Night Club

Innovating Tradition (Traditional Innovation)

“Scribes trained in the way of the Kingdom Heaven are like a householder who brings out from the treasury things both new and old.”  Matthew 13:52

New and old, innovation and tradition, generally  in opposition to one another.  Yet , new and old are two momentary experiences.  New and old are how we experience things in certain moments: the unexpected, anticipation, recollection and familiarity.  Something that is new (to me) is also unfamiliar but also full of promise.  Tradition is something passed on, it has age yet it also what is known and familiar.

Rock and Roll for a time kept inventing new aspects of itself.  Notably for me in my experience of music and Rock-n-Roll are punk and various post-punk genres that can be put under the umbrella of Goth, EBM, Industrial, Death Rock, Dark Wave, Shoe Gazer etc.

If you attend a Goth or Dark Wave festival or convention there will be bands that are still around from early on in the scene and of course newer bands.  At one of these festivals  friend of mine and I were unfamiliar with but had heard good things about this new band  The music was familiar and drew us in we would dance for a bit of the song and then we’d both stop.  About the fourth or fifth song in my friend leaned over and said “every one of their songs I’m like oh ya this is great I know this song, and then I realize, no , it only sounds like such and such great song by so and so.” I was having exactly the same experience.  Another band were excellent musicians yet the passion seemed to be sucked out of their music, or more to the point their musicianship was excellent but they lacked raw energy of the punk and death rock one would expect. The music was good the sound fit within Goth Dark wave genre, but I was unmoved but  mesmerized by the technical skill in reproducing the sounds typical of the genre. A third band was clearly conscious that they were embracing Goth Death Rock template, yet they embraced it fully even the sense that there wasn’t anything original to what they were doing, unexpectedly though the songs didn’t sound like other bands.  Thee was a distinctiveness even an newness to their submission to the genre.  Then there was Sunshine Blind, who hadn’t played or released an album in years and it was fresh a familiar and full of years of dancing to their songs..  The goth festival is an experience of Tradition.

Granted a young tradition, but it seems clear to me that certain music genres are traditional even though their origins were innovations, Jazz and Blues come readily to mind.  Rock and Roll and it sub genres both punk and Goth are now traditions.

Seeing these music genres as musical traditions, I think can bring to light the dynamic between tradition and innovation as well as dislodge our preconceived ideas about both.

Then maybe we can begin to reflect upon Jesus’s aphorism about the scribes of the Beloved Community being a curator who is able to represent a treasured collection by presenting from that collection both what is old and new.

 

Suffering and Joy on the Dance Floor: or Dancing to Joy Division

My friend Tripp recently published a brief musing on suffering and death: it’s kind of goth. I’ve sat with the musing.  Part of what he’s wrestling with are the ways many Christians often make suffering trite by attempting to make God responsible for it ( in some way) or at least responsible for making it meaningful.  What stuck with me and what trips me up, is his having said God suffer’s and dies everyday.  I get it, but I can’t help but think this says too much, and is also a means to bring God too close, too understandable.

This was in the back of my mind as I headed out to the goth night Nocturna at the Metro, this past Saturday.  Shortly after arriving Scary Lady Sarah spun Joy Division‘s Love Will Tear us Apart.

It’s a great song, I love to dance to it.  As I was dancing to this haunting,melancholic, tortured song I was aware of the contrast between the  joy I was feeling as I danced and the pain of a failing relationship sung about in the song.  As I danced I also recalled the circumstances of Ian Curtis’ death and his own physical and mental health struggles and suffering.

Such an amazing song.  Such beauty that touches so many.  Love Will Tear Us Apart invariably fills the dance floor.

I feel there is something here.  I have great wonderment at how such beauty, joy ( even hope), come out of  expressions of pain and suffering.

As I danced I thought and prayed (for Ian Curtis, for others wrestling with their demons like he did, perhaps dancing next to me), and I observed in amazement how my awareness of  the pain of a failing relationship sung about in the song, didn’t diminish the joy in dancing to a haunting pain filled song of longing for something more.

Love Will Tear us Apart is larger than the pain of a failing relationship, Joy division and Ian Curtis’s songs inhabit a world that encompasses but is larger than Ian’s tragic story.  Even so without the pain, without Ian Curtis and his pain and suffering there wouldn’t be the music of Joy Division, nor the joy found in dancing to it, as we connect with a longing for something beyond pain and suffering.

“God suffers and dies. everyday”.

