Bodies matter. Judith Butler named a book (and built a career) after the idea. Marina Abramovic, to prove the point, held hers still for anyone who would come, and drew a record-breaking audience as she did so. And they've become a physical and philosophical keystone for Shara Worden, now in her tenth year of performing as theatrical indie-pop act My Brightest Diamond. The urge to revel in embodiment and expression, Worden says, comes from a rewriting of early-learned lessons:
I wanted to write dance music, but I realized that growing up in a "the-body-is sinful" Christian culture, along with the fact that as a young person I made a decision in music to lead with the mind ... I moved so far away from the body as a priority in my music-making.
As her vision and persona have evolved, Worden has reversed that move. The video for her latest single, "This Is My Hand," which borders on synesthesia in its degree of sensuality, uses evocative fast cuts as Worden and others writhe and reckon with their own flesh, mouthing lyrics that list what a body is made of (hand, wrist, arm) and what it is capable of (gloom, flame, shadow) with equal assuredness. This is Worden singing a Whitman-esque song of herself, while illustrating the ways it's actually a song for all selves. It's a showing and telling of the cosmos contained in all bodies, separate but universal as they are.
Worden sings with unfiltered empathy and warmth, particularly to herself, pushing her own limitations and writing her intentions (sometimes literally; see the last moments of this video) onto her skin. "This is My Hand" plays like the second half of a conversation started by "Be Brave," from 2011's All Things Will Unwind. "Be brave, dear one, be ye changed, or be ye undone," she sang to herself then. Here, the message has been received. Her need for self-encouragement has given way to a need for self-proclamation.