Of Music Videos and Museums

Uttara Rangarajan | 21 January
Art museums have long been an elite space, subsumed within hierarchies of colour and class while displaying work made for the rich and powerful. Western art has traditionally worked from within the colonial gaze to present whiteness as the norm, to invisibilise or stereotype people of other ethnicities. In the modern era, as people from around the world strive to break free of these categories, one of the most powerful challenges to western iconography has emerged from music videos which reinvent and undermine the Eurocentricism of western art.

Read Article →

Ophelia and Pink in the Bathtub

Devika | 26 November, 2018
It was Edgar Allan Poe who said “the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world”. Poe’s misogynist statement is an accurate summary of the way the figure of Ophelia has been treated for centuries. Appropriated and rendered in multiple art forms, from paintings to dramatic representations, Ophelia is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic female figures. Besides drama, novelists, artists, painters and even pop stars have found inspiration from the dead, floating woman.

Read Article →

Recomposing Caesuras: The Silent Creativity of Sounds in A Quiet Place

Alexandra Huang | August 8, 2018
Ghastly verisimilar, aurally suffocating, and acoustically pioneering, John Krasinski’s sci-fi thriller A Quiet Place (2018) enacts the post-apocalyptic survival story revolving around the families of Lee and Evelyn (played by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt). Entangled in a fatal hide-and-seek human hunt in an unidentified wasteland set in America, the eerily predatory monsters attempt to trace the protagonists by utilizing auditory clues to target their prey across the ravaged planet. Witnessing the tragic deprivation of their youngest child by the reptilic monstrosities, the family is reduced to a miserable, quasi-mimical way of life against the backdrop of elegiac, death-like silence.

Read Article →

Models of Capitalist Subversion: Hip Hop or Rock?

Tomas Vergara | May 30, 2018

On the 5th of May of 2018 Gibson, one of the most emblematic guitar manufacturers, announced bankruptcy. An interesting aspect of this event, beyond its economic repercussions on the music industry, is its cultural significance. It marks the decline of rock and guitar-based music, once the dominant musical genre. Gibson’s bankruptcy opens several symptomatic questions concerning the role of music in contemporary capitalist culture: What does this shift in musical taste reflect about the dynamics of capitalist culture? Does it signal the emergence of new ideological apparatuses no longer compatible with rock music? 

Read Article →

Transcending Incidental Music: Musical Theatricality in Schumann’s Manfred Overture

Alexandra Huang | May 12, 2018
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) is a music composer in high Romanticism. His symphonic rearrangement of the dramatic poem Manfred by Lord Baron Byron (1788-1824) to this day shares the limelight with Byron’s original text. The Manfred Overture is the opening introduction set in the beginning of his Symphony Op.115, Manfred: Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts along with the Overture (1848). In terms of genre, the piece is the apotheosis of incidental music, music composed for atmospheric accompaniment for dramatic actions in a play. Originating from ancient Greece, incidental music is a musical practice that looms large in the nineteenth century (Oxford Companion to Music). Interestingly, Shumann’s Manfred Overture is also a critique of the genre in that the place of music is as important as the dramatic scenarios.

Read Article →

Fever Ray’s Monster

Madison Pollack | March 13, 2018
There is a latent threat behind each frame of Fever Ray’s video for “To The Moon And Back:” the setting is a large abandoned building whose sparsely placed neon tubes compensate for a lack of overhead lighting. We find our protagonist encased in glass, and she is a fright to behold; her face looks to have been recently carved into, with red encircling her mouth and eyes; her skin is an inhuman shade of white, and she jolts to life surrounded by smoke in a series of twitchy, cross-eyed frames. She is Fever Ray’s Monster in the tradition of Dr. Frankenstein and his unnatural creation. Both come to life alone, abandoned by their creators, hideous in their appearance. Both wander into the dark, lacking any preparation for the world they’ve been born into, not knowing what to expect.

Read Article →

Smelling the Colour Nine

June L. Laurenson | February 24, 2018
There is a phrase in the English language that is often used to express confusion and bafflement: ‘Understanding you is like smelling the colour nine’. You can’t smell a colour, let alone a number; and nine isn’t a colour. For most people, this chaotic multisensory phrase effectively conveys a deep incomprehension about a thing or a person. But to me the number nine does have a colour (although not a smell), and I am not alone in experiencing this; I am in very good company.

Read Article →

I Wish I Was a Girl: Counting Crows and Clarity

Bradley Copper | 15 May 2017

The patriarchal trope of using a woman in order to explain some woeful truth about a man is of course a damagingly old one. This sexist setup, in which women are one-dimensionally portrayed so as to help a speaker come to some conclusion about himself or his world, while never honouring their experience, is a genric cornerstone that remains in so much literature to the present day. American rock band Counting Crows adopt a version of this trope in constructing femaleness or womanness—the songs are predictably not definitionally specific on this point—as a signifier of clarity. The band’s frontman and lyricist Adam Duritz imagines the women characters in his songs as being able to speak directly about their emotions in a way that he as a man cannot.

Read Article →

The Siren’s Call: Mica Levi’s Soundscapes of Alien Femininity

Katie Goh | 15 May 2017

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014) opens with a bright white light shining into the audience, which then morphs into an eye over the span of five minutes, accompanied by a crescendo of buzzing violins. The opening is disturbing and abstract, setting the tone for the film’s sonic and visual imagery and for the alien language created by Mica Levi’s soundscape.

Mica Levi’s second film score was for Jackie (2016), Pablo Lerrain’s biopic of America’s most famous widow, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The film chronicles Jackie’s response to the aftermath of her husband’s assassination as she simultaneously processes her personal grief and works to mythologize her husband’s legacy. Both Lerrain and Glazer’s films are about alien femininity: whereas Under the Skin centres on a literal alien playing as woman, Jackie follows an alienated woman.

Read Article →