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  • The Euro-Pagan Scene:Between Paganism and Radical Right
  • Stéphane François
    Translated by Ariel Godwin

Music is a vector for identity. Indeed, music is something entirely social, maintaining complex relationships with the social world. It holds a position that has become central amongst the elements that form our perception of the world, the sense of hearing rivaling more than ever what we see and what we read. The social element is at the heart of the processes of the production and reception of the musical. It determines its developments, functions, and meanings to a great extent. In a continuous mirroring, music reflects and expresses the social space that, in its turn, invests in it, infusing it with new meaning. The musical object, a truly cultural generator of cultural practices, is not something given but something constructed, the product of a "here and now" in which codes, norms, values, and strategies of innovation and copying are tangled together in perpetual construction.1 Music can also be a method of engagement, at the same time individual (those who listen) and/or collective (those who play)—a medium for resistance to cultural or political domination.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, there simultaneously appeared "alternative rock," with a left-wing message, and "rock identitaire" (identity rock), with an extreme right-wing message, these two genres succeeding the socially active, left-wing rock and the rediscovery of local, folk, and ethnic music that occurred during the 1970s.2 Thus music can be a medium for raising awareness. In fact, it is above all a social indicator and a generator of political symbols, but also of religious symbols (gospel music) and community symbols (rap, Yiddish music).

The music analyzed here, which I here call Euro-pagan music, along with its scene (groups, labels, press, and so forth), is a musical and cultural movement [End Page 35] little known to the general public. It is an undercurrent of a larger but equally confidential scene: industrial music. The people involved in the diffusion of this scene are relatively few but highly active. This is also a style of music that has become popular and undergone a large expansion. Its themes relate to European paganism and to the history of Europe.3 The message of this scene evolved at the margins of the extreme revolutionary conservative right. This scene is therefore specific to the themes that power it. The term "Euro-pagan" is not innocent and was not chosen arbitrarily; it represents what the performers of this music wish to produce: a music that is "typically" European.

The Origins of the Euro-Pagan Scene

The relatively small Euro-pagan scene implies a widespread diffusion of the industrial music that is capable of reaching into the cultural and ideological environments of multiple generations and dispositions. "Industrial music" is a generic term, bringing together a multitude of musical groups, sometimes with vastly different styles. Coined at the end of the 1970s, it was made more widely known by Genesis P. Orridge, leader of the group Throbbing Gristle, who used it to define their music.

This musical scene has its origins in various geneses, notably the psychedelic music of the preceding decades. The influence of the 1970s is particularly visible in the domain of this music through the use of atmospheric instrumental soundscapes, improvisation, and experimentation. The innovation lies in the systematic use of noise or dissonance, the absence of melodies, and in contrast with their predecessors, a confrontational message. These groups were influenced by punk, by the Dadaists of Fluxus and by the Italian futurists (such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti). They appeared, historically, in the wake of or along with the repetitive music of American minimalists such as La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, and Steve Reich, and we can also mention here the atonality of the works of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, Arnold Schönberg, and Pierre Henry.

Industrial music developed at an earlier time in an urban environment and/or in highly industrialized regions stricken by crisis: London, Sheffield, West Berlin, and the major American cities. We can distinguish four successive waves: the first from its origins (around 1974–75...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1197
Print ISSN
1930-1189
Pages
pp. 35-54
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-06
Open Access
No
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