"Dark academia"

480Dark academia has a nice ring to it. It's an internet aesthetic and subculture concerned with higher education, the arts, and literature, or an idealised version thereof. Think Donna Tartt's novel "The Secret History" in Harry Potterish outfits. Dark academia emerged on social media in 2015. It centres on classical educational ideals in university settings. Dark academia has been described as "boarding school meets goth enthusiast". Maybe I was a part of a precursor to dark academia in the 1980s? This is my claim to fame. I was fortunate to be accepted as a student at the prestigious Uppsala university (founded in 1477). You felt that you were part of something timeless and exclusive. I joined the oldest and most conservative of the 13 student nations (geography-based and more sophisticated fraternity/sorority). The student nation resided in a castle-like house. I entered a new (or old) world of traditions, incomprehensible customs and ceremonies, protocol and manners, hierarchial corps, secret societies, banquets, songs in elderly Swedish and all activities between heaven and earth. Still, I was on student loan like everybody else. I wore a black formal dress, a white dress shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons, white vest, bow tie and cuff links at banquets. This was later extended to an order cross and ribbons (ornated like a sacrificial bull). I had the right disposition and went all in. Later in working life, I received the evaluative judgment "easy to subordinate himself in hierarchical organizations". It was free and undemanding. Nobody talked about career or jobs. It was academic, erudite and studentesque. However, you could be stuck in twilight zone. There was a fear lingering: to become a perpetual student. Despite all distractions, I managed to complete my studies with average degrees. I have always aimed at mediocrity. When I compare dark academia to its precursor, there are some notable differences. Modern dark academia is individual and introvert (reading, writing and longing), while its precursor was collective and extrovert (socializing and partying). Formality and depravity were separated by a thin line. Formal banquets could turn into hedonistic parties (think Animal House with John Belushi). Another difference is that modern dark academia is a 24/7 committment, while you could go in and out of roles in the 1980s. With a few conspicuous exceptions you were only a part time dark academian. Finally, modern dark academia is darker and more melancholic than its precursor. The 1980s was a carefree decade. But, that's not the whole story. Wherever there is light, there is also shadow. 


"Diabolus in musica"

480Have you ever wondered why the introductory guitar riff in the first song of Black Sabbath's debut album sound so eerie and foreboding? This is tritone. Tritone is an interval between two notes, formed from three whole-tone steps. For example from C to D, D to E, and E to F sharp, so the tritone lies between C and F-sharp. This creates a tension that wants to be resolved. The interval sits somewhere between a perfect fourth and a perfect fifth and is therefore also called an augmented fourth (with a sharp) or diminished fifth (with a flat) depending on context. Whatever. In the Middle Ages, music was supposed to be holy, harmonious and ordered. A dissonant interval went against this. Tritone was named diabolus in musica (the Devil in music). Some heavy-metalists claim that tritones were banned by the Catholic church because of its association with the Devil. The Devil was said to exist in a particular musical tone. An equally good as hard to kill story, but there's no empirical support that tritones were ever banned. Tritones were discouraged and avoided due to the strict rules of harmony observed by those composing for the Catholic church. Moreover, tritones, with their unpleasant dissonances, were difficult to sing in tune. Toni Iommi come up with the three-note passage after listening to Gustav Holst "Mars, The Bringer of War" (from the suite The Planets). The guitarist imitated the sound on guitar and liked the evil, sinister and unsettling feeling about it. Toni Iommi experimented with it, inverted it and slowed it down. The rest is history.  


"Each thing in its right place"

