Professor PM Higgins
Visiting Research Professor, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Witchy Women, Deadly Women: Conjuring the femme fatale inLate Sixties Anglo-American Rock
As second-wave feminist movements gained political momentum in the US and UK, a series of ‘dark’ rock songs emerged in which beguiling, demonic women traffic in witchcraft to ensnare powerless male victims. This paper explores the cultural historical archetypes of the witchy woman trope in late 60s Anglo-American rock and demonstrates its remarkable indebtedness to discursive musical procedures deployed in late nineteenth-century European constructions of the femme fatale at an earlier moment in the historical emancipation of women.
Dr Nathan Wiseman-Trowse
Associate Professor in Popular Music, University of Northampton
The Holocaust and the Big Roar: Summoning the Dark Other in Noise Pop
Noise within the Shoegazing genre conjures up a ŒDark Other¹, existing between musicians in the performance space. This Dark Other (or Big Roar), marks out a deterritorialisation of the pop space, one that marries maternal dread with transcendent jouissance beyond that which conventional music has to offer. In this sense the psychoanalytic perspectives of Jung and Kristeva through to the anti-psychiatry of Deleuze and Guatarri provide ways of understanding the radical immanence of this Dark Other in the pop moment.
Dr Kit Poulson
Senior Lecturer, Fine Art, Spike Island
Gethsemane; What do you do when Love dies?
Contemporaries commented that the band ‘Love’ might well have been called ‘Hate’. At the heart of the West Coast sixties scene in LA they exuded contradictory combinations of punk energy, jazz knowingness, gang identity and monomaniacal individualism. Darkness.
Their mythic incomplete album typifies an essential element of our relation to popular music. Although performance offers shared moments, catharsis, emotional empathy, it comes at a price. To possess and repeat, is inevitably to be elsewhere, alienated.
Daniel Alexander Hignell
AHRC Doctoral Researcher / Associative Tutor, University of Sussex
A tangible fear of everything ever: sense, Other, and sounding the unknown.
Art is a communicatory form, and as such it revels in its own imperfection. Mistakes, confusions, and mis-steps are not a weakness within the communicatory system, but a barb that offers up new potential ways of being, new relationships to Other. And yet post-Kantian phenomenology divides the world into what Jean-Luc Nancy calls Œa priori conditions of possibility – conditions that, in most artistic contexts, are manifest as genre. This dichotomy is at the heart of artistry, at once offering freedom from cultural norms and a way of testing social and ethical boundaries, and yet doing so from imposed positions that negatively delineate all artistic acts as part of a set grouping or style – not so much a testing of boundaries, as a fitting in to prevalent trends. But the aesthetic does not refer simply to the manner in which artified objects submit to existing categories, but rather is the opposite of anaesthetic, a bringing to life of form. And as an element of the communication system, artistry has the same basic needs as general communication – namely, it is formed of resonance, a straining towards an unknown Other and a return to Self. As such, it is only though communicative failures that art is able to extend beyond sense and into the unknown. My paper will explore the effect that a priori conditions have upon musical reception, particularly in relations to the formation of the positive or negative attributes and value judgment imbued by genre. Ultimately, I will argue that music(k), in both its production and its dissemination, is always an act of non-sense, and it is through an interplay between our ontological expectations and concurrent fears of the unknown that it serves as a form of social practice, designed to explore and extend our existing social relationship with Other.
University of South Wales/ PhD Researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London
There Is No Brightside: The dark sound of Alain Badiou’s inconsistent multiplicity vs the hyperpop of Tim Smith’s Cardiacs.
The music of the British psychedelic postpunk pop band, Cardiacs, is at once complex, simple, radically obvious and knowingly naive. In a sense, Cardiacs’ music (always different, always the same) demonstrates main songwriter Tim Smith’s ability to harness what the philosopher Alain Badiou termed the generic. This paper uses Badiou’s concepts of the generic and the indiscernible to unearth the dark sound within Cardiacs’ music, arguing for Smith’s ‘radical transformation’ of this indiscernible darkness into a music of celebratory excess.
