Gothic Art And Architecture

Andrew Henry Robert Martindale: Professor of Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, 1974–95. Author of Gothic Art and others.

A history of the Gothic period of Art and Architecture

Gothic Art is concerned with the painting, sculpture, architecture, and music characteristic of the second of two great international eras that flourished in western and central Europe during the Middle Ages

Gothic art evolved from Romanesque art and lasted from the mid-12th century to as late as the end of the 16th century in some areas. The term Gothic was coined by classicizing Italian writers of the Renaissance, who attributed the invention (and what to them was the non-classical ugliness) of medieval architecture to the barbarian Gothic tribes that had destroyed the Roman Empire and its classical culture in the 5th century Ad. The term retained its derogatory overtones until the 19th century, at which time a positive critical revaluation of Gothic architecture took place. Although modern scholars have long realized that Gothic art has nothing in truth to do with the Goths, the term Gothic remains a standard one in the study of art history.

Architecture was the most important and original art form during the Gothic period. The principal structural characteristics of Gothic architecture arose out of medieval masons' efforts to solve the problems associated with supporting heavy masonry ceiling vaults over wide spans. The problem was that the heavy stonework of the traditional arched barrel vault and the groin vault exerted a tremendous downward and outward pressure that tended to push the walls upon which the vault rested outward, thus collapsing them. A building's vertical supporting walls thus had to be made extremely thick and heavy in order to contain the barrel vault's outward thrust.

Medieval masons solved this difficult problem about 1120 with a number of brilliant innovations. First and foremost they developed a ribbed vault, in which arching and intersecting stone ribs support a vaulted ceiling surface that is composed of mere thin stone panels. This greatly reduced the weight (and thus the outward thrust) of the ceiling vault, and since the vault's weight was now carried at discrete points (the ribs) rather than along a continuous wall edge, separate widely spaced vertical piers to support the ribs could replace the continuous thick walls. The round arches of the barrel vault were replaced by pointed (Gothic) arches which distributed thrust in more directions downward from the topmost point of the arch.

Since the combination of ribs and piers relieved the intervening vertical wall spaces of their supportive function, these walls could be built thinner and could even be opened up with large windows or other glazing. A crucial point was that the outward thrust of the ribbed ceiling vaults was carried across the outside walls of the nave, first to an attached outer buttress and then to a freestanding pier by means of a half arch known as a flying buttress. The flying buttress leaned against the upper exterior of the nave (thus counteracting the vault's outward thrust), crossed over the low side aisles of the nave, and terminated in the freestanding buttress pier, which ultimately absorbed the ceiling vault's thrust.

These elements enabled Gothic masons to build much larger and taller buildings than their Romanesque predecessors and to give their structures more complicated ground plans. The skillful use of flying buttresses made it possible to build extremely tall, thin-walled buildings whose interior structural system of columnar piers and ribs reinforced an impression of soaring verticality.

Throughout this period, the central corridor of Europe running northwest from Lombardy to England, between Cologne and Paris, retains an exceptional importance. Much of the significant art--especially architecture--was produced within this geographic area, because it appears to have been an extraordinarily wealthy area, with enough funds to attract good artists and to pay for expensive materials and buildings. Paris --for much of this period the home of a powerful and artistically enlightened court--played an especially important role in the history of Gothic art.

Three successive phases of Gothic architecture can be distinguished, respectively called Early, High, and late Gothic.

Early Gothic.

This first phase lasted from the Gothic style's inception in 1120-50 to about 1200. The combination of all the aforementioned structural elements into a coherent style first occurred in the Île-de-France (the region around Paris), where prosperous urban populations had sufficient wealth to build the great cathedrals that epitomize the Gothic style. The earliest surviving Gothic building was the abbey of Saint-Denis in Paris, begun in about 1140. Structures with similarly precise vaulting and chains of windows along the perimeter were soon begun with Notre-Dame de Paris (begun 1163) and Laon Cathedral (begun 1165). By this time it had become fashionable to treat the interior columns and ribs as if each was composed of a bunch of more slender parallel members. A series of four discrete horizontal levels or stories in the cathedral's interior were evolved, beginning with a ground-level arcade, over which ran one or two galleries (tribune, triforium), over which in turn ran an upper, windowed story called a clerestory. The columns and arches used to support these different elevations contributed to the severe and powerfully repetitive geometry of the interior. Window tracery (decorative rib-work subdividing a window opening) was also gradually evolved, along with the use of stained (colored) glass in the windows. The typical French early Gothic cathedral terminated at its eastern end in a semicircular projection called an apse. The western end was much more impressive, being a wide facade articulated by numerous windows and pointed arches, having monumental doorways, and being topped by two huge towers. The long sides of the cathedral's exterior presented a baffling and tangled array of piers and flying buttresses. The basic form of Gothic architecture eventually spread throughout Europe to Germany, Italy, England, the Low Countries, Spain, and Portugal.

In England the early Gothic phase had its own particular character (epitomized by Salisbury Cathedral) that is known as the early English Gothic style (c. 1200-1300 AD). The first mature example of the style was the nave and choir of Lincoln Cathedral (begun in 1192).

Early English Gothic churches differed in several respects from their French counterparts. They had thicker, heavier walls that were not much changed from Romanesque proportions; accentuated, repeated moldings on the edges of interior arches; a sparing use of tall, slender, pointed lancet windows; and nave piers consisting of a central column of light-colored stone surrounded by a number of slimmer attached columns made of black purbeck marble.

Early English churches also established other stylistic features that were to distinguish all of English Gothic: great length and little attention to height; a nearly equal emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines in the stringcourses and elevations of the interior; a square termination of the building's eastern end rather than a semicircular eastern projection; scant use of flying buttresses; and a piecemeal, asymmetrical conception of the ground plan of the church. Other outstanding examples of the early English style are the nave and west front of Wells Cathedral (c. 1180-c. 1245) and the choirs and transept of Rochester Cathedral.

Early Gothic

At the technical level Gothic architecture is characterized by the ribbed vault (a vault in which stone ribs carry the vaulted surface), the pointed arch, and the flying buttress (normally a half arch carrying the thrust of a roof or vault across an aisle to an outer pier or buttress). These features were all present in a number of earlier, Romanesque buildings, and one of the major 12th- and early 13th-century achievements was to use this engineering expertise to create major buildings that became, in succession, broader and taller. How their visual appearance changed is easy to see if one compares, for instance, the early 13th-century Reims cathedral, in France , with the late 11th-century Durham cathedral, in England . A broad comparison of this sort also brings out the artistic ends to which the new engineering means were applied. Skilled use of the pointed arch and the ribbed vault made it possible to cover far more elaborate and complicated ground plans than hitherto. Skilled use of buttressing, especially of flying buttresses, made it possible both to build taller buildings and to open up the intervening wall spaces to create larger windows. In the 12th century larger windows produced novel lighting effects, not lighter churches. The stained glass of the period was heavily colored and remained so--for example, at Chartres cathedral--well into the 13th century.

One of the earliest buildings in which these techniques were introduced in a highly sophisticated architectural plan was the abbey of Saint-Denis , Paris . The east end was rebuilt about 1135-44, and, although the upper parts of the choir and apse were later changed, the ambulatory and chapels belong to this phase. The proportions are not large, but the skill and precision with which the vaulting is managed and the subjective effect of the undulating chain windows around the perimeter have given the abbey its traditional claim to the title "first Gothic building." The driving figure was Suger, the abbot of Saint-Denis , who wrote two accounts of his abbey that are infused with his personal aesthetic of light as a reflection of the infinite light of God. Something similar to what he intended at Saint-Denis was attempted soon after at Notre-Dame, Paris , begun in 1163 (the east end was subsequently altered), and Laon cathedral, begun about 1165 (the east end was rebuilt in the early 13th century). Perhaps because of liturgical inconvenience, it later became more common to keep firm the architectural divisions between the peripheral eastern chapels, as at Reims (rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original cathedral in 1210) and Amiens (begun 1220) cathedrals, for example. This particular feature of Saint-Denis did not, therefore, have a very long subsequent history.

It is not known what the original 12th-century interior elevation of Saint-Denis was like. Elsewhere, though, the problems that followed in the wake of the increasing ability to build gigantic buildings are easily seen. Possibly the most important one concerns the disposition of the main interior elevation. The chief elements are the arcade, the tribune (upper gallery set over the aisle and normally opening into the church) or triforium galleries (arcaded wall passages set above the main arcade) or both, and the clerestory. These may be given equivalent treatment, or one may be stressed at the expense of the others. Precedents for almost every conceivable combination existed in Romanesque architecture. In a building such as Sens cathedral (begun c. 1140), the arcade is given prominence, but in Noyon (begun c. 1150) and Laon cathedrals the four elements mentioned above are all used, with the result that the arcade is comparatively small. Subsequently, the arcade came back into prominence with Bourges cathedral (begun c. 1195). But one of the most influential buildings was Chartres cathedral (present church mainly built after 1194). There, the architect abandoned entirely the use of the tribune gallery, but, instead of increasing the size of the arcade, he managed, by a highly individual type of flying buttress, to increase the size of the clerestory. This idea was followed in a number of important buildings, such as the 13th-century Reims and Amiens cathedrals. The conception that the content of a great church should be dominated by large areas of glazing set in the upper parts was influential in the 13th century.

The decorative features of these great churches were, on the whole, simple. In the second half of the 12th century it became fashionable, as at Laon cathedral, to "bind" the interior elevation together by series of colonettes, or small columns, set vertically in clusters. Again, as at Laon, much of the elaborate figured carving of Romanesque buildings was abandoned in favour of a highly simplified version of the classical Corinthian capital--usually called a "crocket" capital. Under the influence of Chartres cathedral, window tracery (decorative rib-work subdividing the window opening) was gradually evolved.