Ian Curtis’s suffering and troubled mental life wasn’t for the purpose of  my enjoyment in dancing to one of his songs more than 30 years after his death.  Even so, out of who he was and the circumstances of his life and mental state he created some amazing music, in which there is great longing and joy.  There wasn’t purpose to his suffering, but for a time at least he reached beyond pain and suffering and wove that pain into great music.  What I find in Joy Divisions songs and lyrics is longing and beauty in the midst of pain, frustration, and depression.

Things to contemplate, something contemplated in the movement of bodies on a dance floor some 30 years after the song was recorded.

“God does not give us suffering. God does not give us death.

God suffers and dies. Every day. “


Dissatisfaction and Longing : Gothic sonic identity part 1

This is a post in the series on my “sonic identity”  a project of reflecting on music and identity following on the path of the Anglobaptist who is exploring such things as part of his Ph.D in Liturgy and Music.  There were a number of posts around this topic earlier this year at Anglobaptist.org one can be found here, and my introduction to this series is here.

At a recent Goth club Back to the Grave, these two songs were played (among many others): Homosapien and Temple of Love. I like both songs though stylistically they are different. They are though both songs from important figures in the Goth scene, Sisters of Mercy (Andrew Eldritch) and Pete Shelly of the Buzzcocks.  I’ve been dancing to both of these songs at Goth clubs for a very long time.  Years ago a friend of mine put on  Temple of Love and said this is the quintessential goth song.  One could of course argue whether or not saying so was hyperbole, but Temple of Love still gets a large number of people out on the dance floor of any goth club. Pete Shelly’s Homosapien is less quintessentially goth in style, but was played in goth clubs.  Shelly’s solo work is synth pop and new wave, though often with a punk edge, as in this song.

But what do I mean by a “punk edge”.  By punk edge I’m touching upon (I think, Tripp correct me if I’m off base here) sonic identity.  One aspect of Punk is expression, often in anger, of dissatisfaction with the way things are.  This dissatisfaction is at times mistaken for winning, but this dissatisfaction is a desire for something different.  The goth aspect of this  includes a certain resignation that certain things simply will be the way they are, always with biting critique.  Goth dissatisfaction can also be expressed as an opting out of this status quo.

Take some time to listen to the sounds in each of these, The lyrics match but I think the lyrics conform themselves to the sounds of longing, dissatisfaction, rejection, and resignation:

Homosapien by Pete Shelly:

Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy:

Both songs are about love but they aren’t simply love songs.  

Homosapien is a love song that is seeking something more in love than the systems of love and romance currently provide.  The song explores in the context of romance larger dysfunctional patterns in our culture that get in the way of the ideals of love and romance (BTW it is also a song about two men in love, and was banned initially by the BBC for this, I don’t want to get distracted here but it also calls into question  attempts to categorize our sexuality  this too is part of my sonic identity).  Homosapien expresses dissatisfaction but  longs for union beyond romance, longs for a truth and a label that unifies.

“I don’t wanna classify you like an animal in the zoo
But it seems good to me to know that you’re Homosapien too”
A love beyond the broken  patterns of the world just might be the way forward.

Temple of Love is angry and more resigned.  The powers of love and romance, the god(dess), aren’t kind but are capricious and promise one thing but in fact give us something else.   Temple of Love tells us it is better to give up on the promise of the goddess of love, and accept the capriciousness of this power.  Be ready to ended it all if needed and remember all romance has the power to give is a one night stand.  The gods of love and romance can’t keep their promises, and so even this ideal, these gods will fade away like all other powers.

“The Temple of love is falling down.”

Dissatisfaction, anger and deep longing walk hand in hand in this landscape.  There is also in these songs a piercing and critical insight into what is believed to be true and what actually works itself out in our daily lives.  Both songs step away from the ideal of romance. Temple of Love abdicates from the ideal entirely, and resigns itself to bleak but honest world without promises.  Homosapien seeks in love something beyond romance, it seeks a love that is transformative, though it seems a little bit like a pipe dream.

This resonates with me deeply.  The sort of Christian faith I was raised in taught me to distrust the powers and ideals of the world.  While there was nothing wrong with falling in love, romance and falling in love were simply shadows of a deeper truth about love.  If romance was the only story about love it was seen as idolatrous, a god(dess) in competition with the God who is Love beyond romance and sex, and “falling in Love.”  Such a temple would of course be doomed to fall from the perspective that makes relative all love in the face of the Other who is love.

