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Gothic Music

Gothic Music: The Sounds of the Uncanny

Isabella van Elferen
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Gothic Music
    Book Description:

    Gothic Music: The Sounds of the Uncanny traces sonic Gothic through history and genres from the eighteenth-century ghost story through the spooky soundtracks of cinema, television and video games to the dark music of the Goth subculture.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2518-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: ‘Baleful Sounds and Wild Voices Ignored’
    (pp. 1-10)

    Uncanny sounds pervade Gothic. Hollow footsteps and ghostly melodies haunt the heroines of Gothic novels. The ‘children of the night’ ‘make music’ in Bram Stoker’sDracula. Booming leitmotifs announce the Count inDraculafilm adaptations. Piercingly high violin tones or disembodied childsong indicate supernatural presence in spooky movies. The eerie soundtracks of Gothic television serials invade the safety of the home. Pounding drones of white noise guide survival horror game players through deserted cityscapes. At Goth club nights, all these sounds are mixed into a live Gothic tale.

    Although sound and music occupy a prominent place in all the manifestations...

  5. 1 The Sound of Gothic Literature
    (pp. 11-33)

    Chris Baldick describes Gothic as ‘a fearful sense of inheritance in time with the claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space, these two dimensions reinforcing one another to produce an impression of sickening descent into disintegration.’¹ Baldick’s definition succinctly sums up the spatio-temporal parameters of Gothic narrative and its psychological effect, pinpointing the genre’s main narrative vehicle: Gothic revolves around the suffocating spaces, the hauntings, and the psychological destabilisation of the ghost story. Empty spaces like deserted ruins, bleak landscapes, urban labyrinths or the endless void of cyberspace furnish appropriate settings for these stories, spooky spaces haunted by various types of...

  6. 2 Gothic Film Music: The Audiovisual Uncanny
    (pp. 34-72)

    Gothic’s long historical relation to phantasmagoria and magic lanterns is well-established. With early cinema this link was further consolidated and, because of its mechanical reproduction, became more widespread. Early cinema was spectacular as well as spectral, with rattling automata projecting larger-than-life moving images onto large screens while their audiences were watching in wonder in darkened rooms. Moving, human-looking ghosts came out of machines, their strange world of light and silence so close and yet so distant from that of their spectators. It is not surprising that a large number of early moving pictures were adaptations of popular nineteenth-century Gothic novels...

  7. 3 Gothic Television Music: The Unhomely Home
    (pp. 73-99)

    Television employs the phantomal principles of film, multiplying the spectres seen in the cinema and bringing them into viewers’ own homes via the little box in the living room. These ghostly figures were perceived by early audiences as inherent to the ‘electronic elsewhere’ of the television set, invading and doubling the private home.¹ Televisual spectrality has been elaborately theorised by Jacques Derrida, who describes the paradoxical ‘finite-infinite, infinitely finite’ of the ghostly beings of television as an eternalisation of the mortal state.² The spectrality and uncanniness of these revenants signify the temporally dislodging characteristic of all spectrality: the recorded ghost,...

  8. 4 Gothic Game Music: Hyperreality Haunted
    (pp. 100-127)

    Computer games have arguable Gothic potential. Like cinema and television, games are based visually on the projection of phantom beings onto a screen. Different from film and television spectres, the gaming phantom is digital in origin: while the former are mostly finite-infinite beings that were once connected to a human body, video game spectres are phantoms born from the algorithms of a lifeless machine. These machinic ghosts represent Ernst Jentsch’s version of the uncanny, which is brought about by the intellectual uncertainty stirred when inanimate objects such as dolls or automata – or, in this case, avatars – appear to...

  9. 5 Goth Music: Uncanny Embodied
    (pp. 128-172)

    ‘The Goth subculture’ does not exist. On the one hand there are too many Goth sub-styles that are each too different from one another to justify the unity and collectivity implied in that phrase. The term subculture itself, on the other, has been subject to fierce criticism regarding the supposed homogeneity, class awareness and subversion that was presupposed in early subcultural studies as they were conducted, especially, by the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS). Informed by post-modernist cultural criticism, post-subcultural studies emphasise the fluidity of social identities and the unstable social ties underlying youth cultures.¹ Concepts such as...

  10. 6 The Unthinkable Sounds of the Uncanny
    (pp. 173-190)

    Throughout the different medial contexts of sonic Gothic a few returning stylistic elements can be discerned: sonic effects such as reverb and distortion, extremely high or extremely low-pitched melodies, suggestive timbres such as the flageolet or white noise, minor harmonies and a certain element of bombast alternated with understated subtleties in compositional layout. Since the definition of Gothic music is determined by its functionality rather than by its external style, however, its decisive characteristics are found in its four sonic dimensions of the uncanny. First, it gives the ghostly presences in Gothic tales a voice. An aural manifestation of the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 191-206)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-230)