There is one group of churches, built for houses of the Cistercian order, that requires separate consideration. They tend to be similar, but it is often a similarity of general simplicity as much as of architectural detail. The Cistercian order was bound to ideas of austerity laid down by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. During his lifetime these ideals were maintained largely through the degree of centralized control exercised from the head house at Cîteaux ( Burgundy ). Thus, many of the Cistercian churches built in England , Italy , or Germany seem to have had characteristics in common with French Cistercian churches. A good French example survives at Fontenay (begun 1139). These buildings probably encouraged the early dissemination of the pointed arch. That they did much more than this is doubtful.

If one examines the architecture outside north and northeastern France, one finds, first, that buildings in what might be called a Romanesque style continued up to the end of the 12th and into the 13th century and, second, that the appreciation of the developments in France was often partial and haphazard. In England the most influential building in the new fashion was the choir of Canterbury cathedral (1175-84), which has many of the features of Laon cathedral. It is the decorative effects of Laon that are used rather than its overall architectural plan, however. There is only a rather depressed tribune gallery, and the building retains a passage at clerestory level--an Anglo-Norman feature that remained standard in English architecture well into the 13th century. Both in the shape of the piers and in the multiplicity of attached colonettes, Canterbury resembles Laon. Colonettes became extremely popular with English architects, particularly because of the large supplies of purbeck marble, which gave any elevation a special coloristic character. This is obvious at Salisbury cathedral (begun 1220), but one of the richest examples of the effect is in the nave of Lincoln cathedral (begun c. 1225).The early stages of architectural development in the Gothic period are untidy and have a strong regional flavor. During this period in Germany , large buildings showing northern French characteristics are few. The Church of Our Lady at Trier (begun c. 1235) and the Church of St. Elizabeth at Marburg (begun 1235) both have features, such as window tracery, dependent on northern French example; but the church at Trier is highly unusual in its centralized plan, and St. Elizabeth is a "hall church" (that is, the nave is virtually the same height as the aisles), which places it outside the canon of contemporary French building.

In Spain the two most important early Gothic buildings were Burgos (begun 1222) and Toledo (begun 1221) cathedrals. Their architects probably knew Reims and Amiens ; but their models were undoubtedly Bourges and Le Mans (begun 1217), since the main internal architectural feature is a giant arcade rather than an extended clerestory. By contrast, Scandinavian architects seem to have been influenced, to begin with, by English buildings. Certainly there is a strong English flavor in the 13th-century Trondheim cathedral ( Norway ).

High Gothic.

During the period from about 1250 to 1300 European art was dominated for the first time by the art and architecture of France. The reasons for this are not clear, although it seems certain that they are connected with the influence of the court of King Louis IX (1226-70).By about 1220-30 it must have been clear that engineering expertise had pushed building sizes to limits beyond which it was unsafe to go. The last of these gigantic buildings, Beauvais cathedral, had a disastrous history, which included the collapse of its vaults, and it was never completed. In about 1230 architects became less interested in size and more interested in decoration. The result was the birth of what is known as the Rayonnant style (from the radiating character of the rose windows, which were one of its most prominent features). The earliest moves in this direction were at Amiens cathedral, where the choir triforium and clerestory were begun after 1236, and at Saint-Denis , where transepts and nave were begun after 1231. Architects opened up as much of the wall surface as possible, producing areas of glazing that ran from the top of the main arcade to the apex of the vault (). The combination of the triforium gallery and clerestory into one large glazed area had, of course, a unifying effect on the elevations. It produced an intricate play of tracery patterns and instantly unleashed an era of intense experiment into the form that these patterns should take. Many of the achievements of the Rayonnant architects are extremely fine--for instance, the two transept facades, begun during the 1250s, of Notre-Dame, Paris . The decorative effect of this architecture depends not only on the tracery of the windows but also on the spread of tracery patterns over areas of stonework and on architectural features such as gables.

In the history of this development, one building deserves special mention, the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (consecrated 1248). This was Louis IX's palace chapel, built to house an imposing collection of relics. It is a Rayonnant building in that it has enormous areas of glazing. Its form was extremely influential, and there were a number of subsequent "saintes-chapelles"--for instance, at Aachen and Riom--that were clearly modeled on the Parisian one. The interior of the Parisian Sainte-Chapelle is extraordinarily sumptuous. Although the sumptuosity itself set new standards, its characteristics belonged, curiously, to a past age. The glass is heavily colored, the masonry heavily painted, and there is much carved detail. One of the characteristics of the second half of the 13th century is that glass became lighter, painting decreased, and the amount of carved decoration dwindled. Thus, in its chronological context, the Sainte-Chapelle is a Janus-like building--Rayonnant in its architecture but, in some ways, old-fashioned in its decoration.

Of the many smaller Rayonnant monuments that exist in France , one of the most complete is Saint-Urbain, Troyes (founded 1262). There, one can see the virtuosity practiced by the architects in playing with layers of tracery, setting off one "skin" of tracery against another.

In a sense, the Rayonnant style was technically a simple one. Depending, as it did, not primarily on engineering expertise or on sensitivity in the handling of architectural volumes and masses but on the manipulation of geometric shapes normally in two dimensions, the main prerequisites were a drawing board and an office.

Most countries produced versions of the Rayonnant style. In the Rhineland the Germans began one of the largest Rayonnant buildings, Cologne cathedral, which was not completed until the late 19th century. The German masons carried the application of tracery patterns much further than did the French. One of the most complicated essays is the west front of Strasbourg cathedral (planned originally in 1277 but subsequently altered and modified). One feature of Strasbourg and of German Rayonnant architecture in general was the application of tracery to spires--at Freiburg im Breisgau (spire begun c. 1330), for example, and the spire of Strasbourg that was begun about 1399. Few such medieval spires survive (though often they were completed in the 19th century).Of all the European buildings of this period, the most important is probably the cathedral of Prague (founded in 1344). The plan was devised according to routine French principles by the first master mason, Mathieu d'Arras. When he died in 1352, his place was taken (1353-99) by Petr Parlér, the most influential mason in Prague and a member of a family of masons active in south Germany and the Rhineland. Parlér's building included the start of a south tower and spire that clearly continued the traditions of the Rhineland . His originality lay in his experiments with vault designs, from which stem much of the virtuoso achievement of German masons in the 15th century.

London, too, has Rayonnant monuments. Westminster Abbey was rebuilt after 1245 by Henry III's order, and in 1258 the remodeling of the east end of St. Paul 's Cathedral began. King Henry was doubtless inspired by the work carried out by his brother-in-law, King Louis IX of France , at the Sainte-Chapelle and elsewhere. Westminster Abbey, however, lacks the clear lines of a Rayonnant church, mainly because, like the Sainte-Chapelle, it was heavily decorated with carved stonework and with color.

In fact, English architects for a long time retained a liking for heavy surface decoration; thus, when Rayonnant tracery designs were imported, they were combined with the existing repertoire of colonettes, attached shafts, and vault ribs. The result, which could be extraordinarily dense--for instance, in the east (or Angel) choir (begun 1256) at Lincoln cathedral and at Exeter cathedral (begun before 1280)--has been called the English Decorated style, a term that is in many ways an oversimplification. The interior architectural effects achieved (notably the retrochoir of Wells cathedral or the choir of St. Augustine , Bristol ) were more inventive generally than those of contemporary continental buildings. The inventive virtuosity of the masons of Decorated style also produced experiments in tracery and vault design that anticipated by 50 years or more similar developments in the Continent.

English Decorated was, however, never really a court style. Already by the end of the 13th century, a style of architecture was evolving that ultimately developed into the true English equivalent of Rayonnant, generally known as Perpendicular. The first major surviving statement of the Perpendicular style is probably the choir of Gloucester cathedral (begun soon after 1330). Other major monuments were St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster (begun 1292 but now mostly destroyed) and York Minster nave (begun 1291).Spain also produced Rayonnant buildings: León cathedral (begun c. 1255) and the nave and transepts of Toledo cathedral, both of which have, or had, characteristics similar to the French buildings. But, since the Spanish partiality for giant arcades (already seen in the earlier parts of Toledo and at Burgos ) persisted, one can hardly classify as French the three major cathedrals of this period: Gerona (begun c. 1292), Barcelona (begun 1298), and Palma-de-Mallorca (begun c. 1300). They are, in fact, so individual that it is difficult to classify them at all, although peculiarities in the planning and buttressing of the outer walls gives them some similarity to the French cathedral of Albi (begun 1281).Toward the end of the century, the influence of French ideas spread northward to Scandinavia, and in 1287 French architects were summoned to Sweden to rebuild Uppsala cathedral.

The second phase of Gothic architecture began with a subdivision of the style known as Rayonnant (1200-1280 AD) on the Continent and as the Decorated Gothic (1300-75 AD) style in England. This style was characterized by the application of increasingly elaborate geometrical decoration to the structural forms that had been established during the preceding century.

During the period of the Rayonnant style a significant change took place in Gothic architecture. Until about 1250, Gothic architects concentrated on the harmonious distribution of masses of masonry and, particularly in France, on the technical problems of achieving great height; after that date, they became more concerned with the creation of rich visual effects through decoration. This decoration took such forms as pinnacles (upright members, often spired, that capped piers, buttresses, or other exterior elements), moldings, and, especially, window tracery. The most characteristic and finest achievement of the Rayonnant style is the great circular rose window adorning the west facades of large French cathedrals; the typically radial patterns of the tracery inspired the designation Rayonnant for the new style. Another typical feature of Rayonnant architecture is the thinning of vertical supporting members, the enlargement of windows, and the combination of the triforium gallery and the clerestory until walls are largely undifferentiated screens of tracery, mullions (vertical bars of tracery dividing windows into sections), and glass. Stained glass--formerly deeply colored--became lighter in color to increase the visibility of tracery silhouettes and to let more light into the interior. The most notable examples of the Rayonnant style are the cathedrals of Reims, Amiens, Bourges, Chartres, and Beauvais.