The dissatisfaction and the longing in these songs, I hear (and have always heard) with a Christian heart: One should not be satisfied with the world and the powers as they are for what is, is off kilter and a distortion of what should be.  The world as we find it isn’t what God intends.  The longing is for the reign of God.  I hear in this longing a desire for God who is Love, a Love beyond any human love, a Love that keeps it’s promises, but always in unexpected and transforming ways.

“We’re (however we label ourselves or are labeled) homosapiens too”, made in the image of God, and the powers of this current system, the gods and goddesses we create and to whom we build temples, are all passing a way and their temples are falling down.

 

The Circus Is Eternal: Fashion Liturgy

Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s  fashion Show “The Circus is Eternal” Friday night (March 2) at Nocturna was a great time.  Kate’s garments looked amazing on each of the models (who weren’t professional models, but various people for the goth scene).   The preparation was a little halting as neither Kate nor I had produced a fashion show before.  Things though all went relatively smoothly.

In the midst of the show as I was running the projections and directing the models out on stage (so that they came out with the appropriate projected title), the thought came to me that Kate had created a liturgy of the Circus.  The combined elements of the show – the garments were  inspired by the Circus, and our instructions to the models that they should be aware of themselves and their bodies in their garments, which were not circus costumes, were evocative of the circus.  The models were performing and making present the Circus without re-enacting a particular circus(real or imaginary).

Kate designed each garment for particular people she knew of differing body types and designing each “type” of circus performer based on her acquaintance with each model.   In part it was here conception of who fit what role that evoked and invoked the presence of the circus.  Each model and the models together (Kate had them remain on stage or in front of the stage but visible to the audience) embodied  these “types” of the circus. In this way she presented what endures through time or transcends time and place and particularity of the circus.    Her title then stated truly she was articulating what is enduring  and human about the circus, as well as do so in a way consistent with the archetypes of the Goth scene.   In other words “The Circus is Eternal” was a Goth liturgy of the circus.

The liturgies both of the ancient pagan world and of the Christian Church, were spectacles intended to draw people into a particular reality that transcended time and place and yet also would connect with the people and their archetypes.  These liturgies represented the eternal and transcendent types and realities, in ways also recognizable to a particular place and time, but not to articulate the values of the place and time, but to draw those in a particular place and time into something beyond a moment.  These spectacles initiate us into a transcendent moment and its archetypes, and it makes these moments and archetypes present for us.  Or it brings us into the presence of these things that are beyond and yet infuse our daily life.

“The Circus  is Eternal” did this as each model in Kate’s designs invoked and presented to us the various archetypes of the Circus: Janitor, Lion and Lion Tamer, Tightrope Walker, Fire Dancer, Ringmaster, and Dervish.   The show built as each model came out showcasing their garment and in keeping all the models on stage it created the fullness of the circus and its spectacle and controlled chaos as all the models joined in the Dervish’s dance.   We found ourselves in the presence of the Circus, without a circus being present, but its eternal moment its archetypes drew us into the reality and archetypes of the circus, as the music (archetypal yet industrial circus music) also drew us into the world of the circus through sound.  All the elements came together so that we were all, for 6 minutes, at the circus, through this fashion liturgy.

(You may find images here at Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s website.)

 

 

Eros, Goth, God, and Desire – Intro

Tripp the Anglobaptist is pushing me in good ways. He is pushing me to consider what is the relationship between my sonic urban sub cultural identity and my sonic theological and religious identity. Well he isn’t doing it directly necessarily, but in talking to him about his course work in Liturgy and Music and in our conversation bout praise bands and if there is an appropriate music for Christian worship, he has raised some questions for me about how my views on Christian Worship may or may not link up with my sonic subculture, that is that I identify as Goth and have a taste for that music.

I have written about this in the past, or at least why the various styles and bands that can fit under the label “Goth” appeal to me and what I find in them. But it generally has been for the purpose of explaining to those outside the subculture. It’s been an apologetic in a sense, that is a defense of Goth and my involvement in it.

But what about for me, for other Goth’s: What desires are expressed in our music, in our dance. Why do we listen to what we listen to? What if anything might it connect up to spirituality and God’s desire, or of desiring God?

So this is where I think this blog thread on Priestly Goth is going, for at least awhile. And I think a couple of reviews of recent albums and bands under the umbrella of Goth may find their way to the light of day contextualize in this question.

Not a defense, nor even a simply an explanation, but exploring our sonic identity and spirituality. Perhaps my reader you will want to explore this with me. Let’s discuss, I’d love to hear from others about thier “sonic identities’ or “sonic theology”: why do you listent to and /or identify with a group that listens to a certain style of music? These are tricky things, better to not have only ones own voice.