Electronic Music And Mental Illness In Cinema.

Celluloid Wicker Man

This article contains narrative spoilers.

From its very earliest occurrences, electronic instrumentation and music has been used in cinema to signpost various aspects of mental health problems and issues within diegetic characters.  Alongside its uses in creating alien worlds, electronic instrumentation seems to, at least in the eyes of the films’ creators, have an ability to go deep within the human psyche as well as far out into space.  The overall idea seems to stem from a difference of origin between classical music and any other music; the overt, albeit contradictory, naturalism of classical instruments being too grounded in the natural harmony of life to really provide the aural anguish of mental illness in its various guises.  Something aesthetically manmade is required.

Perhaps even more ironically, the first handful of occurrences of electronic instrumentation happen around the time when Hollywood in particular had really defined its nondiegetic aural soundworlds through…

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Intercourse with the Devil

Mystical Sex

Sexual intercourse with the DevilAt the height of the Puritan era in the 17th century, belief in the Devil was widespread and completely literal. For most people, Satan was a symbol of evil to be feared and avoided, but there were those who believed they could attain earthly power by seeking out his company and engaging in sexual intercourse with him. A young French woman named Jeannette d’Abadie described the Devil as a large man with horns and a tail, and the most massive penis she had ever seen. It was almost a metre in length, covered in scales and cold to the touch. Copulating with the Lord of Hell was as painful as childbirth, but infinitely more satisfying than sex with a human male. When the Devil ejaculated inside her, Jeannette said that his semen was as cold as ice.

A few years later, a native of the Scottish Highlands named Isobel Gowdie…

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The Art of José Guadalupe Posada

Dark Class

José Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican cartoonist who lived from 1852 to 1913.  With a sharp, satirical wit, Posada frequently lampooned society and politics.  He is best known for his “Calaveras” (skeleton) cartoons, which have now become associated with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday.

(Click a picture to see a larger version)

The Calavera of the Alley Cat

The Calaveras of the Aristocratic Couple
Posada enjoyed taking jabs at the high society of his day.

The Dance and Party of the Calaveras
Even partying and dancing is soon to be replaced by death.

The Calavera of Don Quixote

The Calaveras of the News Carriers
The newspaper carriers of the late nineteenth century racing and trampling over each other to bring news of death and sorrow.

The Calavera from Oaxaca
A satirical jab at the Oaxaca revolutionaries.

The Calavera Proposal
Marriage is represented as a form…

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Stan Brakhage – Lecture Notes

Screen Project @ York U

dog star man dog star man

Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.

– Stan Brakhage

(Stan Brakhage/Jane Brakhage, USA, 1959, 12 m, col, 24fps)

Notes excerpted from presentation by Jessica Mulvogue @ York U 2012

 

-“Father of the American avant-garde.”

-made almost 400 films, ranging from 1 minute to 4 hours in length

-Influenced by painting: impressionism and abstract expressionism.

-interested in movement, rhythm, light, exploring ways of seeing and making visible the unseen.

-subjective vision

-themes of life, death, sex, birth, childhood through explorations of daily life, domesticity, family, nature or through abstraction.

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Techniques Brakhage developed to change the way the camera produces its image:

-Spitting on the lens or using out of focus shots to achieve…

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