The parallel Decorated Gothic style came into being in England with the general use of elaborate stone window tracery. Supplanting the small, slender, pointed lancet windows of the early English Gothic style were windows of great width and height, divided by mullions into two to eight brightly colored main subdivisions, each of which was further divided by tracery. At first, this tracery was based on the trefoil and quatrefoil, the arch, and the circle, all of which were combined to form netlike patterns. Later, tracery was based on the ogee, or S-shaped curve, which creates flowing, flame like forms. Some of the most outstanding monuments of the Decorated Gothic style are sections of the cloister (c. 1245-69) of Westminster Abbey; the east end, or Angel Choir, of Lincoln Cathedral (begun 1256); and the nave and west front of York Minster (c. 1260-1320). Late Gothic. In France the Rayonnant style evolved about 1280 into an even more decorative phase called the Flamboyant style, which lasted until about 1500. In England a development known as the Perpendicular style lasted from about 1375 to 1500. The most conspicuous feature of the Flamboyant Gothic style is the dominance in stone window tracery of a flame like S-shaped curve.

In the Flamboyant style wall space was reduced to the minimum of supporting vertical shafts to allow an almost continuous expanse of glass and tracery. Structural logic was obscured by the virtual covering of the exteriors of buildings with tracery, which often decorated masonry as well as windows. A profusion of pinnacles, gables, and other details such as subsidiary ribs in the vaults to form star patterns further complicated the total effect.

By the late Gothic period greater attention was being given to secular buildings. Thus, Flamboyant Gothic features can be seen in many town halls, guildhalls, and even residences. There were few churches built completely in the Flamboyant style, attractive exceptions being Notre-Dame d'Épine near Châlons-sur-Marne and Saint-Maclou in Rouen. Other important examples of the style are the Tour de Beurre of Rouen Cathedral and the north spire of Chartres. Flamboyant Gothic, which eventually became overly ornate, refined, and complicated, gave way in France to Renaissance forms in the 16th century.

In England the parallel Perpendicular Gothic style was characterized by predominance of vertical lines in the stone tracery of windows, an enlargement of windows to great proportions, and the conversion of the interior stories into a single unified vertical expanse. The typical Gothic pointed vaults were replaced by fan vaults (fan-shaped clusters of tracery-like ribs springing from slender columns or from pendant knobs at the center of the ceiling). Among the finest examples of the Perpendicular Gothic style are Gloucester Cathedral (14th-15th centuries) and King's College Chapel, Cambridge (1446-1515).


Gothic sculpture was closely tied to architecture, since it was used primarily to decorate the exteriors of cathedrals and other religious buildings. The earliest Gothic sculptures were stone figures of saints and the Holy Family used to decorate the doorways, or portals, of cathedrals in France and elsewhere. The sculptures on the Royal Portal of Chartres Cathedral (c. 1145-55) were little changed from their Romanesque predecessors in their stiff, straight, simple, elongated, and hieratic forms. But during the later 12th and the early 13th centuries sculptures became more relaxed and naturalistic in treatment, a trend that culminated in the sculptural decorations of the Reims Cathedral (c. 1240). These figures, while retaining the dignity and monumentality of their predecessors, have individualized faces and figures, as well as full, flowing draperies and natural poses and gestures, and they display a classical poise that suggests an awareness of antique Roman models on the part of their creators. Early Gothic masons also began to observe such natural forms as plants more closely, as is evident in the realistically carven clusters of leaves that adorn the capitals of columns.

Monumental sculptures assumed an increasingly prominent role during the High and late Gothic periods and were placed in large numbers on the facades of cathedrals, often in their own niches. In the 14th century, Gothic sculpture became more refined and elegant and acquired a mannered daintiness in its elaborate and finicky drapery. The elegant and somewhat artificial prettiness of this style was widely disseminated throughout Europe in sculpture, painting, and manuscript illumination during the 14th century and became known as the International Gothic style. An opposite trend at this time was that of an intensified realism, as displayed in French tomb sculptures and in the vigorous and dramatic works of the foremost late Gothic sculptor, Claus Sluter. Gothic sculpture evolved into the more technically advanced and classicistic Renaissance style in Italy during the 14th and early 15th centuries but persisted until somewhat later in northern Europe.


Gothic painting followed the same stylistic evolution as did sculpture; from stiff, simple, hieratic forms toward more relaxed and natural ones. Its scale grew large only in the early 14th century, when it began to be used in decorating the retable (ornamental panel behind an altar). Such paintings usually featured scenes and figures from the New Testament, particularly of the Passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary. These paintings display an emphasis on flowing, curving lines, minute detail, and refined decoration, and gold was often applied to the panel as background colour. Compositions became more complex as time went on, and painters began to seek means of depicting spatial depth in their pictures, a search that eventually led to the mastery of perspective in the early years of the Italian Renaissance. In late Gothic painting of the 14th and 15th centuries secular subjects such as hunting scenes, chivalric themes, and depictions of historical events also appeared. Both religious and secular subjects were depicted in manuscript illuminations--i.e., the pictorial embellishment of handwritten books. This was a major form of artistic production during the Gothic period and reached its peak in France during the 14th century. The calendar illustrations in the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (c. 1416) by the Limburg brothers, who worked at the court of Jean de France, duc de Berry, are perhaps the most eloquent statements of the International Gothic style as well as the best known of all manuscript illuminations

Manuscript illumination was superseded by printed illustrations in the second half of the 15th century. Panel and wall painting evolved gradually into the Renaissance style in Italy during the 14th and early 15th centuries but retained many more of its Gothic characteristics until the late 15th and early 16th centuries in Germany, Flanders, and elsewhere in Northern Europe.

Italian Gothic (c. 1200-1400)

In its development of a Gothic style, Italy stood curiously apart from the rest of Europe . For one thing, the more obvious developments of the Italian Gothic style occurred comparatively late--in the 13th century. For another, whereas in most European countries artists imitated with reasonable faithfulness architectural styles that were derived ultimately from northern France , they seldom did so in Italy . This was in part because of geographic and geologic factors. In the figurative arts the combined influences of Byzantine Constantinople and classical antiquity continued to play a far more important role in Italy than in countries north of the Alps . Furthermore, Italian architectural style was decisively affected by the fact that brick--not stone--was the most common building material and marble the most common decorative material.

The distinctiveness of Italian art emerges as soon as one studies the architecture. Twelfth-century buildings such as Laon, Chartres , or Saint-Denis , which appear to have been so important in the north, had virtually no imitators in Italy . Indeed, buildings with Romanesque characteristics, such as Orvieto cathedral (begun 1290), were still being built at the end of the 13th century. The Italians, however, were not unaware of what, by French standards, a great church ought to look like. There is a sprinkling of churches belonging to the first third of the century that have northern characteristics, such as attached (partially recessed in the wall) shafts or columns, crocket capitals, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults. Some of these were Cistercian (Fossanova, consecrated 1208), others were secular (Sant'Andrea, Vercelli ; founded 1219). The chief common feature of the larger Italian 13th-century churches, such as Orvieto cathedral and Santa Croce in Florence (begun 1294), was the size of their arcades, which gives the interiors a spacious feeling. Yet in detail the churches vary from the French pattern in a highly individual way.To the extent that Rayonnant architecture is particularly concerned with the manipulation of two-dimensional patterns, the Italian masons produced their own version of the style. In these terms, the facade of Orvieto cathedral (begun 1310), for example, is Rayonnant; the front of Siena cathedral was planned as a Rayonnant facade (), and the Campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of Florence cathedral (founded 1334) is Rayonnant to the extent that its entire effect depends on marble patterning (which is traditionally ascribed to the painter Giotto). Finally, it is perhaps legitimate to see Filippo Brunelleschi's 15th-century architecture as a continuation of this tendency--a kind of Florentine equivalent, perhaps, to English Perpendicular. But before the 15th century, Italian architectural development never appears to have the logic or purpose of northern architecture.

Though the rebuilt Milan cathedral is, in plan and general character, Italianate, its decorative character is mainly derived from the north, probably Germany . The exterior is covered with tracery, which makes Milan cathedral more like a Rayonnant building than any other large church in Italy .

