Rachel Mason - "The White Crow" (video) (Premiere)

Photo: Chris Carlone

The prolific performance artist Rachel Mason explores parallel lives in her ambitious rock opera, The Lives of Hamilton Fish.

Rachel Mason is nothing if not ambitious. The prolific artist has worked in music, film, and sculpture, exhibiting her multimedia pieces in galleries and museums across the United States. In addition, she has ten albums to her credit, the most recent of which, The Lives of Hamilton Fish, is a 21-track rock opera inspired by two men who shared the same name but led vastly differing lives. Tapping into folk and art rock, it’s tempting to draw comparisons to both Kate Bush and Paul Giovanni’s earthy soundtrack for The Wicker Man, but this is all Mason, her persona leaving an indelible impression on the listener.

In addition, Mason directed a 69-minute film of the rock opera, which went on to win Best Picture at the New England Underground Film Festival. In an effort to spread the word about this extraordinary, ambitious piece of work, several clips from the film are being released as music videos, and we are elated to premiere the striking “The White Crow”.

The Lives of Hamilton Fish centers on two men with the same name who died a day apart and whose deaths were printed on the same front page,” she tells PopMatters. “One was a statesman and the other a serial killer. ‘The White Crow’ is a song in which a psychic medium comes to the statesman to deliver a message from his dead wife.

“The White Crow character was inspired by a real psychic medium named Leonora Piper who was active in the first half of the 20th century. She was dubbed 'The White Crow' by William James (brother of Henry James) who studied her extensively. Although my weaving her into the story is entirely fictional, I think there could have been a chance that Hamilton Fish, the statesman would have heard of her because she was written about in newspapers at the time.

“The amazing thing for me personally about this video is that I was able to shoot it inside of Aaron Burr's house -- yes, that Aaron Burr, who shot and killed founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. How that relates to my story is the name Hamilton Fish comes directly from the duel, as Alexander Hamilton's estate was administered by one Nicholas Fish, a revolutionary war hero who named his son Hamilton in his murdered friend's honor. The name continued on and the protagonist in my film, Hamilton Fish II, was a direct descendent of this family line.

“The serial killer Hamilton Fish is the more widely known of the two men as he is, to date, one of the most notorious serial killers ever documented. He went by the pseudonym, Albert Fish.”

The Lives of Hamilton Fish will screen in Los Angeles tonight (23 June), and twice in New York, 21 July at Anthology Film Archives, and 26 July at Joe’s Pub.

The album version of can be streamed and purchased now via Bandcamp.

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