Folk singer-songwriter Aster Rhys found herself in a time of uncertainty in 2020 and relocated cross country and turned to her guitar for comfort. Music and lyrics began to pour out and her debut EP MÆTA was created. We’re pleased to premiere her Official Music Video for her single “Pygmalion” from MÆTA which was released earlier this year.
“’Pygmalion’ is Aster Rhys’ third composition in her mythology-inspired collection, reinterpreting the classic myth of the misguided attempt to mold someone else in one’s own ideal.”
Tell us about your single “Pygmalion.”
“Pygmalion” is a part of my debut EP, MÆTA, a series of songs that tap into the timelessness of Greco-Roman mythology. I wrote MÆTA starting in March 2020 during early quarantine. It was a time of transformation for me, personally, following an excruciating breakup, and societally, with the pandemic. It all brought me to think of transformation across the ages, and the age-old stories of transformation can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
“Pygmalion” is the song that really crystallized the theme. It began as a stream of consciousness as I reflected on how my relationship imploded, how it could have possibly degraded from the love that I loved. I realized that with my ex-partner’s struggles with substance abuse, I was acting as if “I were the hands, and [they] were the clay.” Those words that tumbled out of me brought me to the classic “Pygmalion” myth (where an artist sculpts an image of a lover in their ideal and prays to Venus for that sculpture to come to life), and I thought: what other archetypes of transformation am I experiencing, is the world experiencing? And I embraced it from there.
What was the writing and recording process?
For the live acoustic session, I wanted to weave the thematic elements of this particular myth altogether. I play with this idea of who is the artist and who is the sculpture, wearing a Grecian-inspired dress, my skin iridescent with golden glitter. I blur the lines between skin and stone, muse and marble. And I tap into this sometimes ominous sense of bringing something to life and the unintended consequences that can come from it. The song is a lament; its rhetorical question is: why not? And the unspoken answer is: because it simply cannot.
I worked with the production company Kicker Pictures to curate the set, and everything is intentional: Greco-Roman columns for a nod towards statues and putting someone on a pedestal; white roses as the traditional offering to the Goddess of Love, Venus; candles and incense to contribute to that sense of conjuring. There’s this question in the air of: what will come to life?
To add to the core performance scenes with S.G. Carlson (Drummer) and Olive Tiger (Cellist), we recorded additional footage of me cleansing the space with herbs and centering with a candle. As an Herbalist Apprentice and Practitioner, spirituality is core to who I am, and I infuse that in all of my work as a ceremonial folk artist — from music production to visual storytelling.
Also, I want to say that all of this was made possible by the wonderful artists and creators of New Haven that I collaborated with: Todd Lyon, Stylist and Co-Owner of Fashionista Vintage & Variety; S.G. Carlson, Sound Engineer and Founder of Sans Serif Studio; Olive Tiger, Cellist; Matt Valade and Connor Rog, Filmmakers and Founders of Kicker Pictures; and Kiera Cecchini, Filmmaker and Set Designer of Kicker Pictures. My gratitude to you all.
“Pygmalion” is a story about change and a story about loss. Literally, it’s about trying to change someone else and losing them in the process. But metaphorically, it’s an act of conscious healing in the recognition of what you can and what you cannot control. It’s about seeing people as they are as opposed to what you want them to be. It’s the realization that a stone can only cut so many ways… so let the stone be.
Short Bio courtesy of artist:
Starting in January of 2020, Aster Rhys found herself in the throes of tectonic shifts, both personally and societally. It began with the disintegration of a deep-veined partnership, with the discovery of severe substance abuse and infidelity, that sent her packing her bags from Oakland, California. With family in New Jersey, she thought to recalibrate for a month or so and then return to revive the life she still clung to. But as the relationship unraveled, so did society. The pandemic erupted with New York and New Jersey at the epicenter. In tow with the only suitcases she had and her guitar, Aster Rhys took to the road to join her friend in remote South Carolina. And when it became apparent that New York and New Jersey were to be shut down for the foreseeable future, that California was no longer a plane ride away, and that her previous life had already begun to fade into the shadow of memory, Aster Rhys released her inclinations to “want.” In line with meditative philosophy, she instead oriented herself around the acceptance of life and time as it inherently is. She welcomed change in all of its faces. So when that same friend offered Aster Rhys another refuge in Michigan, she accepted. It was there with her guitar, in the quiet time of early quarantine, that she began MÆTA.
MÆTA is an act of unconscious healing. In a time of transformation, it began with “Mnemosyne,” first titled “Take to the Water,” as a remembrance of one’s truest, elemental, and wild self. It is an act of defiance against the taming of us all; it is a reclaiming of the wild woman archetype, as expressed by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her Jungian analysis titled Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.” Next, was “Echo,” first titled “Promise of Stone,” that reflected on the experience of embracing a new lover but observing, with sharpened senses, the echoes of narcissism. It was in her third composition that Aster Rhys crystalized the central theme of mythology as an interpretive lens. “Pygmalion” began as “Pygmalion”; the myth serves as a universal metaphor for the misguided attempt to mold someone else in one’s own ideal. And it was with this song in her spirit that Aster Rhys drew the threads of myth together with her experiences of transformation. What if, in her acts of creation, she channeled integral stories of transformation from western literature: Ovid’s Metamorphoses. From this inspiration sprung revisions of “Mnemosyne” — notably, the first song of the EP and an invocation of the muse, true to Greek tradition– and “Echo,” as well as the following songs that make up MÆTA: “Persephone,” “Arachne,” “Diana,” and “Orpheus.” Each song is a nod to a transformation myth and/or figure, and each myth acts as an evocative metaphor through which Aster Rhys has sung her own story — and that of others.