Associate Professor, York St John University & Co-artistic Director of Lone Twin
This paper offers a discussion on the affect of Roy Orbison’s dark sound, its relationship to desire and a post-Freudian/Lacanian notion of a death drive. It draws upon the phenomenon and allure of ‘the coolest uncool loser’ (Springsteen 2012), in particular the song Crying. This paper is about ‘a man lost in a world of loneliness and fear, one who cried in the dark or escaped into a dream world, the only place his desires could be fulfilled’ (Lehman 2010).
Lecturer in Popular Music, the University of Northampton
I Hate Myself and Want to Die (Again): the Eternal Return of the Anti-Icon.
Nihilism and darkness transcends music genre and seems to become enveloped and epitomised by particular artists, whether it is Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Per ‘Dead’ Ynve Ohlin, Kurt Cobain or Lana Del Rey, it is as though the tortured artist is not merely a mythological archetypal folk anti-hero or folk-devil, it is far more complex than this.
What is it exactly that is emitted through particular intervals, timbres (van Elferen, 2013) or lyrical composition that clearly identifies the ‘other’ set against an hegemonic world of major chords and bubblegum pop that demarcates a shattered, illusory boundary between the manufactured and the tortured soul that cries out to us so utterly. Whether we consider Mayhem’s ‘Dawn of the Black Hearts’ album with the shotgun blasted body of Per ‘Dead’ Ynve Ohlin as the front cover or Lana Del Ray’s death and daddy soaked misery, it could be said the eclipsing and transcendental nature of their associated music becomes all the more entrancing because of the representation of darkness in musical form.
Dr. Holger Schwetter
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Walking in the rain
The late 1970s mark a turning point in the history of popular music . A progressive rock ideal gives way to a mood of negativity which is often summed up in the slogan “no future”. To fully describe this change, the attention needs to be drawn to the relation of popular music and social change. Here popular music (in musical form and through its use) aesthetically sums up a mood of disappointment resulting from different processes running side by side in the 1970s. Negativity in this sense and as an expression of social and aesthetic attitudes can be seen as one of the possible outcomes of dealing with ‘disappointment’.
PhD Researcher, University of Birmingham
Spook Manifestos and Appalling Vistas: Luke Haines and the Gothic geographies of 1970s violence
This paper analyses Luke Haines¹s 1970¹s historical pop canon, focussing on his construction of Gothic spaces of the time period as a backdrop for violence and oppression. Drawing examples from across his oeuvre I will argue that his songs create a composite geographical mapping of violent history, in which sensational murders, widespread child abuse, terrorism and revolt spread beyond any individual confines to become a miasma of suffering that is in itself presented as a feature of the landscape.
Lecturer in Music, Goldsmiths, University of London
Digital Body Horror – FKA Twigs and the physical revised
FKA Twigs has developed an audiovisual language that exploits the plasticity of body image afforded by digital technologies to extremes – most singularly in the form of compellingly grotesque videos.
This paper investigates a duality – Twigs and other contemporary artists point towards a new digital model for pluralist sexuality, but, manifested physically, that pluralism appears alarmingly strange. Beneath and within the progressive and positive here there’s a profound sense of discomfiture, an aggressive/transgressive body horror for the digital age.
Dr. Shara Rambarran
Assistant Professor, Queen’s University (Canada) at Bader International Study Centre, UK
Gravitonas, the Antiheroes of Pop: the reading of ‘People are Lonely’
The dark electro-pop sounds of Gravitonas are ornamented with genre-blending and the gothical vocals of Andreas Öhrn. The lyrical themes of lament and joy provoke catharsis and confinement to the listener. This concept will be demonstrated in the reading of their song ‘People are Lonely’ (2014). The vocality of Öhrn’s authoritarian words against Alexander Bard’s quivering and feminine tones, and how the music carries their incompatible duet will be explored. The freak show video displays the group’s obsession with technology—which suggests that in the digital world of social interaction, in reality, ‘people are lonely’.