480This blog post may seem a little bit off-topic, but it actually has some bearing on the characteristics that built this website. In 1990, I (literally) ditched all my vinyl records and went all in for cds. In those days, cds were really expensive. Nowadays, you can buy used cds for as little as 20-50 cents. On weekends, I spend time in thrift stores and flip through cds. I mostly buy quality classic cds released on Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Sony and Philips and the like. I flip through the cd racks and shelves with the speed of a hummingbird's wings. I often find something to buy. The store clerk always asks: "have you checked if there's a cd inside?" The clerks never ask: "have you checked if it's the correct cd inside?". I meticulously check the cd and its condition. A couple of weeks ago, I didn't follow the protocol and made a mistake. Back home, I discovered that the jewel case "Mozart* - Pinchas Zukerman, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra* - Violin Concertos No.1, 2 & 3, Sony Classical SBK 46 539" had a misplaced cd in it, namely "Mozart* – 3 String Quartets, K. 421, K. 428, K. 458, Digital Concerto – CCT 644". A more normal person would maybe be slightly annoyed, but then let it go. However, this triggered something inside me. Clearly, this mishap was about principles, values and beliefs. I had a hypothesis: the previous owner/giver had mixed up the cds when he gave the cds to the store. I went back to the thrift store a couple of days later. I knew which cd I was looking for. After browsing through all cds in the store I finally found the cd (it was, of course, the next to last of all cds). I urgently and expectantly opened the jewel case. However, it contained another misplaced Mozart cd. Did I get discouraged or slowly trickle out from the store? No, I don't give up so easily. My hypothesis had been falsified. My new hypothesis was that the SBK cd could be found in the third jewel case. And this cd was in the last batch that I had held in my hands. Who seeks shall find; who sits with folded hands or sleeps is blind. And there it was! I checked the condition (near mint), paid 50 cent for it and left the thrift store with a smug smile on my face. Firstly, I had brought home cd no. 5 233 to my cd collection. Secondly, I had brought order, structure and predictability into the thrift store. Each thing is now in its right place and where it should be in the first place. And thirdly, I gave back the cheap cd "Mozart* – 3 String Quartets, K. 421, K. 428, K. 458, Digital Concerto – CCT 644" to a nearby thrift store so that the cd could come into circulation again. Did I overdo it? Maybe, but going above and beyond to make it right are the very same characteristics that have built this website.


"The Lupercalia trilogy"

 


Ten years ago Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots released their one and only album. The self-titled album is a masterpiece and also represented on the list 10 essential gothic country albums, read more here (opens in new window). When Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots disbanded, Munly moved on to Slim Cessna's Auto Club and DBUK. But, there was still time and energy for more. Munly & the Lupercalians is a side project that started around 2006–2007. The name is binding. Lupercalia was a pastoral festival of Ancient Rome observed annually on February 15 to purify the city, promoting health and fertility. The plan was to release a series of multi-albums tentatively titled "The Kinnery Of Lupercalia” about the fictional town of Lupercalia and the people who live there (loosely based on the Peter and the Wolf composition by Sergei Prokofiev). The first album "Petr & the Wulf" was released in 2010. However, the years went by and I thought that this was both the beginning and the end of the project. Much to my surprise, in 2022 "Kinnery Of Lupercalia; Undelivered Legion" was released. And in March 2024 "Kinnery of Lupercalia: Buell Legion" opened for pre-order (release date 31 May 2024). The song "Harris" is available for pre-listening. Strangely and unexpectedly, the album will be released by Slim Cessna's Auto Club. You should probably not give it any deeper thought. Munly is the creative force of SCAC, DBUK and M&tL and the line-up is pretty much identical. Munly seems to have a clear vision for the project. Reportedly, he has a fictional map of Lupercalia. The framework was set from early on. The "Pre-History of Lupercalia" is available on Tumblr (originally published on Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots Myspace page), read more here (opens in a new window). Plans are just plans, only in rare cases plans actually become reality.


"Dark, decadent and nihilistic"

480A counterculture is a culture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, sometimes diametrically opposed to mainstream cultural mores. Punk is a counterculture. It's said to be dark, decadent and nihilistic. I met punk in 1977. We obviously noticed the ragged clothes, the leather jackets with rivets and the safety pins through chins, but we didn’t make too much of it. And we certainly didn’t recognize the tension, anger, frustration and anxiety. We just danced on. Let me explain. I grew up in a small ”company town” outside Stockholm. In those days, there was nothing to do except for sport or dancing. We danced (or made our unruly and stochastic moves - for lack of a better expression) in modern places like in the basement of the newly built "The People's House" (Swedish: Folkets hus), in the basement of a swim center and anachronistically in rural community centers, a type of homestead or heritage center (Swedish: bygdegård) in the rural parts of the municipality. These were small communities and not densely populated. If the places we went to were an odd mix of new and old, it’s was nothing compared to the DJs playlists. "Daddy Cool" by Boney M, "2-4-6-8 Motorway" by Tom Robinson Band, "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" by Baccara, "Anarchy in the UK" by Sex Pistols, "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, "God Save The Queen” by Sex Pistols, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, "White Riot" by Clash, "Dancing Queen" by Abba, "Pretty Vacant" by Sex Pistols, "Dont' Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston, "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" by Ramones, "That's The Way (I Like It)" by KC & the Sunshine Band, and for the last dance (cheek-to-cheek) "I’m Not In Love" by 10cc or "Love Hurts" by Nazareth. The punk influences just blended in. Maybe we "danced" a bit more intense in the punk songs, and maybe waived an arm or two or jumped up and down, but there’s all there was to it. Nothing dark, decadent or nihilistic. Except for a glue sniffing girlfriend in the toilet. 
 

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