Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Haunted and House of Leaves

                 When listening to the Haunted album by Poe I was struck by how remarkably upbeat the style of music is. I must say I was expecting something much creepier and dark considering it is the companion album to Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Although the album started out with the voice of the girl singing, a little creepily I might add, that her father had died, it quickly moved closer to the pop genre. The words may represent the relative darkness of the novel, but the vast majority of the music is not what any horror movie producer would put in his movie at a pivotal moment of suspense.  This departure from the expected reveals a lot about the book.
                The music suggests that rather than focus on the house, more importance should be placed on the feelings and relationships of those inside. Because of the relative up tempo music throughout her album, Poe takes away some of the horror of the novel. It is still there in bits and pieces of messages on answering machines and strange men echoing verses, but primarily the songs speak about relationships rather than horror. Especially the relationship between Navidson and Karen. Many of the songs are about love, or more specifically strained love. For instance, in Poe’s song Wild she says “You wrote the rules to try to contain me/You broke 'em now you have untamed me” (Poe). This reflects the importance of the rules that Karen and Navidson forced on each other and how it defines their relationship and also much of the book. Karen does not allow Navidson to enter the hallway (although he does) and Navidson doesn’t want Karen flirting with other men (although she starts to with the introduction of Halloway).  At the end of that song an echoing male voice says:
Communication is not just words
Communication is architecture
Because of course it is quite obvious
That a house which would be built without the sense
Without that desire to communicate
Would not look the way your house looks today
This suggests that even the house is built around Karen and Navidson’s relationship and how their action to deal with it separately severely alters the way that the house itself acts and appears to them. Many of Poe’s songs in fact reference architecture, which is generally thought of as solid, unchanging and exact. But within the context of House of Leaves, it is none of these things. Poe though generally uses architecture to describe some form of a relationship, whether it be communication or something else. Because the architecture of the house is constantly changing and mysterious, Poe’s music suggests so is the communication and the love between Karen and Navidson. Even their own house is unknown to them, even their own relationship is enigmatic.
                The importance of the echo is also emphasized in Poe’s music. Many of her songs incorporate them in some way, either with actual echoes or by referencing them in the lyrics. During her song Haunted the line “Hallways... always” (Poe) is very similar to Zampano’s observation that “then again ‘always’ slightly mispronounces ‘hallways’. It also echoes it.” (Danielewski 73). Poe’s lyric seems to confirm this theory by Zampano and also highlights it as important. As soon as I heard the lyric I thought of this passage and it immediately held more weight in the novel as a whole. The passage offers foreshadowing to the children getting lost in the hallways. But it also emphasizes the endlessness of them. Strengthens the fact that the hallways are never ending. Danielewski states that echoes “colour the word with faint traces of sorrow (the Narcisis myth) or accusation (the Pan myth) never present in the original” (Danielewski 41). So which is the “always” of hallways? The sorrow or the accusation? It may be both. If the hallways are a rift between Karen and Navidson then they can be seen as both the sorrow of their separation that they both feel and as the accusation each has for the other. Navidson accusing Karen of holding him back and Karen accusing him of not settling down. The echoes on the album also give us a sense of emptiness. Sometimes echoes give a sense of grandeur, but these are different there is a certain twinge to them that makes them more sorrowful and more empty. This gives the listener a concrete example of the echoes in the hallways and Zampano’s interpretation of echoes as a whole.

1 comment:

Adam said...

This essay strikes me as both detailed and clever. I would have preferred that you focus on fewer topics - either write about the relatively upbeat character, or the web of architectural references, or the echo. Addressing all of the above at once felt more than a little disconnected to me.

That being said, I thought you handled all three topics well in a very constrained space. I would have liked more about how the music leads us to a focus on personal relationships - that's a good idea that could have gone farther.

FYI, the older male voice is generally/always the voice of their father, who was a polish filmmaker of some importance - if you were inspired to do a final project, that's relevant information.