Prof Hillegonda C. Rietveld
School of Arts and Creative Industries
London South Bank University
Title of Paper: ‘Dark Sonic Space’
This presentation will particularly address a sonic aesthetic that may be recognised within the dub continuum, forms of electronic music that sonically shatter urban time-space, some breaking the beat and even erratically changing time signatures, others inertly slowing down to a nearly frozen point on the edge of a black hole of information overload.
There is, perhaps, an irony in the array of technological wizardry necessary to produce such soundscapes. Employing such tools, the products of Enlightenment, the rationalised space of the modern city seems turned back on itself within a range of uncanny acoustic spaces. Offering what seems a deconstructive critique without solution, a space between words, a melancholic sense of unspeakable loss is produced, seductive in its nihilistic secret.
Lecturer in Popular Music
Middlesex University, London
Title of the Paper: ‘Rock Bottom: melancholy and sadness in the work of Robert Wyatt’
This paper will explore the ‘melancholy and sadness’ theme of the conference, with specific reference to Wyatt. He has suffered, cyclically, from depression since adolescence, and had made more than one suicide attempt before he found himself in a wheelchair for life at the age of 28. Wyatt speaks of ‘cliff drops into dark places’, of moments ‘staring into the abyss’. He has suffered from severe stage fright since the 1970s, and only relatively recently emerged from a period of alcoholism.
With reference to such influences as Alfred Jarry, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, to interviews conducted when writing his biography, and to a number of Wyatt’s songs, this paper will explore the mix of light and shade in Wyatt’s life and work. As Wyatt himself explains it, ‘the word “sad” is inadequate for sad music, otherwise nobody would listen to it. The fact is that the kind of melancholy induced by certain kinds of minor chords and so on, can give pleasure. Conversely, the sturdy major chords of bafflingly dull sports programme theme music and Souza marches can be deeply depressing within seconds. So it’s very hard to find words to fit the way in which music slithers about amongst the emotions.’