Late Gothic

During the 15th century much of the most elaborate architectural experiment took place in southern Germany and Austria . German masons specialized in vault designs; and, in order to get the largest possible expanse of ceiling space, they built mainly hall churches (a type that had been popular throughout the 14th century). Important hall churches exist at Landshut ( St. Martin 's and the Spitalkirche, c. 1400), and Munich ( Church of Our Lady , 1468-88). The vault patterns are created out of predominantly straight lines. Toward the end of the 15th century, however, this kind of design gave way to curvilinear patterns set in two distinct layers. The new style developed particularly in the eastern areas of Europe : at Annaberg (St. Anne's, begun 1499) and Kuttenberg (St. Barbara's, 1512).Such virtuosity had no rival elsewhere in Europe . Nevertheless, other areas developed distinctive characteristics. The Perpendicular style is a phase of late Gothic unique to England . Its characteristic feature is the fan vault, which seems to have begun as an interesting extension of the Rayonnant idea in the cloisters of Gloucester cathedral (begun 1337), where tracery panels were inserted into the vault (). Another major monument is the nave of Canterbury cathedral, which was begun in the late 1370s, but the style continued to evolve, the application of tracery panels tending to become denser. St. George's Chapel, Windsor (c. 1475-1500), is an interesting prelude to the ornateness of Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey. Some of the best late Gothic achievements are bell towers, such as the crossing tower of Canterbury cathedral (c. 1500).In France the local style of late Gothic is usually called Flamboyant, from the flame-like shapes often assumed by the tracery. The style did not significantly increase the range of architectural opportunities. Late Gothic vaults, for instance, are not normally very elaborate (one of the exceptions is Saint-Pierre in Caen [1518-45], which has pendant bosses). But the development of window tracery continued and, with it, the development of elaborates facades. Most of the important examples are in northern France --for example, Saint-Maclou in Rouen (c. 1500-14) and Notre-Dame in Alençon (c. 1500). France also produced a number of striking 16th-century towers ( Rouen and Chartres cathedrals).The most notable feature of the great churches of Spain is the persistence of the influence of Bourges and the partiality for giant interior arcades. This is still clear in one of the last of the large Gothic churches to be built--the New Cathedral of Salamanca (begun 1510). By this time, Spanish architects were already developing their own intricate forms of vaulting with curvilinear patterns. The Capilla del Condestable in Burgos cathedral (1482-94) provides an elaborate example of Spanish Flamboyant, as does--on a larger scale--Segovia cathedral (begun 1525).There was a final flowering of Gothic architecture in Portugal under King Manuel the Fortunate (1495-1521). The fantastic nature of much late Gothic Iberian architecture has won for it the name Plateresque, meaning that it is like silversmith's work. The decorative elements used were extremely heterogeneous, and Arabic or Mudéjar forms emanating from the south were popular. Ultimately, during the 16th century, antique elements were added, facilitating the development of a Renaissance style. These curious hybrid effects were transplanted to the New World , where they appear in the earliest European architecture in Central America .

The end of Gothic

The change from late Gothic to Renaissance was superficially far less cataclysmic than the change from Romanesque to Gothic. In the figurative arts, it was not the great shift from symbolism to realistic representation but a change from one sort of realism to another.

Architecturally, as well, the initial changes involved decorative material. For this reason, the early stages of Renaissance art outside Italy are hard to disentangle from late Gothic. Monuments like the huge Franche-Comté chantry chapel at Brou (1513-32) may have intermittent Italian motifs, but the general effect intended was not very different from that of Henry VII's Chapel at Westminster . The Shrine of St. Sebaldus at Nürnberg (1508-19) has the general shape of a Gothic tomb with canopy, although much of the detail is Italianate. In fact, throughout Europe the "Italian Renaissance" meant, for artists between about 1500 and 1530, the enjolivement, or embellishment, of an already rich decorative repertoire with shapes, motifs, and figures adapted from another canon of taste. The history of the northern artistic Renaissance is in part the story of the process by which artists gradually realized that classicism represented another canon of taste and treated it accordingly.

But it is possible to suggest a more profound character to the change. Late Gothic has a peculiar aura of finality about it. From about 1470 to 1520, one gets the impression that the combination of decorative richness and realistic detail was being worked virtually to death. Classical antiquity at least provided an alternative form of art. It is arguable that change would have come in the north anyway and that adoption of Renaissance forms was a matter of coincidence and convenience. They were there at hand, for experiment.

The use of Renaissance forms was certainly encouraged, however, by the general admiration for classical antiquity. They had a claim to "rightness" that led ultimately to the abandonment of all Gothic forms as being barbarous. This development belongs to the history of the Italian Renaissance, but the phenomenon emphasizes one aspect of medieval art. Through all the changes of Romanesque and Gothic, no body of critical literature appeared in which people tried to evaluate the art and distinguish old from new, good from bad. The development of such a literature was part of the Renaissance and, as such, was intimately related to the defense of classical art. This meant that Gothic art was left in an intellectually defenseless state. All the praise went to ancient art, most of the blame to the art of the more recent past. Insofar as Gothic art had no critical literature by which a part of it, at least, could be justified, it was, to that extent, inarticulate.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Tape Spectra

Brian Baker

The film Contact (1997) begins with a striking effects sequence. After the title, the film begins with a shot of the Earth from low orbit, in shadow. On the soundtrack, contemporary rock music plays. Both visual and aural signs mark this to be ‘now’, our present day. The camera (virtually) begins to recede, and as it does, the sound stage alters. A phrase ‘obviously a major malfunction’ is heard, taken from the reporting of the Challenger space shuttle disaster of 1986, and the music segues through 1980s pop into disco. A phrase from the theme music of the long-running tv series Dallas (1978-1991) is heard, as the Earth and then Moon shrink, in silhouette, displaced by the brightness of the Sun. As the camera recedes from Earth and travels outwards in the Solar System, other phrases from 20th century America are heard: Richard Nixon saying ‘I’m not a crook’; Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step for man’; Martin Luther King’s ‘free at last’. As the camera swings past Jupiter, we hear of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, then Dean Martin singing ‘Volare’, and a member of HUAC demanding ‘have you ever been a member of the Communist party?’; at Saturn, the Lone Ranger calling ‘Hi-ho Silver’, and an FDR ‘fireside chat’. All the while, the volume decreases, descending towards silence as the intensity of broadcasts decrease, as the camera ‘travels’ further out, leaving the Solar System then the Milky Way itself behind, then moving ever faster away from tiny spiral galaxies disappearing into the distance. The screen is then overcome with whiteness, the edge of the universe; the screen then fades up from white, still ‘zooming out’, as the camera shows the reflection of a window in a young girls’ pupil, who we see finally at a desk, transmitting on short-wave radio: ‘This is CQ, W-9 GFO’. She picks up a contact, receiving in Pensacola, Fla., some thousand miles distant, ‘the furthest one yet’, as her father watches benignly. She marks this on a map of the USA.

In this sequence, political history (of the USA) is mixed up with musical markers from popular culture and music, recognisable emblems of particular eras. Space is signified by time: the further out from the Sun we travel, the further back in time we seem to go. Earth is itself a ‘planet of sound’, a tiny mote of dust in the sky, soon lost to our vision, but human broadcasts penetrate the vast distances of space in a way that human beings themselves cannot. The earliest human broadcasts, travelling at the speed of sound, may (without degradation) have reached around 100 light years distant by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, though it would take alien intelligences to have developed receiving equipment far beyond the tolerances and sensitivity of even the most advances arrays on Earth to be able to hear (and later, watch) them. Contact plays a strange double game in its opening minutes: while the opening effects sequence emphasises physical distance (the time taken for signals, at the speed of sound, to travel across space), the images of the girl at her ham radio emphasises instantaneity of ‘contact’, that distance in space is countermanded by broadcast technologies, where a form of tele-presence makes it seem as though someone a thousand miles distant is sitting right next to you. The physical realities of sound, distance and time are then subject, in Contact, to a wider fantasy of instantaneity of contact, one that will have increasingly metaphysical (as well as psychological/ emotional) implications as the narrative progresses.

Despite its Anglophone and North American bias, Contact’s opening is of particular interest because it reads contemporary history through sound broadcast technologies: radio (wireless), in particular. The universe itself, of course, emanates radio-frequency signals as part of its fabric, not only from sources such as pulsars but as part of background radiation, and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life program (SETI) has used radio-telescope arrays to try to filter out possible extra-terrestrial transmissions from the background ‘noise’ of the universe. By focusing on radio, Contact emphasises the fundamental contiguity between human activity (sound broadcasts) and the universe itself, and marks human history through its audio footprint, almost as if human life began with radio, Marconi as Adam. Extra-terrestrial scientists, perhaps, will gauge human ‘intelligence’ (or otherwise) through its capacity to produce audio transmissions. Paradoxically, Earth becomes visible as a ‘planet of sound’.

Radio is one of the sound technologies which came into being in the second half of the 19th century, which also included telegraphy, the telephone, and recording via phonograph cylinders (principles later developed into the gramophone/ phonograph, and audio tape). Jonathan Sterne, in The Audible Past (2003), has argued that sound recording is continuous with the 19th century’s cultures of death, in that it seeks to preserve the voice of the dead subject and prevent decay. Sterne connects this to the development of canning technologies in the food industry and also to the arts of embalming. In a sense, preservation of the voice is then a way to efface or overcome time and its depredations (allowing that the recording technologies themselves do not degrade over time). Sterne argues that emblematic of the reifying imperatives of what he calls (derived from Matei Calinescu) ‘bourgeois modernity’, a way of ‘managing time’ itself: sound recordings offer ‘repeatable time within a carefully bounded frame’.(1)  However, Sterne goes on to suggest that ‘the scheme of permanence [...] was essentially hyperbole, a Victorian fantasy. Repeatability from moment to moment was not the same thing as preservation for all time’.(2)  Recorded sound offered the possibility of repetition, of playback of the voice after death; however, playback itself, on cylinders or gramophone records, relies on the same technologies of material inscription that constitute recording: the needle touches the vinyl groove, and in touching, marks it, degrades it. Repeated playback is another slow fade into white noise, undifferentiation, and death.

The term ‘white noise’, which will become increasingly important to this article, is drawn from the frequency spectrum. Within the audio range, we hear different tones or notes when a particular frequency length predominates. When all frequencies within the audible range are equally present, resulting in a ‘flat’ sound spectrum , then what the human ear hears is ‘white noise’. White noise is undifferentiated sound, deemed ‘white’ through analogy with light, where the presence of all visible frequencies results in white light. The relation of transmission or signal to white noise is one that that has haunted analogue sound reproduction technologies from their inception.

