Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gothic As a Genre

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am Catholic as well as an electronic music composer. My recent project and future album "Fire Giver" is a musical exploration of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein - The New Promethius". As I prepared to render this gothic literature in musical form I not only read it but wrote some notes and did some research.

The book was written in the middle of a literary movement in England called the "Romantic" movement that in many ways was a counterculture to the industrial revolution. Frankenstein is really a philosophical argument that just because it can be done does not mean it should.

Unfortunately Hollywood turned the novel into a horror and science fiction movie complete with Tesla Coil. Frankenstein does not delight in his creation in the novel but runs from it. The creature literally is the walking dead, an abomination who pursues his creator by destroying all he loves and ultimately, weary of life itself, Victor Frankenstein dies of the pain of his earthly life denying his creature closure as he dies before the creature bursts into his room. The creature fades into the mist and ice of the North Pole denied his final act of vengeance.

So, this is what I wanted to bring to life. Many of the Gothic novels do not romanticize evil as the modern day twilight movies do but show it for what it is. Frankenstein does not have a happy ending. It does have a moral message that as a Catholic I find echoes the Church's own regarding science, technology and progress. The Church is certainly not anti technology or science but rather, believes that such activity can be good or evil. The assumption that all change is good is really what the romantics questioned as do I and as does the Catholic Church.

So, I realize that none of this has much to do with gothic music but I wanted to explain why I am using a gothic and romantic novel as the basis for my music.

I am personally not a fan of twilight and I think if those who like it read the gothic novel "Dracula" or studied some of the historical basis of Vladimir the Impaler they would find the truly gothic version much less sweet to their taste. Leave it to Hollywood to get it wrong again.

So if I refer to my work as gothic, it is because I want to remain faithful to Mary Shelley and the romantic movement.


jazzsequence said...

I get your point and from a literal standpoint I can agree. However, when you apply the "gothic" label to music, you immediately apply a movement with its own history and criteria that may or may not be related to what the term means (or used to mean) in literature, art, architecture, etc. It's like if you started calling your music "heavy metal", not because it involves loud guitars and occasional screaming, but because you were using actual metal objects (that happened to be heavy) to create it. Instantly you'd receive criticism that your music wasn't actually "heavy metal" because that distinction already exists.

jazzsequence said...

In the end I think we're all sort of bound by the definitions of the pre-existing genres out there, even if, when we're creating our music, we don't do it with any particular musical genre in mind, per se. It's a framework for communication, and when the wrong or possibly misleading words are used, it can be the source of miscommunication.