Thursday, April 3, 2014

Understand the House through Poe's "Haunted"

               Poe’s album Haunted acts as a companion to her brother Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. All songs on the album seem to have a deep connection to the novel. Specifically, two songs, “Wild” and “Hey Pretty”, can be helpful in understanding how the house interacts and has an impact on the characters of the novel.

               “Wild” shows its strongest connection to the house at the end of the song. The last part of the song is separated from the rest by a few seconds of classical, foreboding strings. Then a radio-distorted voice says (over silence), “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 for communication/ Would not look the way your house looks today.” (Poe) The separation and introductory music catches the listener’s attention, noting that this is a part that needs special consideration.  The reference directly to the house and its abilities enforces the fact that the song is extremely concerned with the house. The beginning of the song doesn’t show as direct of a connection to the house, but it becomes more evident as the song progresses. The majority of the song has a slow and somewhat sexy tune, and about 1:40 into the song, Poe’s voice changes to a somewhat deeper, more serious tone. Again, this brings attention to an important part of the lyrics. She says,  “Tell me what you’ve come here for/ Moving like a hunter through my back door/ Leaving the perfume of all you adore/ To die nameless on my floor” (Poe). First of all, back door is a literal reference to a house. In addition, as seen in Exploration #4, the house often uses the feelings/understandings of its explorers to change itself, as well as destroy things that intrude into it. The path markers back to the living room were destroyed, in addition to precious supplies left behind by Holloway and his team (Danielewski 122). The house takes important things (“perfume of all you adore”), and changes or destroys them (dying nameless on the floor). This destruction cannot be stopped. About a minute later, “You wrote the rules to try to contain me/ You broke them now you haven’t tamed me/ And I’m wild” (Poe). No matter how much the house hurts its explorers, it can’t be tamed. The house is also aggressive and sassy, “Plan your attack and I’m still waiting/ Did you want something?” (Poe). As we already understand from the reading, the house is dangerous. This song reinforces this idea.

“Hey Pretty” shows another side to the house. It has the same musical feeling as “Wild”, a slow and sexy tune. From this, one can start to consider that the two songs are related before the lyrics even begin. The second and third verse of the song banishes any doubt that “Hey Pretty” also has to do with the house. These lyrics include, “Well I got a mind full of wicked designs”, “I am a building that has two thousand floors” (a very direct reference here), and “I can’t forget I am my sole architect/ I built the shadows here/ I built the growlin voice I fear” (Poe). If we understand that the house is singing to us, the next part of the song can be interpreted as the house enticing us to explore its depths. The song uses very affectionate words, such as “baby” and “pretty”, and asks if we want to take a ride through its world. Not only do the characters of the Navidson record need to interpret the house from the safety of its original rooms, but the house seduces us to follow its paths into the unknown:  “You add it up, but to do better than that/ You’ve got to follow me/ Boy I’m trying to show you where I’m at” (Poe). The sexy and seductive music and lyrics beg to be explored, and from this we can see that the house wants people to explore its labyrinth.

The two songs in combinations show the listeners something interesting about the house. “Wild” is the house telling us that it can’t be tamed, and “Hey Pretty” entices us into its wild depths. It wants us to become part of its labyrinth, to get lost in its wildness. The growling and shifting may seem to be trying to scare its explorers and drive them out of its mazes, but these songs help us understand that it actually wants people there. This idea helps us understand the novel better in that getting lost and going crazy inside is what the house wants its explorers to do. It doesn’t want them to find their way out or be saved. Since it is wild and can’t be tamed, it might go to great measures to keep them there. The readers can better understand what the house wants and therefore can understand and better possibly predict the house’s actions.

1 comment:

Adam said...

I like the idea that the house itself is personified in "Wild." I would have liked it if you'd beyond the lyrics into the music. Not that I'm good at writing about the actual music myself, but obviously it's dangerous to focus too much on the lyrics.

Your discussion of "Hey Pretty" was similar to that of "Wild," with maybe a little more attention to material beyond the lyrics. I like the developing theory that at least one of Poe's goals is to personify the house. One thing you could work with also is that the "Hey Pretty" remix at the end of the album mostly consists of Danielewski reading (in particular, part of Johny's encounter with Kyrie, which hopefully I'll get a chance to discuss at some point).

Overall this was good, although I would have liked more analysis of the music as such and/or a somewhat more developed overarching argument (moving from the individuals songs to the album, perhaps).