Most notably, Jeffrey Sconce has investigated the history of this ‘haunting’ with regard to sound and vision technologies. In Haunted Media (2000), Sconce outlines three recurrent ‘cultural fantasies’ that have accompanied the development of telecommunications technologies: (1) ‘these media enable an uncanny form of disembodiment’; (2) the imagination of a ‘sovereign electronic world’, an ‘electronic elsewhere’; and (3) ‘the anthropomorphization of media technology’, most visible in a fascination with androids and cyborgs.(3)  In his chapter on radio, Sconce suggests that ‘enthusiastic celebration of the emerging medium [was accompanied and challenged by texts ] suggesting an eerie and even sinister undercurrent to the new electronic worlds forged by wireless’.(4)  In fact, we might suggest that sound broadcast technologies enabled an uncanny form of embodiment through tele-presence, the belief that the other was somehow present in the room as you spoke to them via radio or telephone. In either sense, we can ascertain that telecommunication technologies disrupted the ‘metaphysics of presence’ diagnosed by Jacques Derrida and others as central to Western metaphysics, a privileging of speech over writing, of the voice over text, that makes the voice the embodiment of truth and of authenticity. In this phonocentrism, as Derrida called it, writing is seen to be derived from a pre-existing orality, a ‘natural’ form of communication that is prior to ‘the fateful violence of the political institution’.(5)  Derrida, of course, sought to undo this binary which privileged voice over writing, and argued that writing preceded, and was the condition and ground of speech. After the advent of telecommunications technologies, voice itself becomes disembodied, no longer physically connected to a subject who speaks. Tele-presence is at one and the same time presence and not-presence, offering the fantasy of ‘instantaneity of contact’ but at the same time emphasising that the other speaker is not there.

When talking with Bernard Stiegler about television in Echographies of Television (2002), Derrida asserts that technologies of the image are bound up with acts of ‘magic’ or ‘faith’, ‘by our relation of essential incompetence to technical operation’.(6)  ‘For if we don’t know how something works’, Derrida continues,

our knowledge is incommensurable to the immediate perception that attunes us to technical efficacy, to the fact that “it works”; we see that “it works”, but even if we know this, we don’t see how it “works”; seeing and knowing are incommensurable here. [...] And this is what makes our experience so strange. We are spectralized by the shot, captured or possessed by spectrality in advance. [...] What has [...] constantly haunted me in this logic of the spectre is that it regularly exceeds all the oppositions between visible and invisible, sensible and insensible. A spectre is both visible and invisible, both phenomenal and nonphenomenal.(7)

Although Derrida uses the discourse of visibility here, his addition of ‘sensible and insensible’ crucially extends the idea of the ‘specter’ to the frequency range of audio, in its disruption of presence. In his attempt to situate the problematic of how telecommunication technologies in relation to human knowledge, Derrida allows media to escape discourses of science, the rational (or of knowledge itself) and so it enters the numinous, the ‘electronic elsewhere’, where our relation to it can only be uncanny (and/ or theological: we must believe that it works, even if we don’t know how it works, a ‘technical efficacy’ that must always elude us.) Telecommunications technologies, broadcast media, are then spectralized, ‘haunted’, by this strangeness.

In terms of the developing communication technologies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both transmission and reproduction of sound are ‘haunted’ by ghosts. Recording the voice, according to Sterne, is part of a culture of preservation and memorialization of the dead; Joe Banks, in ‘Rorschach Audio’, reports that ‘Edison and Marconi both believed that radio technology might enable contact with the afterlife’.(8)  In his short story ‘Wireless’ – analysed by Sconce and Warner – Rudyard Kipling imagines a young man who, entering into a kind of fugue state, becomes a kind of human ‘receiver’ (or we might say ‘medium’) for the transmission of one of Keats’ poems, which he writes down as if transcribing a message: a poem the young man does not consciously know. The mystery of this act is maintained by the short story until the end: the act of transmission itself, a kind of aetheric emanation picked by a ‘sensitive’, remains unexplained. Here we might also return to the film Contact. The young girl, Ellie Alloway, asks her father, if she had powerful enough equipment, ‘Could I talk to ... the Moon?’, going on to add ‘Jupiter?’, ‘Saturn?’, and then, ‘Mom?’. When her father unexpectedly dies, the loss of her mother is compounded, and after the father’s funeral, immediately prior to a cut across time to the older Ellie (played by Jodie Foster), we see the girl, once again transmitting on her short-wave radio, calling ‘Dad, this is Ellie: come back? Dad, are you there? Come back.’ Talking across space is twice encoded as talking to the ‘electronic elsewhere’, hoping to hear the voices of the dead.

In the film Frequency (2000), John Sullivan (Jim Caviziel) plays a man who lost his own father Frank (Dennis Quaid) in a fire when he was young. It begins in a similar way to Contact: on the soundtrack, dislocated phrases from radio broadcasts are heard while the visual track shows image from space, here the plumes of solar flares that will create unusual atmospheric conditions on Earth on two days 30 years apart, 10 October 1969 and 1999. Effects-shots of the aurora borealis behind the Queensborough Bridge in New York emphasise both material locatedness (this is a New York story: Frank was a fireman while John is a detective in the NYPD) and strangeness, the presence of the uncanny, the sky ‘haunted’ by the lights. The bridge also symbolises the connection between the two time-periods, as the film intercuts between them, and largely focuses on the relationship between Frank and his young son. The technological ‘bridge’ between the time-periods is short-wave radio, and the backyard mast is prominently displayed against the borealis several times. Frequency matches time through space: John still lives in the house he grew up in , while his widowed mother lives elsewhere, and the film regularly intercuts the older John pacing around the house, himself haunting its spaces, with images of the family life he lost upon the death of his father.(9)  The ham radio itself, discovered in the NYFD trunk of his father, becomes an uncanny object; its old valves fail, but the receiver seems to start into life of its own accord when Frank begins to broadcast on it in 1969, and John receives its messages across time. When John informs his father that he is to die in a warehouse fire on October 12th, he alters the timeline (we see direct evidence of this when contact with his father on the radio causes his father to burn the desk he is sitting at, the burn mark appearing under John’s hand as he speaks): his father survives, but it is only at the end of the film (after a long diversion into a serial-killer procedural narrative) that a kind of wish-fulfilment of emotional restitution is enacted. John’s final ‘new’ timeline gifts him with the family life he lost once his father died: Frequency’s imagination of haunted radio directly undoes the trauma of loss.

Both Contact and Frequency, although science fiction films (one a ‘first contact’ narrative, the other a time-paradox story), can both be said to incorporate elements of what is known as ‘EVP’, or electronic voice phenomena. This is a focus of para-psychological research whereby it is understood that the ‘voices’ of the dead can be found imprinted upon the ambient sounds (or ‘noise’) produced when recording in an ordinary empty room. This began in the mid-1930s with the artist Attila von Szalay, who, in his darkroom, heard ‘the voice of his deceased brother calling his name.’(10)  After unsuccessful attempts to record these voices on a phonograph, he was finally successful when using a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the 1950s. This technological advance is important. Around the same time, Friedrich Jürgenson, a Swedish documentary film-maker, attempted to record birdsong (also on tape recorder) in his garden, but found, on playback, that he ‘heard his dead father’s voice and then the spirit of his deceased wife calling his name’.(11)  Upon publishing his findings in 1959, his book Radio Contact with the Dead was read by the Jungian psychologist and philosopher, Dr Konstantin Raudive. Raudive’s book Breakthrough (1971) was literally that in the popular imagination, and is a curious example of what might be termed ‘spiritualism in the age of electronic reproduction.’ The book’s subtitle, ‘An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead’ marks its significance as a ‘scientific’ text that purports to reveal the intersection of spectrality, life-after-death communication and analogue recording devices. In the book, Raudive ‘hears’ or decodes voices of the dead (‘speaking’ in English, German, and Raudive’s native Latvian) emanating from the background hiss and rumble of recorded ambient sound: he asks questions of an empty room and records the ‘answers’.

Raudive’s work is a common touchstone for critics considering haunted media. For Sconce, Raudive presents himself and the EVP project as radically antithetical to Freudian depth-psychology:

the Raudive voices did speak of an immortal essence that transcends alienating models of Darwin, Freud, Sartre, and all other demystifying assaults on the transcendental dimension of the human psyche.  The irony, of course, is that Raudive remystified the soul through the validating authority of an electronic technology.(12)  

However, Sconce asserts a fundamental homology between Freud’s and Raudive’s intentions: ‘At their core, both of these ‘interpretative’ sciences shared the hope that their practices overcome the trauma of a profound loss’.(13) Joe Banks, in ‘Rorschach Audio’, takes an extremely sceptical view, suggesting that ‘EVP experimenters are psychologists who have misunderstood their own work; [...] [they] are inadvertently reproducing acoustic projection experiments’, making the analogy to Rorschach ink-blots.(14)  Mike Kelley, in ‘An Academic Cut-Up’ also refers to Rorschach blots, but understands Rorschach’s experiments both as technological Spiritualism and as a way-station in the history of twentieth-century experiments in sound, particularly in the musical avant-garde: ‘one is hyperconscious of the fact that the distortion of the recording process [in EVP] is the primary experience,’ he suggests.(15)   My own reading of Raudive’s work would emphasise three main elements:

(1) the centrality of naming in EVP. Von Szalay hears his brother call his name; they call Raduive by name, over and over again: Konstantin, Koste, Kosti.  Naming, interpellation, calling into being: a crucial way of making meaning in EVP seems to circulate around the name, the act of being identified by EVP event, call into presence by an act of hearing/ decoding.
(2) The centrality of trauma to the experience. Von Szalay and Jürgenson hear the voices of dead relatives; Raudive’s recently departed mother looms large in the catalogue of voices, and she is the first catalogued figure to be identified in in Breakthrough; on reading transcriptions of the EVP events, Raudive ‘hears’ many dead friends.(16)
(3) Thirdly, the common technological device here is magnetic audio tape.

