- I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together
Listen and purchase downloads and CDs from Bandcamp
Released 12th March 2020
‘On 12th March last year (2019) I was being prepped for major surgery.
At the start of 2019 I’d had lots of exciting plans for my music but a breast cancer diagnosis in February put a halt to most of my dreams for the year.
One of those plans was to play an improvised solo piano set live at the opening of an exhibition by Hazel Cardew. My surgery was scheduled for 3 days before the opening and I resolved to go ahead with the performance. I knew I would be sore and vulnerable but was determined not to let cancer derail my dreams.
On the morning of 12th March I underwent surgery and recovered well from the general anaesthetic. However, within hours of coming around, I developed an infection in a vein at one of the cannula sites. It was agony and my left hand became so swollen, I couldn’t move my fingers. I had to admit defeat and cancel the performance. I was very disappointed.
By the weekend, my hand was still swollen and extremely painful. The left side of my upper body was a solid bruise. My chest wall and shoulder muscles were intensely sore (indeed, my pectoralis major had been damaged during the surgery) and I struggled to move myleft arm.
I was desperate to salvage something from the devastation I felt. So I mic-ed the piano and leaned my left side into the keyboard so I could play with minimal movement of my left arm and hand, I closed my eyes and improvised.
The resulting piece is slow, raw, vulnerable and visceral. It reflects the pain, sadness, anger, shock and grief I felt both physically and emotionally. It represents what cancer takes, the damage it does, its heartlessness and cruelty. But it also represents a desire to connect with the creative forces even in the depths of despair.
Cancer took a lot from me: it took my faith in the integrity of my body, it took tissue, skin and muscle, it destroyed nerves, confidence and self-esteem. It took time and energy and at times, my dignity. It took creative opportunities and it hurt me and the people I love the most.
But, we came through it… damaged but not destroyed. I began 2020 a lot more subdued and sanguine than the previous year. I’m still healing physically and emotionally. I have a long journey ahead, but right now, in this moment I feel good, I feel positive, I feel creative.
One day at a time…’
Susan, 12th March, 2020
Composed, Performed and Produced by Susan Matthews
Using: Roland FP-30 Digital Piano and Audacity software
Sleeve design by Mark Ingram, from a painting by Susan
Catalogue Number SW119
Siren Wire Recordings, 2020
‘Life consists of journeys, the most arduous of which have a starting point but no definitive end point and no defined duration. “I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together?” marks a milestone in one of those journeys but to understand it’s significance, we first need to understand the story behind its conception.
At the beginning of 2019, Susan Matthews was looking forward to a busy year working on music projects, releasing the music of like-minded musicians through her Sirenwire label and continuing to work on her vintage clothing company, Cherry Pie Vintage Clothing. All this stopped when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After successful surgery in March 2019 and with bruising to her chest, shoulder and arm, Matthews suffered a further setback when her left hand became infected where a canula had been placed. Although it forced her to reluctantly cancel a long-awaited live performance, Matthews would not be defeated; she was determined to salvage something positive from the situation.
She set up a microphone for her piano, positioned herself where she would be able to play with minimal movement of her left arm and hand and started to improvise.
The first few keys of “I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together?” must have been intensely uncomfortable to play and that is reflected in the space between each note. Nevertheless, those first few tentative notes radiate with a familiarity that comes from returning to something you love.
As it evolves, this almost 14-and-a-half-minute track gently shimmers with hope, emanates defiant optimism and allows for moments of quiet reflection. It feels like it is straight from the heart as it runs through the emotions Matthews must have felt and probably still feels as she continues her journey.
From those first few tentative notes and throughout the emergence of the fuller piece, “I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together?” acts as a conduit for artistic expression and offers an emotional outlet for its creator. It may have been physically painful to record and undoubtedly emotionally draining on many levels, but it also marks Matthews’ return to making music.
To complicate things further, the current Corona virus lockdown has brought with it new emotional and logistical challenges. My hope is that it also gives Matthews the time and space to once again ignite that creative spark and get back to recording music as and when she feels ready to do so.
The signs are good; Matthews has already started work on her next two projects. The first is an album of new music entitled What The Darkness Takes which is being released a track at a time as each is completed, with a possible physical release of the compiled tracks at the end of the project. The second is the follow up to A Kiss For The Umbrella Man, her 2011 tribute to Erik Satie.
It is truly wonderful to see Matthews back making music and let’s hope she goes from strength to strength in every sense, both artistically and personally.’
Aeonflow, April 2020 (aeon flow.co.uk)
‘Given the circumstances of its recording it is hard to know what to say about this solo piano piece of music. Halting and almost child like in delivery, delicate and fragile – yes, emotional – definitely, and ultimately warm and uplifting‘
Mark Smith (Bandcamp Review)