Witness, Unweave began as a poetic and musical exploration of the body’s storage of emotions and trauma and their effect on mental health. The song cycle of Witness, Unweave, including the previously released EP Unwanted, Yet Familiar // May I, musically and lyrically focuses on these difficult acknowledgements within oneself that often result in discomfort, grief, self-judgment, and stasis, yet also embraces the people, places, and bodily areas that bring release, movement, and inspiration. Collaborating with photographer Craig Mulcahy offered a visual component to the auditory. Mulcahy examined with Silver Godling the themes and mood of the project, exploring the body as a landscape to reveal the emotional softness that emerges from the rigid edges of years of projected strength.
This body requires fire, a burning, a tempering, before one can shine a bright and blinding light in, a light that reveals that which is astounding, but sometimes, the light cuts through into the deepest crevices to illuminate that which we wish to keep hidden away but is now visible in all its darkness and ugliness, like a foul and viscous resident.
Unwanted, Yet Familiar. Slick - it’s entered. Only practiced attempts can create residence. Unwanted, yet familiar. I’d rather not acknowledge. Intrusion - a facet of this whole. It won’t contaminate, will it? Hidden - it’s seemed. Except when examined, its opal sheen surfaces. Existing and shut in. All along, settling and attaching. I have created you. I have sustained you. You are mine. I can accept you, can’t I? Will I accept you, willful child? Will I accept you?
May I. This is the gift, palms open to you. “Why” - spoken or silent - stays put, like pilings should. I give the gift in place of me - for you? For me? I give the gift as it will serve you better. I, withered and bloodless. I, yet yearning for roots. I, yet seeking a way to reach down through earth. I, yet wishing for veins to feed me. May this self-interest magnify you too. May this self-love imbue you too. May my own diffidence not steal your joy. May I be able to exalt you too. I’ve mistakenly summoned all the energy. Yours has joined, by willful selection or force unknown. I think I’ve sponged you up, like liquid. “How” - ever present - do I make this more than parasitic? I intend: may I, may I, may I, may I. May I know no fear so you can own yours
Frustrate. This room, it’s at the back of the house. Full sun, presumed benefit, though inflicted. Too warm, it’s a less desirable burn. Too close, too raw: You, you, may I leave now? Your hands, architect of this dungeon, yet my own legs have run me inside to meet the silent ignition. (I) break down, (I) reach out: True, true, key’s in my palm. Isolation I have built and fed. My design reaches up and ‘round, encasing - less air for breath, damaging ritual. Don’t give, but don’t hoard: Fool, fool, it’s your achievement!
Surrendering Safety. Crowded, too many (just enough) pieces stacked in blood and muscle. I will keep you here, I will tuck you in, you’re safe here, please stay. Feet planted with a backdrop of gray screen - solid, I convince myself this is the place to petrify. I am holding on, spending the rest. When I am able, reach fingers deep into my lungs and start to eat less energy, open up space in this spine, and I can focus. When I am able, the gray turns from humid mist into a deeper contrast, a gradient of light and dark. And I envision. Softness does not equal safety, but softness allows for the building of this shield that I can raise if I wish to. But this shield is no protection against the earth swallowing me whole. I open. I shut. I am soft.
Binding. Mammoth wave, at first indiscernible, rising from a place unseen, nondescript aside from pressure building. I won’t move. You need not chain me. I’ve stayed put for years. I’ll continue. Salted sea spray stuck in my throat until heaviness sets in - opaque and welcoming, grotesque, binding.
Enfold and Release. Light, light, heavy, light, like heavy light. Gravity escapes my hold as gentle as a whisper. A touch of breath moistening my shoulder. Familiar has become other. I’ve slipped away - or, launched! Forced by my own perception, willing my feet to root - it’s like a mountain that’d rather crumble. Never knowing if I can still (myself). Tornadic speed, multidirectional chaos. Doubtful is my will. Watching you, hearing you, calling on yourself, will incarnate. Your nod and intention is your vote. It’s like a reminder to expand. Instilled is this sustenance - golden and glowing, abiding. By providing nourishment, you enable extensions of power through limbs. You forever make offerings. Fed just to feed, you enable growth. It’s like heavy light enfolding, releasing me.
Descent to Heart. Simplicity molds foundation, stripping down this oily spill of colors crawling. Ill-defined but it grows, radiating in its silence. Simplifying creates comfort, instructing me to breathe into deepest belly. Slow it down, but it’s veiled! Move it into my shoulder instead. I am hung, draped over this post in the ground, pierced through center. To find this grounding, searching, but it’s to make this grounding, to make it with these hands. Simplicity creates self - or so I assumed.
Recorded by Emily McWilliams at EJM Pianos, in the Panola Street studio, Spring & Summer 2020
Mixed by James Whitten at HighTower Recording, Summer 2020
Mastered by Adam Tucker at Signaturetone Recording, Winter 2020
This song cycle composed, arranged, and performed by Emily McWilliams
All lyrics by Emily McWilliams
All vocals, pianos, samples, and electronic instruments by Emily McWilliams
Additional sounds by Henry Dog, Neighborhood, Refrigerator, AC, Instant Pot, Metronome, and Birds
All photography by Craig Mulcahy. Art booklet is a collaboration specific to Witness, Unweave.
Layout and design by Melissa Guion.
Thank you to my family and friends who listened to and cheered on this album and concept. Thanks to James for always elevating my music and for being on board to place his masterful touch on my amateur recording skills. A special thank you to Craig for collaborating with me and connecting with my initial vision for this project, and to Melissa for patiently helping me learn how to push buttons and plug things into things and being a neverending enthusiastic researcher and friend as well as a fantastic Design Guru. Thank you, Strange Daisy Records, for being by my side to bring this project to its aural and visual completion. Enormous gratitude to Bryan for generously providing emotional support and physical space while I created this music (under the additional stressor of a pandemic).