Where Kittler notes the gramophone as a storage device / externalisations of memory becomes a metaphor for a figure for human consciousness itself, tape has different qualities: ‘tapes can execute any possible manipulation of data because they are equipped with recording, reading, and erasing heads, as well as with forward and reverse motion’.(17)   (Kittler also notes, pace Paul Virilio, that it is war, here the experiments by BASF and AEG used by the Abwehr in World War Two, that accelerate magnetic tape production, rather than steel tape, towards general or consuming usage in the post-war period.)(18)  As N. Katherine Hayles has it, in How We Became Posthuman (1999), ‘audio tape was a technology of inscription, but with the crucial difference that he admitted erasure and rewriting’:

Whereas the phonograph produced objects that could be consumed only in the manufactured form, magnetic tape allows the consumer to be a producer as well.  The switches activating the powerful and paradoxical technoconceptual actors of repetition and mutation, presence and absence, were in the hands of the masses, at least the masses who could afford the equipment.(19)

Hayles writes of how ‘audio tape may already be reaching old age, fading from the marketplace as it is replaced by compact discs, computer hypermedia, and the like’.(20)  The compact cassette is now one of Bruce Sterling’s ‘dead media’, and its successor, the CD, is also on the way to obsolescence.(21) However, it is the very imperfections of magnetic tape, the ‘wow’ and ‘flutter’ of the thin, flexible tape passing over the heads, which renders it perfect as a ‘haunted’ technology.  Like the ‘ghosting’ of analogue television signals (soon also to be obsolete), the imperfection of the analogue media artefact is part of its quality, its form. It is, of course, it is very imperfection as a recording media – its hiss, its rumble, its flutter – which is the very condition of possibility for EVP.  As documentary features on the DVD of White Noise point out, without the hiss of tape – or in contemporary technology, used by EVP experts, the noise generated generated by the hardware of solid state Dictaphones – they can be no coalescing of the EVP ‘voice’, no recording of the phenomenon.(22)   Without noise, there physically can be no signal.

The main association for popular research into EVP is now called the Association Transcommunication. From the ATransC website, it is clear that the crucial motivations for the EVP practitioner is to contact a lost loved one: to undo trauma.  One of their projects is called ‘Big Circle’, which attempts to contact the lost loved ones who now reside in the ‘etheric’. Its directors, Lisa and Tom Butler encourage DIY: all you need is a tape deck (portable compact cassette recorder), microphone, and if possible a computer with spectrum analyzers and filters and other sound processors to enhance the listening experience, to hear the voices.(23) As Raudive himself writes, ‘the ear cannot hear the voices without technical aids’.(24) It is clear from the AA-EVP/ATransC work shown on the documentary that the voice phenomena are much simpler to decode than Raudive's: the voices of monoglot (English, in the USA) and seem much more immediately comprehensible. (Indeed, on page 19 of Breakthrough, it seems that the polyglot discourse is a condition of a claim to paranormal status for a voice event: polyglot + ‘sensible meaning’ = ‘voice is paranormal’). It is the democratisation (and technologisation) of mediumship that is so striking here – this is not a spectacular event, complete with female medium, ectoplasm, table rapping, or other visual spectacle: it is seemingly demystified, as simple as taping while asking questions of an empty room.

Where, then, do these voices come from? Kelley offers several means by which to explain the EVP phenomena. The first is that they are indeed some kind of extra-sensible emanations, ‘the tortured voices of those in Hell, [...] the taunts of demons, or [...] the by-products of some numbing mental process that occurs after death’; the second, that they are psycho-acoustic patternings of geography: ‘the haunted house, the poltergeist phenomenon, are explained as a result of the continuing presence of traumatized spirits or stored psychic energy, associated with a given place’.(25)  William Burroughs, in his own essay on Raudive, ‘It Belongs to the Cucumbers’, is highly sceptical, and suggests that the voices are more likely ‘imprinted on the tape by electromagnetic energy generated by the unconscious minds of the researchers or people connected with them’.(26)  I find a third possibility more suggestive: that EVP phenomena are the coming-to-attention of the human ear to the ‘planet of sound’ around us. Kelley writes:

We are programmed in such a way to screen out as much extraneous information as possible; otherwise we would not be able to deal with the amount of external stimuli that constantly bombards us. A tape recorder does much the same thing that putting a seashell, or a simple tube, up to our ear does – it makes us aware of the amount of white noise that continually surrounds us.(27)

Jonathan Crary, in Suspensions of Perception (2001) argued that the idea of attention became increasingly investigated in the fields of both psychology and optics in the 19th century. This is because of the perceived tendency in human beings (particularly workers, it should be noted) towards distraction, in what Crary calls ‘an emergent economic system that demanded attentiveness of a subject in a wide range of new productive and spectacular tasks, but whose internal movement was continually eroding the basis of any disciplinary attentiveness’.(28)  The conditions of a ‘modern’, industrial, increasingly consumption- as well as production-oriented economy, pulled the human subject in two directions: firstly, the bombardment of what Walter Benjamin has called the ‘shock’ of modern existence (urban living, machinery, speed, advertising, etc) creates an increasingly distracted subject in an increasingly kaleidoscopic world; and secondly, that the very economic conditions that produce this kind of world require a working subject who is able to maintain long periods of attentiveness to complex and repetitive tasks (over a 10- or 12-hour working day in a factory, for instance). The disciplining of visual attention that Crary diagnoses can be extended to the field of sound reproduction and transmission; aural attention is required to prevent a kind of distraction of the senses through sonic overload in a world where ‘the skies are filled with electro-magnetic slums’, ‘aural garbage [...] aether talk [... and] dead city radio transmissions’.(29)  EVP, then, in Gothicised form, makes this disciplining of attention itself ‘visible’: it is what we do not, or cannot, hear. The image that is repeated continuously in Contact, of Ellie Alloway concentrating on the sounds transmitted through her headphones (‘no-one listens any more’ says her immediate superior) is emblematic of the necessity of aural attention in modernity: Ellie must shut out the very ‘planet of sound’ that the film begins with in order to contact the ‘electronic elsewhere’.

Fictional or filmic EVP narratives are, like the phenomenon itself, organised around overcoming ‘the trauma of a profound loss’.(30)  Contact, which, despite being about the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence is a classical EVP narrative, expresses Ellie Alloway’s search for transmissions explicitly as a recuperation of the loss of her mother and father, and when she does indeed achieve ‘contact’ with extra-terrestrials, they appear in the very physical form of her Dad. Frequency also has at its centre the loss of a parent, where radio-transmitted EVP phenomena become stitched into a time-paradox narrative where the trauma of loss may not only be overcome, but undone. Both of these films concentrate upon audio transmissions, but another, better-known film that incorporates ‘spirit voices’, Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film Poltergeist, has at its centre the ‘snow’ of a television screen after transmission on a channel has ended (in the days of analogue signals and ‘closedown’), the audio white noise accompanied by the unsettling light of a cathode-ray tube broadcasting no signal. The poster for the film featured the young girl Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) sitting directly in front of this television, listening intently to ‘voices’ only she could hear. The tag-line for the film, dialogue spoken by Carol Anne, is: ‘They’re here.’

Where Contact and Frequency concentrated upon the loss of the father-figure, the crucial triangulation in Poltergeist is female, and maternal. While the father Steven Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) has been morally compromised by his complicity on dubious land deals that have sited housing developments on old Native American burial grounds (a failure of paternal authority more common in the films of producer Steven Spielberg), it is the daughter Carol Anne who becomes the subject of the malign attentions of the poltergeists. When she is taken to the ‘elsewhere’ in this film, the family call upon the services of a team of para-psychological researchers from UC Irvine. When the ‘scientists’, with technological gear of high-end EVP experimenters (video and audio recording, motion sensors, and so on) cannot solve the problem of poltergeist activity, they call in the medium, Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein). It is she who realises that the phenomena are ‘spirits’ who have not gone into the ‘light’ of the hereafter, and that a malign entity has captured both Carol Anne and the attention of spirits, preventing them from ‘passing’; and it is she who sends Carol Anne’s mother Diana (JoBeth Williams) into the ‘portal’ to retrieve her daughter. When they emerge back into the ‘real’ of the house, mother and daughter are covered in some kind of ectoplasm, a (re)birth-fluid that emphasises feminine and maternal materiality. The core of Poltergeist is the recuperation of the mother-daughter bond through the ministrations of the female medium/ midwife, preserver of arcane knowledge and practices that always-already escape the scientizing discourses of the UC Irvine team (who are led by a female scientist, but whose practices are resolutely coded as masculine: rational, technological, and deeply flawed).

