Chess Albaneze is a 29-year-old genderfluid autistic trans man from Seattle, Washington. Starting in the visual arts, Chess has used his autistic superpowers to transpose unique visuals to music. He has been composing for six years, and in that time has had his work guest-featured in Mary Bichner’s Autumn Suite (2017), composed the original soundtrack for Transient (a 2018 documentary film by Mark Janavel depicting various interviews by trans folks during the first 100 days of Trump in office), and currently composes for the roleplaying adventure podcast Dandies in Danger (ongoing, available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube). Chess is most inspired by Schubert’s lieder, Verdi’s operas, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Gabriel-era Genesis, and modern progressive bands such as Son Lux. He believes that music’s most important aspect is its ability to tell a moving, emotional story, which is why he is especially drawn to opera and art song. This love of storytelling extends to his other works, such as original comics, prose, crafting an original tarot deck, and even drag kinging (the art of dressing as a man for performance). Through all his projects, one thing remains constant: the love of eliciting empathy from the audience.
Chess was trained on the violin, piano, and voice, but halted voice training from what he would eventually discover was gender dysphoria. Nevertheless, these lessons greatly informed his ability to compose for the voice. Chess’s genderfluidity informs his current song cycle Becoming Hyde, which features Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sung by solo tenor with piano. Both characters weave in and out of the same voice, and, in choosing not to label which character is singing, Chess crafts the music itself to inform the singer through tonal color and clever use of character-assigned keys. “I wanted the characters to remain fluid, as through my own experience I find that I ebb in and out of different gender identities, yet always remain, at the core, myself.”
Chess’s music is Romantic in style, with an underlying melancholy and frailty, at times weaving between bitterly visceral and delicately haunting. He believes art has a moral responsibility to society, and thinks critically before creating art in any of his mediums. He believes art’s greatest power is to help people empathize with experiences outside of their own, and that empathy is our greatest tool against hatred and discrimination.