Magda Tyżlik-Carver (Researcher and Independent Curator at Falmouth University) and Andrew Prior (Artist, Composer and Researcher at Aarhus University, Denmark)
What used to be called ‘artistic integrity’ and was traditionally confined to the creative powers of an artist genius is now arranged as a process, distributed and shared across human and nonhuman others. Creativity managed by technology is often considered to be a result of ‘empowering’ potential that technologies bring allowing masses to release their imagination. However it is also mundane and rigid, organising creativity through bureaucracy. This exhibition will attempt to reveal many of the elements of such systems, the black, white and grey zones, the sleek machines and the DIY interfaces, the factory and playground of digital labour, and the cloud in which it is stored as a ghostly presence.
Professor Kari Kallioniemi
Vice-director of IIPC, Cultural History, 20014 University of Turku, Finland
The White British Soul-Boy Gone to Underworld – Marc Almond and the Continental Art House Imaginary of Darkness
I will ask in this paper how and why Marc Almond, the synth-pop star of Soft Cell from the early 1980s, created his dark imaginary based on the fascination with ’English seediness’ coupled with the infatuation of the dark side of the 20th century (continetal) subversive art ranging from German expressionist cinema to art-house films of the rise of fascism and the goth-romantic flavour of Frenchness.
Artist based in UK
The Dark Space: Generative Absence :Unborn and Unceasing
This presentation will explore themes of generative absence, the creative as matrixial border/zone, leading to the encountering of psychic events alongside the importance in my work of the feminine, working without fear of the dark places; bodily containment.
The presentation will include a brief outline of recent project working with Marc Almond, when I tuned into his subconscious shamanically and made a series of monotypes which have been used as the source for the artwork for his new album.
Associate Lecturer, University of Derby and Bath Spa University
Writing for Heavy Metal: The Melancholy of Black Sabbath
This presentation will outline the key lyrical themes and songwriting mechanisms used by Black Sabbath to create their signature, pioneering sound. It will also discuss the way in which these practices have influenced further generations of heavy metal songwriters.
Musician and Songwriter, UK
‘There’s no one left to torture’: The Personification of Evil in Song
When evil is personified in songs such as Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Future’, Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, what we feel as listeners is exhilaration rather than horror. Why is this? Why are we fascinated by the evil characters in these songs? In this paper I’ll try to answer this question by looking at songs with evil protagonists and examining them from both audience and songwriter perspectives.
James Whitehead / JLIAT
Conceptual/ drone/ noise artist
“Pop goes reason”
Noise is popular and some of its adherents even conflate the term ‘noise’ with ‘music’ to produce the oxymoron ‘noise-music’… As a sub-genre its often seen as having its origins in Punk, and various types of Metal, also via ‘Power Electronics’ and ‘Industrial’ through to Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse, as well as the often used proto noise of the Avant Garde, Cage and Russolo, and the various ‘pop’ interlopers, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed and even The Beatles.
How then ‘is’ noise (to be understood?) I’m going to make the rather obvious point that it can’t. It’s darkness is impenetrable to (the light of) reason. And I’m going to do so by proposing a miss-use of reason by some crazy uses of statistics which when applied to music reveals that noise is the darkest most unreasonable product of what derived from popular (as well as avant garde) music. If it is music at all.
Alan Dunn & Ben Parry
Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University & Glasgow School of Art
The film for the Soundtrack to a catastrophic world
In 2010 artists Alan Dunn and Ben Parry curated the Soundtrack for a catastrophic world CD for the Quebec Biennial. On the disc, artists, musicians, scientists, composers, a radio astronomer and a field linguist considered those moments when things fall apart, both personally and environmentally. The artists now present a work-in-progress film of the soundtrack, evoking the disturbing sentiments and concerns of the sounds.
PhD, IIPC Coordinator, University of Turku, Finland
‘Hammer, Hammer, Hammer!’ Audio-visual Fascism in Pink Floyd’s The Wall album (1979), concerts (1980–1981), and film (1982)
The Wall is arguably, along with The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), the best known Pink Floyd album, an autobiographical ‘psychodrama’ by Roger Waters. Arena spectacles, like Pink Floyd’s, can easily affect the audience to give hysterical or even violent response. This bothered Waters so much that he projected his feelings in the form of satire where rock concert was seen as a fascistic meeting, loaded with aural violence and dark nationalistic symbolism.
Senior Lecturer In Fine Art at Falmouth University
‘Le Charisme Inverse’
“Nature abhors a vacuum.” Screening and live reading for multiple-voice.
