Jill Tracy: Silver Smoke, Star of Night
Textures and ambiance were a crucial factor for me- the space, the breath, the huge dynamics of the recording added the intensity and cinematic aspect I wanted to create. I even sampled environments, including an abandoned stairwell at night, to create the reverb sound for my piano. I wanted listeners to lose themselves hypnotically within this music, but also honor and embrace the imagery.
When you listen to "We Three Kings,” it begins with a veritable score of the Magi traveling far, in the black of night, laden with strange, exotic gifts. In fact, the lyrics for “We Three Kings” was a major factor for doing this album. The little-known verses are eerie and gorgeous. This was a time in history full of violence and desperation, but the songs compel hope and enlightenment. I love the dichotomy. Reminds me of that perfect Friedrich Nietzche quote: “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.”
You have been quite busy with other musical projects this year; what can you tell us about those?
Jill: In recent years, I've become intrigued with immersing myself in unusual locations, and conjuring music from my reaction to the backstory and the experience within it. I affectionately refer to it as spontaneous musical combustion. I've composed music in haunted castles, gardens, decrepit mansions, abandoned asylums— and now I am honored to make history as the first musician to ever be awarded a grant from the Wood Institute, College of Physicians of Philadelphia to compose music inside the famed Mütter Museum, (the nation’s foremost collection of medical oddities) a series of compositions directly inspired by pieces in the collection! I spent part of last winter and spring there doing research and beginning to craft the material. This is a dream come true project. It was vital for me to be in the presence of these long-lost souls as I composed and recorded. I needed to immerse myself in their world. I needed them with me, so that they become an actual part of the work and not just the subject matter. This will be my gift to them. The Mutter Museum project will be my primary focus in 2013.
And, as though music weren't enough to keep you busy, you have a fragrance line coming out. How did this come about?
Jill: I’ve always wanted to create fragrances as a conjuring companion, similar to the way we concoct visuals with each album. A scent is transportive, so much more powerful than we realize. The sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic system, the part of the brain where emotion and memory are centered! And like music, these senses are passive, indirect. Unlike touching a cold piece of steel for instance—everyone would have that same experience—music and scent are completely distinctive and private interpretations. A perfume will even smell quite different on every skin.
These scents were first created for me personally. I really like how master perfumer Emerson Hart of Nocturne Alchemy bases his creations on history. He believes scents hold a story told by the skin. I adore incense, especially Frankincense and Myrrh, and wanted Emerson to create simple perfumes for me that had that erotic smoky, powdery element—not sweet or syrupy like typical Frankincense oil—but an experience like that of burning incense, profound, sacred.
So it all began as perfume for myself. We experimented with several versions, and I became so addicted to these two fragrances. So many people (even strangers) kept stopping me asking what that amazing smell was... I soon realized they fit perfectly as Silver Smoke, Star of Night. The perfumes existed before the album! And I'm so excited they now exist in the world! Night fragrance for Night music… Silver Smoke is the most glorious frankincense oil I've ever encountered, a mix of resins from Egypt and Somalia. Star of Night is a heavier woody blend of Arabic Myrrh, frankincense and Egyptian Black Linen. My musical netherworld set to scent. We've created these wonderful limited edition gift sets, glass bottles, autographed, and featuring the artwork of San Francisco's Trista Musco.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Jill: Well, if they've gotten this far, I want to thank them for reading my words, and invite them to jilltracy.com for lots more. I adore interacting with my audience, so please also join me on Facebook and Twitter. And wishing you dark enchantments for the season! I hope Silver Smoke, Star of Night becomes a special part of your holiday playlist.