Gothic Night: Amnesia and Reawakening

Research output: Other contribution


Gothic Night was developed from my fascination with Gestalt psychology, where the unified outcome is other than the sum of its parts. Equally, the notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk informs this research practice. Trahndorff in his 1827 work, Ästhetik oder Lehre von Weltanschauung und Kunst, used the term Gesamtkunstwerk, which Richard Wagner adopted to describe his combining of the creative aspects of text/drama and music on an equal basis. Gothic Night advances this concept considerably in the digital age by combining text, drama, music, performance (vocal, instrumental and digital), place, visual concept (including colour) and moving images together within a single artistic vision. I have designed, written, composed, directed and performed all elements of Gothic Night and the other seven multimedia works and two songs that comprise Neon Noir.

Originality is further explored in the post-minimalist soundworld, stealing elements from popular music. Elements of contemporary popular song are combined with a perfect Baroque harmonic sequence and with acoustic, non popular-music instrumental scoring.

New ground is also broken in relation to vocal performance. Having been trained as a countertenor at the Royal College of music, I have applied a more classical countertenor sonority and extended the recent trend in popular music of combining chest voice and falsetto singing. This is achieved by crossing much more frequently across the chest voice and countertenor registers, taking the voice consistently higher in the countertenor register and holding falsetto notes considerably longer than usual.

All of these compositional and performative facets are designed to work with and enhance the concept of amnesia and reawakening which lies as the defining concept behind the work. In 1988 I suffered total amnesia after a head injury. Having previously thought this the stuff of novels and films, I now know it to be one of the most curious and alienating of experiences. I awoke in a hospital bed, conscious, but unaware of who I was, where I was and why I was there. I had no memory at all of family, friends, places or events, and yet I was conscious and could talk coherently. It was a frightening, alienating and numbing experience, but strangely profound. The key line of text 'I want to live, don't let me die,' draws from this sense of the fragility of human existence and consciousness and the text of the song flowed quickly in recalling this experience many years later.

This in turn is echoed in the use of colour in the cinematography. Intensely vivid colours of the opening reflecting the full sensorial and conscious world taken for granted by most people, to monochrome for the amnesia

Equally, the artistic concept embraces place in equal measure - the setting is the extraordinary grade 1 listed murals and Medieval Hall House at Piccotts End, Hertfordshire. ‘This is a doorway to another world. It’s a time machine… Painted over five hundred years ago, its walls are aglow with images of Christ, the Virgin and the Saints.

We’ll never know who painted these beautiful things… these glorious images.’ (Prof. Shama: 2015)

However This is also true for the other six audio visual works within the body of work, Neon Noir.

Original languageEnglish
TypeGothic Night - Song, Performance and Video
Media of outputSingle Release and Online Video
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Mar 2017


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