My New E.P. “Ether-trash” is now available on band camp for 5 dollars! Featuring the new single “I Need a Lobotomy.”

The Annotated Echo, Chapter 1: Let’s talk about the Glass Coffin

Videography by Peter Carellini

Theatre, fairy tales, smartphones, and arrested development in “Nicks’ Mom

My newest music video for my song “Nick’s Mom” is a mash-up of Snow White, Hamlet, and the Lady of Shalott.  But the personal source material begins at the end of the second millennium, in my childhood: I was nine when I decided to identify as a fairy instead of a human. Usually you stop believing in fairies when you get into your late childhood, but being me I had to do everything back-ass-wards, and when two new friends of mine suggested that the three of us were actually fairies from another planet inhabiting temporary humanoid avatars as a sort of social experiment, I thought: it all make sense now, that’s the first thing anyone has ever said to me about this ridiculous boring world that makes any sense. 

How I feel about adulting

I latched onto the fairy/alien changeling theory and spent the entirety of my pre-teen years studying all things occult and staring intensely at my pencil during math class in the hopes that I would make it levitate a la Matilda. As you can imagine, I was something of a loner and an outcast amongst my elementary school’s expanded student body.

When I was ten, a new musical theatre company came to my neighborhood. They were casting a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  I remember the day I auditioned, and I remember what I was wearing, and I remember who I hung out with backstage. It was late August, and unseasonably overcast and chilly. I had a cold and it took a lot for my mom to drag me out of bed and open my mouth for strangers when I knew I wasn’t at my best. But I’m glad she did. Things went well, in spite of my runny nose and grumpiness, and after one call-back I was cast in the title role.

Snow White Says her prayers as the Huntsman prepares to slice her head off
Still from the video “Nick’s Mom” by Peter Carellini

It changed my life or at least my self-image. Overnight, I went from being that tall, hairy kid who thinks she has psychic powers to…well, Snow White. Undisputed Beauty of life. True, I was cast on the basis of my voice; my singing abilities at age ten were so advanced that they probably would have cast me even if I resembled a stereotyped Wagnerian, but when I walked into rehearsal on that first day all the other kids knew who I was.

For the remainder of my pre-teen years, I did some more theatre, not knowing how far the roles I played would make their way into my psyche and my behavioral patterns: Like Sarah the Missionary (Guys and Dolls) and Marian the Librarian (The Music Man), I started having sex way after everyone else in my generation did; like Contrary Mary (Babes in Toyland), I have been pursued relentlessly by men three times my age and my solution to most of my problems is self-imposed exile…and as for my first role, Snow White…it’s complicated. Snow White is about a lot of things…Narcissism comes to mind…it’s one thing to be jealous of somebody who’s prettier than you; it’s another thing to try to kill her for that reason…or is that called Psychopathy…? Snow White is a tale of dysfunctional families, domestic abuse, exile, necrophilia…but let’s go Jungian and Campbellic for a minute and propose an idea that it is also about arrested development: let’s focus on one image: the glass coffin and the years that go by inside it. 

This image anchored itself in my consciousness only recently, for this reason: during the time that she spends in the glass coffin, Snow White is dead to the world but her body does not decay. Because she is a child when she meets the dwarves but a marriageable woman when she wakes up, it is a reasonable interpretative conclusion that Snow White spent puberty inside the glass coffin. 

“Everyone and everything I ever loved is a picture on my phone” –Samantha Echo, new E.P. “Ether-trash” coming this July!!!

For the purposes of my video, the “glass coffin” is also a Smartphone. In the video, we see me in my Snow White costume from both sides of the phone: in one scene I am lying in bed flipping through my phone whilst dressed as Snow White and oblivious to the world around me, and in another I am clearly in a selfie video on a phone, as you can see when I tap the screen from within to end the clip. But it can be said that I am both literally and figuratively inside the phone, and both of these scenes could be references to the fact that social media and, for the moment, smartphones especially, seem to in fact embower and encase our individual and collective worlds, containing us like a coffin would, and indeed both a coffin and a phone have a glass screen.  I think in a way, social media and the technology associated with it are part of the mythology of our time. The use of Magic Mirrors to look voyeuristically into other people’s lives at things that are none of your business predicted our current culture’s preference for creeping on each other’s Facebook and Instagram profiles. Magic iPhone, Show Me Nick’s Mom.