These three films, then, can be constellated as a ‘parental’ mode of EVP narrative, in which trauma is focused upon the parent/child relationship and emotional dynamic. Another group of EVP narratives, which will take up the remainder of the essay, are Orphean in nature. Orpheus has, in the twentieth century, been a myth recurrently taken up by artists and writers who wish to explore artistic creation and transmission, but also the imperatives of loss and recuperation. In his Afterword to his translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘Orpheus’ sequence of sonnets, the poet Don Paterson writes that Rilke wrote the poems at such speed that it seemed to Rilke as though they were being broadcast from elsewhere (as in Kipling’s ‘Wireless’), where poetic creation took the form of an ‘enigmatic dictation’. This exogamous conception of writing leads Paterson to propose the poet as a kind of medium:

Someone so sensitive that they become not only a lightning rod for all the crackling static of the culture, but also a satellite-dish, a ‘receiver’ (to use a Rilkean favourite) for things a less precisely attuned and calibrated sensibility would never be aware of. These individuals possess no supernatural powers, but do have abnormally strong sense of what’s on the wind for us.(31)    

Orpheus is, of course, a mythic figure for the poet, one whose gift is bound up with loss. Orpheus, once a priest of Dionysus, is, at the time of his marriage, a priest of Apollo. The son of a river god (or perhaps Apollo) and Calliope (the Muse of epic poetry), Orpheus is gifted with a supernatural ability to play the lyre: his song charms the trees (who uproot to come nearer the singer), softens stones, alters nature itself. On his wedding day, his bride Eurydice, fleeing the bee-keeper Aristaeus, treads upon a snake, is bitten, and dies. The grief-stricken Orpheus thereby descends into the Underworld, and through song, persuades Persephone and Hades to allow Eurydice to accompany him back to the upper world, on one condition: that he does not look back at his wife as they ascend. Unfortunately, as they near the upper world, Orpheus does look back, either in fear, or anxiety, or through love of his wife – and her shade retreats to the underworld. Despite his efforts, she may not be released a second time. In some versions of the myth, Orpheus then forswears the company of women and takes young male lovers. Precipitated by this rejection, women of a Dionysian cult, in an intoxicated frenzy, tear Orpheus to pieces; his head and lyre float down the river, still lamenting the loss of Eurydice, until they are washed ashore on Lesbos, while his shade is reunited with Eurydice in the underworld. The head of Orpheus becomes an oracle until Apollo, fearing competition with his own oracle at Delphi, silences the head and places Orpheus among the stars.

The figure of Orpheus has, from the Medieval period, through the Renaissance, Romanticism and to Modern and contemporary literature, has been re-imagined as: (a) an emblematic narrative of loss of the loved one; (b) a figure of the transcendent power of art and poetry; and (c) the imagination of the boundary between the real or quotidian and the transcendent or divine. Contemporary SF, fantasy and gothic/ horror fictions have used an Orphean narrative pattern, of a journey to an ‘underworld’, to construct narratives of anxiety, trauma and loss.  These include films such as Solaris (2002), where a voyage to a sentient star, and thereby contact a transcendent other, is patterned on the male protagonist’s search for the restoration of his lost wife, horror/ SF crossover texts such as Event Horizon (1997), where the scientist Weir’s interest in the demonic ship is predicated on undoing the trauma of his wife's suicide; and, in different ways,  both White Noise (2005) and Frozen (2005), films I will consider in more detail shortly. 

While all these films connect EVP phenomenon with loss, there are significant differences, which can be expressed in tabular form. (Bold indicates video-based EVP; italics signify audio-based EVP.)

                                                                               Parental                          Orphean
                                              Female                    Poltergeist                               Frozen


                                                Male                                                                    White Noise     
                                                                            Frequency                            Orphée

In Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (1950), Jean Marais plays Orpheus, a poet who fears losing his gifts, and who suffers the loss of his wife when Orpheus’s Death (personified by Maria Casares) falls in love with him, and deceives him by sending messages via car radio which he then copies down and presents to the public, to great success, as his own work. Some of these are numbers (referring to the coded broadcasts of the BBC to French Resistance fighters in Occupied France in World War 2), but some have a dislocated, surreal quality: ‘A single glass of water lights up the world’; ’Jupiter enlightens those he would destroy’.  The exogenous nature of Orpheus’s poetry – it is actually composed by his great (and deceased) young rival, Cégeste – connects Cocteau’s Orphée to Rilke, but also to EVP: these are disembodied voices, calling via sound broadcast technologies, with mysterious intention. Orpheus asks the angel Heurtebise ‘Where can they be coming from?’ It is, of course, from the ‘electronic elsewhere’. Cocteau’s Orpheus does indeed retrieve his Eurydice from the underworld, and although the prohibition about looking back at his wife remains intact, this version of the narrative does not end in disaster (and dismemberment), but in a kind of triumph over Death, albeit mysterious and problematic.

In White Noise (2005), communication devices abound: cell phones, answer phones, TV, video, computer screens all feature heavily in the mise-en-scène.  These devices, lyres for the electronic age, allow a bridge to be formed between quotidian and other- or under-worlds.  The haunted nature of telephonic/ telegraphic communication is figured directly as communication with ghosts, and particularly with the spirit of a lost wife.  Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, an architect (the sign of ratio, of Apollo) whose second wife tells him she is pregnant before she drives into the city for a meeting.  She never returns.  Her car is found by the river with a flat tyre, and her body is eventually discovered up-river, taken there by the tide.  In the protagonist’s name and this location we find reference to the Styx/ Lethe imagery that is much more overt in Frozen, but also the birth imagery that Brian Jarvis notes as significant in the J-horror variant on haunted tape and the invasion-horror narrative, Ringu. (32)  (In Frozen, Annie, the lost sister, has also recently had a child; we see the baby with the ‘abandoned’ father.) Ultimately, the narrative descends into both spirit-invasion horror (malignant spirit entities as in Poltergeist) and, in a curious genre-swerve, serial killer narrative, where the wife’s death was murder, not accidental, and is one of a sequence that the serial-killer offers up to the malign spirit entities.  Frozen makes the same swerve when revealing, at the point of the female protagonist’s death at his hands, that the abandoned father of his sister’s child is in fact the murderer of both sisters. 

At first, in White Noise, televisual imaging technology (home movies shown on TV) are not connected to EVP.  As in the figure of John Anderton in Minority Report (2002), whose watching of holographic images of his lost son are meant to comfort but merely compound the trauma of loss, Rivers seeks out videotapes of his life with his lost wife as an index of unrecuperated trauma.  The promise of all these haunted technologies is, ultimately, the restoration of a form of life to the dead: as Terry Castle notes in The Female Thermometer, the phantasmagoria entrepreneur/inventor Etienne-Gaspard Robertson, when introducing the show ‘emerged, spectrelike, from the gloom, and addressing the audience, offered to conjure up the spirits of their dead loved ones’.(33)  The bridge formed by these technologies, as we saw with Frequency, is not only to the spirit world, but also to the past, the time in which the loved one was not lost. 

This literal nostalgia, this return home to a time before loss/trauma, is indicated in the mise-en-scène of White Noise. Rivers’ home and office are photographed with a cool, grey-blue palette: chrome, brushed steel and glass predominate.  After he moves to an apartment following his wife’s death, this becomes still more emphasised, the blue light of cathode ray screens reflecting from glass-brick walls.  When Rivers is approached by an EVP specialist, Raymond Price (Ian McNeice), who tells him Rivers’ wife has contacted him, the initially sceptical Rivers visits Price’s home.  The mise-en-scène here is markedly different: the clapboard house contains rooms lit in shades of red and brown, the space cluttered, old rugs on the floor.  Unlike Rivers apartment, this base is homely, heimlich perhaps, although part of the clutter is the EVP equipment itself: tapes, video recorders, computer, and a DAT player.  The room bespeaks the past, and the technology of the past; it is as though Price has heard voices through a crystal radio set in his front room (echoing the ham radio activities of Ellie Alloway in Contact). In a sense, this is exactly what he has been doing; EVP as do-it-yourself radiophonics.(34)  If Price’s house is homely, then Rivers deliberately dislocates himself from ‘home’.  He moves from a house shared with his lost wife to a cold, modern apartment building in the city.  Perhaps the house is haunted by the memories of his wife, and indeed it is here that Rivers is seen watching home movies; and the move to the blank new apartment becomes an attempt to escape these ghosts.  But it is here, through tape and EVP that the ghost of his wife manifests itself.  It is the very blankness of the modern apartment that calls forth the ghost. 

This narrative, like others mentioned above, combines Orpheus motifs, technology and the numinous or transcendent.  They place a male questing protagonist at the centre of narrative agency. In the figures of von Szalay, Jurgenson, Raudive, and in White Noise Rivers and Price, EVP is represented as a male activity, the technology perhaps inverting the paradigm of female mediumship. As Sconce and Marina Warner note, from the Fox sisters on, there is an interesting implication of gender in Spiritualism – a gender politics.  Sconce writes: ‘spiritualism empowered women to speak in public, often about very controversial issues facing the nation’.(35)   In spirit photography, it is William Crookes or William Hope photographing female mediums; and in spiritualism, the female does not speak: she is a medium for others. The media (photography/ tape) that will prove the scientific fact of the existence of post mortem life (spirits, voices) is coded as male; the mediums that are the focus are female. In White Noise, Rivers visits a blind female seer, a medium, who cautions him against EVP, warning him not to ‘meddle’.  The conflict between the archetypal female medium, and the technophile male EVP experimenter, bespeaks a kind of gender problematic in these Orpheus narratives, and perhaps an attempt to wrest the figuring of the ‘electronic elsewhere’ into the realm of the masculine.