‘Le Charisme Inverse’ explores impressions of the ‘other’ and ‘otherness’ within the metaphors, metonyms and anthropomorphisms of the popular song or pop video, 45 rpm vinyl, VHS tape and catchy popular tune.
The work incorporates a variety of strategies and tactics including, uses of appropriation and montage, phonetic reversals, backmasking, nihilistic soundings and techniques of concrete that fragment to reverse discourse and dismantle received narratives of ‘normative’ powers of language or immutable historiographies within the classic popular song and pop video. Both sound and image have been developed in isolation.
“Thankyou very much, the next song’s called…”
Exploring what happens in the gaps between the songs; when artists take their dark sounds on the road and attempt to build a full, satisfying live show out of such material. Some artists work to create and maintain a performance atmosphere that mirrors the material, at the risk of becoming over-theatrical or camp. Others deliberately step outside the fiction of their music to contrast its darkness with a light-hearted stage presence, offering the audience an exhalation; a moment of relief. And many artists operate in the grey area between these two positions. I want to ask how and when you say “thankyou very much, the next song’s called…”
Dr Hilary Mullaney
Lecturer in Music, Dundalk Institute of Technology
Throbbing: exploration of an unknown place through fixed media composition
Throbbing (2012), an 8 channel fixed media composition, is a sonic realisation of disturbing, anxiety based dreams I experienced in 2011. For the first time in my life, sound was amplified in my dreams like never before. Sometimes these dreams would endure all night, consisting of brief time cycles of waking and falling back to sleep, and made me question what place I was in while sleeping, what was happening temporally, why was I hearing these sounds. When composing this piece and being reminded of this unknown place that was between the imaginary and reality, how did this impact on this work and the process of creating it? This paper will discuss the ideas explored in this composition, how I achieved these ideas sonically, and how the listener is allowed to create their own narrative of this place.
Dr Peter Mills
Senior Lecturer in Music and Culture
Leeds Beckett University
This paper will consider the work issued under the name This Mortal Coil on the 4AD label between 1984 and 1991. The brainchild of label-owner and curator Ivo Watts-Russell it serves as a compendium of disitinction via its renowned choices of songs by so-called cult artists to cover, and in several cases these served to introduce these artists to a new and younger audience – most notably, perhaps, Tim Buckley, whose ‘Song To The Siren’ is probably This Mortal Coil’s most famous recording. TMC was built to explore. In the process, new light was often shone on into dark corners of cult material and, equally, hitherto unheard darkness was discovered in unexpected places. Taken back to their chordal or rhythmic roots, or simply separated from them, the songs often sound like ghosts of themselves This paper explores these recordings and seeks to discover what happens to songs when this ‘dark light’ is turned upon them.
Video edit by Chris Paul Daniels; Sound edit by Kelvin Brown; additional video archive manipulation by Sam Meech. HD Video using authorised archive footage courtesy of Virgin Records and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
This triptych video installation was commissioned by Virgin Records and is composed from an array of music videos from within the Virgin Records Archive complimented by BBC news footage, Top of the Pops appearances and chat show interviews with acts from the record company’s roster that combine into a non-linear document of 40 years of audio visual innovation, performance and sub-culture. Video artist Chris Paul Daniels made this video edit by searching within the footage for visual components and similarities that interlinked the archive. There are sections where the drummers from artists as polar opposite as OMD, Magazine, Daft Punk, PiL and Phil Collins seemingly play together to merge in and out of the soundscape created by the sound artist Kelvin Brown. There’s also an entire section devoted to the similarities between Swedish House Mafia’s ‘Greyhound’ video and ‘Say you’ll be there’ by the Spice Girls which are near identical in their lighting, location and saturation. The work highlights many director heroes from the video archive such as Michel Gondry (Daft Punk’s Around the World), the Quay Brothers and Nick Park (Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer) as well as videos for Magazine (The Light Pours out of Me and Cut Out Shapes), Public Image Ltd (Rise and Public Image) and almost everything by Soul II Soul especially the footage from their club nights in the Fair Play video. The result is a rich sense of subversive and densely affective music video collage that weaves between overlapping identities and the frequently dark make up of commercial popular music.