BROOKLYN, NY—The Morbid Anatomy Museum hosted a lecture entitled Goth 101 as the latest entry in its series of like-themed presentations by Andi Harriman, musicologist and author of a popular compendium on Postpunk and Goth culture. Ms. Harriman lectured for just under an hour, accompanying her extensive historical account with abundant photographic documentation.
The amount of material proves to be voluminous, but Harriman’s analysis puts forward the thesis that the Punk cultural movement of the 1970s, with its iconoclastic philosophy and raw musical style set the stage for the inevitable rise of the more wide-ranging and varied, but inter-related styles of the early ’80s called Postpunk. Out of this conglomerate of musical (and fashion) styles came Goth, a sort of apotheosis of a cultural thread that had run through Western civilization for millennia.
The roots of Goth were traced back to marauding nomad pagan tribes, the Goths and Ostrogoths, then became identified with the architecture that these former barbarians built as they settled in the Europe that they had conquered. Gothic art and architecture, identified with the period of Europe’s Dark Ages became associated with ruins and decay, then served as the back-drop for morbid-themed literature centered on haunted castles, seductive vampires and themes of emotional despair. Early cinema continued feeding the undercurrent of dark glamour, featuring such “vamps” as Theda Bara. Ghastly musical performance art in the mid-20th century fertilized the Postpunk substrate, eventually giving rise to the dark style of music that we now recognize as Gothic Rock.
Along the way, Ms. Harriman provided slides demonstrating concrete graphic examples that connected the thread, from engravings of barbarian invaders to images of Gothic cathedrals, the picturesque ruins of which supply the settings for Gothic novels, later for horror-themed motion pictures and television. Slide images traced the evolution from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins music videos to Alice Cooper, to the Velvet Underground, to Iggy Pop and, most importantly, to Bowie. We learned that the term Gothic Rock was first applied to The Doors, although Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the movie The Hunger seems to have been its first true inception when it all came together.
At the turn of the decade—the ’80s into the ’90s—Gothic Rock underwent mutation as electronic and synthetic instrumentation eventually took over, morphing the movement into Industrial Music, while retaining of some of Goth’s dark preoccupations. Thus aficionados of Gothic Rock are to be found today pursuing their musical taste patronizing clubs and music collections that term themselves as “Gothic-Industrial.”
Show date: April 27, 2016