’ve come over the years to feel that, since Phantom tells the story of the terrible mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual consequences to the individual soul of exclusion and marginalizationn, but also contains a powerful demand for (and even glimpse of imo) a better world, I cannot truly be a Phantom Phan without responding to that demand by working for a world where no one experiences that kind of exclusion and marginalization. I got the idea from the Liberation Psychology movement, which recognizes people’s “mental health” as not existing in a vacuum, but as being impacted or even directly caused by the marginalizations they experience – racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. And it struck me that this has strong affinities with the message of Phantom as I feel it. So I’ve come to think of my work, artistically, politically and even academically, as Liberation Phanship. 🙂 And I’d love to meet fellow Phans who feel the same!
Political and Spiritual Influences (more or less in order of appearance):
The annual Nativity pageant at Church of the Holy Trinity, the absolutely amazing television series Robin of Sherwood, Les Miserables (the musical), various audiobook abridgements of the original novel of Les Mis (although those technically came later), Phantom of the Opera (first ALW stage-musical followed quickly by Leroux novel), the Gospels as taught in various progressive United and later Anglican churches, the song Bread And Roses, Prof. Rowley’s amazing Fantasy and Topography of Imagination course, Prof. Clipperton’s awesome course on identity, Loree Erickson aka Femmegimp, Eli Clare, Audre Lorde, Mia Mingus, countless amazing people I’ve heard speak over the years at various Disability Studies conferences, Naomi Klein, Dr. Cornell West, and of course, through all this, my Mom!
And you can find more of the music, books, podcasts, etc, that have had huge influences on me over on my “Links” and “Must Reads Bibliography” pages. So do check those out too!