Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blog 8 Haunted & House of Leaves

Ben Fellows
Blog 8 Prompt 4

Haunted and House of Leaves: Haunting One Another

The album Haunted by Poe (Annie Danielewski) has an interesting background, as it was both released as a tribute to Tad Danielewski, her father, and as a companion to House of Leaves, a book by her brother, Mark Danielewski. As it was not her first album released, it’s interesting to consider that she had a fan base from her first album, so this album was certainly listened to by people unfamiliar with the book. When one listens to it as a standalone album and then listens to it alongside the readings of House of Leaves, it changes the meaning of the songs. Although listeners may want to relate the lyrics to some of Poe’s personal experiences, readers of House of Leaves can attribute the songs to various parts and characters.

The album opens up with “Exploration B” as an answering machine, and Poe singing her message, “I thought you should know Daddy died today, He closed his eyes and he left here, at 12:03…Pick up, pickup please, mom? Hello?”(Exploration B, Poe). As this album is both a tribute to her late father and to the book, nonreaders would certainly interpret this to be about the death of her father. As a reader, I’m not quite certain how this relates too much to the book, except to the death of Zampano and the phone call Johnny receives from Lude, however the content of the call is not too similar in itself. This intro as a song is interesting, because it does in fact operate the way an introduction should in place of a song, both introducing the tribute aspect of the album, plus introducing a sort of creepiness that is present throughout the whole album. It’s certainly more than a little strange that she is singing to the answering machine about the death of her father.

The song “Haunted” is definitely one of the catchier songs on the whole album. On top of that, the allusions to the book are far greater. While the song has very dark material in its lyrics, it maintains a playful sort of aspect with the repeated “Ba Da Pa Pa”s. Once again, considering that this album is a tribute to her father, it seems appropriate to understand this song as her being “haunted” by the ghost of her father, with such lines as “Come here, No I won’t say please, One more look at the ghost before I’m gonna make it leave”(Haunted, Poe). The aspect of this song that relates to the book however, is in the lines such as “…the shadows keep on changing” and the references to echoes and hallways. One could certainly relate this to Johnny, as he has seemingly become haunted by either Zampano’s ghost or at least by reading his material. However, another way to examine it is through Navidson, as he is fascinated by his house, but understands it is not healthy for his family. At one point they say that they’re going to just check out the dark hallway and then move out and leave it behind (although this does not happen). That aspect of the book could also be related to the line “one more look at the ghost before I’m gonna make it leave,” where the ghost is the house itself. As with many of Poe’s songs on this album, the song ends with recordings of her father, but she manipulates them in such a way that is creepy, with the addition of a child’s voice. Personally, I believe it would be hard to incorporate a child’s voice on this album without being creepy simply because of the context of the material.

Poe does not seem to focus on one individual as far as the perspective she is singing from on this album. For instance, one could certainly relate “Control” to the Minotaur. With lines such as “You may be king for the moment, but I am a queen understand” (Control, Poe). This could certainly allude to King Minos banishing his son into the labyrinth but simultaneously be related to Johnny talking back to his father. The tone of this song is very standoffish, as one might expect from a song declaring control. It is a little eerie that at the end of this song, her father’s recordings seem to fit both the book and the song exceptionally well. He mentions imposing will on humanity (taking control) but he also mentions “disintegrations which the creative life ceases: everything has to fall apart” (Control, Poe). I may be reading too far into this, but this certainly seems to describe an aspect of the dark abyss of the house, where what is left behind by those inhabiting it slowly deteriorates.

Yet another song relates to another character, in “Wild”, as I feel like this is about Navidson taking over the exploration from Holloway. With a title like “Wild” it isn’t difficult to expect this song to have much more of a hard rock feel. The song features lyrics in the first half, but the second half is much more interesting in instrumental with repeated lyrics “I go wild…wild…wild…” echoing in the background. This song is particularly interested in echoes, so the listener can certainly place themselves in Navidson’s shoes, in that dark abyss after Holloway has started his shooting spree. The sound effects in this song are particularly appropriate. Static with what could perhaps be gunshot noise or even “the roar of slamming doors” (Danielewski, 235).

While one could go through every song on this album with comparisons, such as “Amazed” being about Thumper, “If you were here” being about Zampano, and of course “Hey Pretty (Drive by Remix)” certainly being about Kyrie, the important part is how the meanings change in these songs after having read House of Leaves. I’m fairly certain there are some parts of these songs that are even more related than I know, based on later portions of the novel. It’s interesting how two separate pieces about the same subject can greatly impact the other. For example, having read House of Leaves greatly changes the meanings of the lyrics, but also lets the listener understand why the song sounds the way it does, based on what part of the book it is referencing. On the other hand, having listened to Haunted and then reading House of Leaves, one could certainly argue that Poe’s album adds another dimension to the reading. The reader can have a sort of soundtrack playing in their head for different parts of the book, which is interesting considering the dark abyss is supposed to be completely silent, with exception to the growls. I can certainly say that once I have finished reading House of Leaves, having listened to Haunted will have certainly enhanced the overall experience created by the Danielewskis. The concept of two separate works of art contributing to one another is interesting, given that in this case it is not an example of prequel or sequel, but rather two pieces released almost simultaneously, meant to complement one another.

1 comment:

Adam said...

The introduction does a good job of opening some of the issues or themes of "reading" the album in tension with the book, although it doesn't effectively introduce an argument.

Re: exploration B, you should probably be thinking in terms of Johny, whose father dies before his mother - and there was bitter dissension there, resulting from her mental illness. So there's a clear point of reference.

Re: Haunted, there's a chunk of Chapter IX which is explicitly about the ghosts who haunt the text. That seems relevant to what you're doing.

While I agree with what you say about how children's voices work on the album, it seems like a simple observation with potential to become an argument. What else could you have done here?

Reading "Control" as applying to the House itself is undeniably interesting - but how can that move from being a speculation to an argument? My thought is rooted in an observation I've read about "Wild": that in its structure, it's almost like a song plus its own remix (that is, it has a structure wildness, which can nevertheless be understood). That structural observation, that the song contains multiple versions of itself (you could probably do similar things wiht Control) seems applicable to HOL. My bigger observation is that you could do more here with *form*.

I think you get a little lost in itemizing things in the album which *could* be understood in tension or relationship with the book. You needed more about what parts *should* correctly be understood in that way - which would take you away from teh vague observation that the album adds a dimension to the book to the more concrete idea that it gives us some particular insight into it.