Frozen (2005), on the other hand, is certainly a text which uses EVP motifs – the imprinting of a strange image on to surveillance CCTV tape – but in the service of a narrative which focuses on female, and sisterly, loss.  When Kath, the surviving sister (Shirley Henderson) of a disappeared woman visits the alleyway where CCTV images of her sister were captured, she has a vision whereupon she stands upon tidal sands, while what she takes to be her sister walks upon a sandbank across and inlet or creek.  As the film progresses, and the number of these visions increases, the Orpheus patterning becomes more apparent: a boat is seen, rowed by the blind ferryman Charon, and when she discusses her visions with a counsellor/priest (Roshan Seth) he explicitly decodes them as a Greco-Roman underworld.(36)

The counsellor/priest’s discourse runs directly counter to the scientific, demystifying impulses of Raudive and other EVP experimenters.  The priest says to Kath: ‘some things are beyond understanding and we just have to accept them as mysteries’.  At the same time, when Kath shows him a printout of the uncanny image on the CCTV tape, in return he shows her a Rorschach ink blot, indicating that her meaning-making, of Annie as a dead and her visions as uncanny, is faulty. Later in the film, the image on the ‘blot’ becomes clearer, like a very slowly developing Polaroid photograph.  It is revealed to be a close up of a two-shot taken while Annie and Kath were on a roller-coaster, their happy faces pressed together.  Whilst Kath only finds herself, not Annie, wandering the underworld sands in her visions, this image does suggest (albeit sentimentally) that the two sisters are reunited in death.  Through Kath’s visions, which we see as a cinematic ‘real’, the afterlife is presented as a kind of truth or reality, just as in EVP.

Frozen returns to the figure of the female visionary, though Kath’s mediumship is overtly bound up with trauma and loss, and possible psychological disintegration. Kath ends up ‘channelling’ her own death, seeing her own face, when Jonathan Rivers in White Noise sees the deaths of others.  He does not see his own death, even though his EVP visions become proleptic/prophetic/prophylactic in form.  However, the last image of White Noise is Rivers, with his wife, amidst the visual snow of blank videotape playback, looking back out of the screen at us.  Where Kath and Annie are bound up with each other, White Noise’s final visual gesture is to turn to the audience.

Why?  The film is explicitly a cautionary tale, and on-screen titles warn that one in 12 EVP events our threatening in nature.  It is also a warning against the Orpheus narrative, of looking back over one’s shoulder, of nostalgia.  After Rivers funeral, his son, first wife and her current husband sit in their car.  The radio comes on of its own accord, and we hear Keaton’s voice, as an EVP, say ‘I’m sorry’ to son who, somewhat curiously, seems pleased by this event.  What is striking about certain sequences in this film is not the use of EVP, nor the spirit-invasion narratives, but the images of the son, playing alone, on the father, in another room, watched blank tape in a search for his wife.  In inhabiting nostalgia, in wanting to restore the past, in an inability to overcome the trauma of loss, Rivers neglects his son, and present time.  The real locus of anxiety (and pathos) in White Noise is not the bereaved lover, but the neglectful/forgetful father.

There is one film that uses EVP motifs I have deliberately refrained from mentioning so far: M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999). There is indeed a ‘lost wife’ in this film, but, of course, the ‘twist’ in this narrative is that Dr Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), the psychologist who treats a traumatised child who ‘sees dead people’ (Cole Sear, played by Haley Joel Osment) is himself dead, only a ghost. Cole tells Crowe that the ghosts ‘only see what they want to see’, and while this bears upon Crowe’s ongoing self-delusion as a ghost who believes himself to be alive, it also indicates the failure of rationality and scientific/ medical discourse to deal with the real cause of Cole’s trauma: he really does see dead people. As the narrative nears its end, Dr Crowe realises that the causes of his own death lie in the roots of his rational world-view. His home invaded by a traumatised former patient, Crowe is shot, and the film seems to take place after his recovery, but in fact occurs after his death. Crowe ‘fails’ Vincent Grey (Mark Wahlberg) because he can only see Vincent’s symptoms as internal and psychological terms, whereas the truth lies externally: he, too, contacts the dead. On playing back a tape of an interview with Grey, Crowe hears what he has blocked out all this time, the voices that haunt and torture Grey. The EVP manifestation finally makes clear to Crowe the limits of his own discourse; and this way is the path not only towards understanding his own condition (as ghost), but a form of healing for himself and Cole, who stands in and recuperates the damage that he could not undo with Vincent Grey. The Sixth Sense is then another recuperative narrative, and as he leaves the film (and Earth), Crowe is rewarded with the knowledge of his wife’s ongoing love for him.

It is important to note, by way of conclusion, that the films I have been considering here are mainly grouped around the years 1997-2005, with Orphée and Poltergeist preceding them. All the films deal with analogue technologies: radio, audio tape, video, CCTV. These analogue technologies (excepting CCTV) were in decline in this period, and most have now been supplanted by digital formats: digital and web radio; vinyl records and audio tape by cd and digital downloads; video tape by dvd and video files. (Analogue television signals are being ‘switched over’ to digital in the UK at the time of writing, nearing the end of a process that has taken several years.) For audio tape especially, a nostalgia-inflected culture has developed, around the ‘mixtape’ as a particular form of transmission and distribution (consumer-led) of music, and vinyl has continued to be supported by DJ and remix culture. At the end of their time as consumer technologies of sound and visual reproduction, it seems that analogue technologies particularly became haunted by the ‘ghosts’ of nostalgia and by the very imperfections that rendered them unheimlich. The degrading qualities of reproduction of audio and video tape or vinyl records inserted them into history as material objects, and personal history as bearers of the marks of playback (particularly evident in the scratches on vinyl), but the associations conjured by this entry into history and memory themselves produced ghosts.

As I have argued in the course of this essay, it is the very properties of these media which are the ground and condition of their ‘haunted’ phenomena, the imperfections of aural and visual reproduction. Without noise, as I have stated, there can be no signal. Does the sonic ‘cleanness’ of digital reproduction mean that communication technologies will no longer be uncanny? The use of digital sound recorders by contemporary EVP experimenters suggests not: computers, hard disks or digital cameras have their own ambient footprints. There is a difference between analogue and digital reproduction; however, Bernard Stiegler suggests that both can create anxiety:

Analogico-digital technology continues and amplifies a process of suspension [that interrupts one state of things and imposes another] that began a long time ago, in which the analog photograph was itself only a singular epoch. And so the process in ancient, but the current phase of suspension – in the form of digital photography – engenders an anxiety and a doubt which are particularly interesting, but particularly threatening.(37)    

It is, then, perhaps sound and visual reproduction itself which is haunted, rather than specific technologies. In digital artifacts and glitches, we may still see ghosts.

1 Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2003), p.310.
2 Sterne, p.332.
3 Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2000), pp.8-9.
4 Sconce, p.62.
5 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (1967), trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), p.36.
6 Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler, Echographies of Television, trans. Jennifer Bajorek (Cambridge: Polity, 2002), p.117.
7 Derrida and Stiegler, p.117.
8 Joe Banks, ‘Rorschach Audio: Ghost Voices and Perceptual Creativity’, Leonardo Music Journal, 11: 2001, 77-83 (p.83).
9 In John Cheever’s ‘The Enormous Radio’ (1947), a radio set picks up the conversations of other families in an apartment block, allowing the owners of the radio to eavesdrop on others. The result of this ‘haunting’ is that the couple’s own suppressed history, its secrets , come to the surface once more. John Cheever, ‘The Enormous Radio’, The Enormous Radio and Other stories (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1953)
10 Sconce, p.84.
11 Sconce, p.84.
12 Sconce, p.90.
13 Sconce, p.90; p.91.
14 Banks, p.80.
15 Mike Kelley, ‘An Academic Cut-up, in Easily Digestible Paragraph-Size Chunks; Or, the New King of Pop, Dr. Konstantin Raudive’, Grey Room 11, Spring 2003, 22-43 (p.38).
16 Konstantin Raudive, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication With The Dead, trans Nadia Fowler (New York: Taplinger, 1971), p.35.
17 Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986), trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), p.108.
18 Kittler, p.106. See also Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (London: Verso, 1989)
19 N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Infomatics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), p.209; p.210.
20 Hayles, p.208.
21 Bruce Sterling, ‘The Life and Death of Media’, Sound Unbound: Sampling, Digital Music and Culture, ed. Paul D. Miller (Cambridge MA: MIT Press), pp.73-82.
22 ‘Hearing is Believing: Actual EVP Sessions’; ‘Making Contact: EVP Experts’; ‘Recording the Life After at Home’. White Noise dvd release, Entertainment in Video, 2005.
23 The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP) became ATransC, Association Transcommunication in 2010:, accessed 13/1/2012.
24 Raudive, Breakthrough, p.108.
25 Kelley, p. 25; p.29.
26 William S. Burroughs, ‘It Belongs to the Cucumbers’, The Adding Machine: Collected Essays (London: John Calder, 1985, pp.53-60 (p.58). A similar conception of ‘imprinting’ can be found in Nigel Kneale’s television play The Stone Tape (BBC, 1972).
27 Kelley, p.37.
28 Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2001), p.29.
29 Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit (dirs.), London Orbital (2002); David Toop, Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1995), p.270.
30 Sconce, p.91.
31 Don Paterson, ‘Afterword’ to Orpheus: A Version of Rilke (London: Faber, 2006), pp.61-72 (p.63).
32 Brian Jarvis, ‘Anamorphic allegory in The Ring, or, seven ways of looking at a horror video’, The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 3, November 2007., accessed 1 July 2009.
33 Terry Castle, The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p.147.
34 Here we find a connection to narratives of uncanny wireless, such as Kipling’s ‘Wireless’ , Friedlander’s ‘Goethe speaks into the phonograph’ (reproduced in Kittler) and the film Frequency.
  35 Sconce, Haunted Media, p.49.
36 Jayne Steel, who collaborated with the director of Juliet McKeon on the script of Frozen, has confirmed to me that narrative elements of the film are explicitly drawn from the Orpheus myth.
37 Bernard Stiegler, ‘The Discrete Image’, Echographies of Telelvision, p.149.