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Angela Sclafani Rewrites the Tragedy of Sylvia Plath with New Single ‘Bell Jar’

By Charlie Maybee

This reading of Alchemical Records content provides a multimedia experience for our audience while increasing the accessibility of our content to persons with hearing loss, low vision, dyslexia, physical or motor disabilities, or are on the autism spectrum.

New York City-based singer-songwriter, Angela Sclafani, is returning with a brand-new musical take on the famed poet and writer Sylvia Plath with her new single “Bell Jar,” which released today, February 11; a thoughtful nod to the 59th anniversary of Plath’s death.

Inspired by the famous 1963 novel, The Bell Jar, Sclafani writes that “the song uses literary imagery to encourage the listener to ‘shatter’ the conventions that hold them down – be it family, lover, or state of mind.” Understanding the main metaphor that Esther (Plath’s protagonist) uses to compare her depression to being entrapped in a bell jar helps to contextualize Sclafani’s emotional drive in shattering the jar altogether. She manages something more encouraging and inspiring despite the naturally heavy content of Plath’s writing.

Writing from the perspective of someone seeing a friend trapped in their own bell jar of depression, Sclafani offers a hand to help peel back its layers. Through the chorus, she sings, “Come on pack up / I’ll save you from this part / I know it by heart” in hopes of extracting this person (possibly Plath, herself, given the novel’s status as “semi-autobiograpical”) from this prison, she finally lands on the titular line “Climb up, let go, and shatter that old bell jar.”

Though it may be easier said than done, the importance of external support to help people move through these kinds of mental illnesses is paramount to this take on Esther’s circumstances where genuine support is noticeably absent. Given that Plath took her own life a month after the novel’s original publication, it’s not surprising to see Sclafani take a more tender and empathic approach in this musical response to such a tragic story. There’s something haunting about it, but the song gradually sweeps you up and cradles you – giving the acknowledgement and support needed to persevere.

“Bell Jar” is available on major streaming platforms. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. For more resources, visit the following website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Charlie Maybee

Charlie Maybee is a dancer, musician, educator, and writer based in Winchester, Virginia who currently teaches in the Dance Division of the Shenandoah Conservatory. His primary work as an artist is with his performing collective, Polymath Performance Project, through which he makes interdisciplinary performance art that centers tap dance as the primary medium of expression. He also currently fronts local hard rock band, The Aftershakes, and releases music as a solo artist under the name Nox Eterna.

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