Rosemary Loar as Nick’s Mom, Her smile is like a total eclipse of the son.

Who is Echo?

By Michelle Fernanda Varela.  In this photo, I am covering my mouth because I would rather be silent than repeat what other people say (say...say...say...)
By Michelle Fernanda Varela. In this photo, I am covering my mouth because I would rather be silent than repeat what other people say (say…say…say…)

I arranged a bunch of excerpts from my song lyrics into the shape of a mountain--because Echo was a Mountain Nymph.  The photo on which I superimposed them is by Michelle Varela, a photographer I love to work with.  I feel that the image, with my word mountain, evokes my creative process well.
I arranged a bunch of excerpts from my song lyrics into the shape of a mountain–because Echo was a Mountain Nymph. The photo on which I superimposed them is by Michelle Varela, a photographer I love to work with. I feel that the image, with my word mountain, evokes my creative process well.

When I was growing up, people often had trouble pronouncing my family name. This always bothered me, and a few years ago, when I was at Hunter College and we were studying Ulysses, –the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, is playing around with anagrams.  Anagrams are rearrangements of the letters in a word to make a new word, a code word for the original word. I looked online for anagrams of my name — Samantha Margulies — and discovered that the only ones that came up for my family name were Manslaughter, Slaughterman, and Satanism (not that there’s anything wrong with Satanism if that’s your religion). I saw that as a sign that I should indeed adopt a stage name. I was reading Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I recalled a discussion I had had with my dad (who, along with Hugo, is one of my major influences): I was trying to pronounce “Hugo” the way the French would, with a closed “U” that sounded close to an “E,” and my dad joked, “when Victor Hugo used to get too full of himself, his friends would call him Victor Ego.” I thought of how much I loved Hugo’s work, and considered being…Samantha Hugo…Samantha Ego…hah…Samantha…Echo…It came to mind superficially, but I instantly identified with the Ancient Greek nymph I had first read about long ago and her struggle with unrequited love and thwarted self-expression, and I knew it would stick.

Echo was an Oread, or mountain nymph, who sang beautifully and played instruments and was a charming and witty storyteller. One day, Hera, Queen of the Gods, came down to her mountain to seek revenge on a different nymph with whom her husband Zeus was having an affair. Hera became distracted by an enthralling story that Echo was telling, and as a result lost the chance to enact her revenge. Once she realized what had happened, Hera punished Echo for distracting her, she took away Echo’s voice so that she could only repeat the ends of other people’s sentences (sentences…sentences…) Later, Echo fell in love with a young man named Narcissus, but could not speak to him. He subsequently fell in love with his own reflection and killed himself, and turned into a daffodil. In some versions of the story, Echo cried until she turned to stone, in others, she cried until all that remained of her was her voice; in others, she was pursued by the unattractive and lecherous woodland demi-god Pan, who, when she rejected him, had her torn to pieces, which were returned by Gaia to become the echoes of the world, what we now know as echoes (by the way, it is from Pan’s lecherousness that the term “nymphomania” is derived).

I started singing when I was six years old, and spent many years from that age until my early twenties studying opera, but I felt that my creative identity had been buried by an eight-year mentorship (ages 6 to 14) with my first Bel Canto instructor, who was extremely controlling and neurotic and wouldn’t let me sing other types of music or even sing in front of anyone but her. A couple of years ago, I began studying pop and belting technique with Rosemary Loar, and I began re-uniting with the type of music and singing that I had originally connected with. My adoption of the stage name Echo relates to my struggle to find my creative identity again.  Also, I am Echo because I am a nymph, just like she is, a nymph being a creature who is not quite of this world and extremely identified with the place that she inhabits—sometimes when a body of water would dry up, the nymph who inhabited that body of water would die. All my life, I have felt a deeply spiritual connection with places, as if places have souls. Most of my original songs involve the themes of rejection, unrequited love, and misunderstood or lost identity, but I also like to cover songs that deal with this, and ultimately, one of my major goals in music is to evoke a place or a world.