Towards a psychedelic topography of Goth music

Bannister, Claire Rebecca (2019) Towards a psychedelic topography of Goth music. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


It is thought – by musicians, listeners and music theorists alike – that music has the ability to mimic, mirror or reproduce the effects of psychedelic drugs: a concept of immense significance considering the expansive corpus of literature attesting to the therapeutic value of such drugs. This thesis attends to how music can be meaningfully compared to the effects of drugs like mescaline, psilocybin and LSD. The musicological theories explaining the relationship between the effects of such drugs and music are based almost entirely on prototypes: the complexity of a psychedelic pharmacopeia reduced to LSD, LSD’s extraordinary array of effects reduced to three, and the three effects theorised, for the most part, in relation to a particular style of rock that crystallised around San Francisco in the 1960s. This style – acid rock – has been most extensively analysed in relation to the question of how music can be psychedelic, resulting in a list of sounds understood to recreate the effects of such drugs for the listener. In this thesis I demonstrate the prevalence of these same sounds in Goth, a diverse collection of popular music styles associated not with drugs but rather the Gothic. By demonstrating how the various sub-styles of Goth – which have many analogues in the wider popular music repertoire – are rich in precisely the same sounds understood to reproduce the effects of LSD, I suggest two broad conclusions: either Goth(ic) music is psychedelic, or acid rock is not because the theories that explain the ways it reproduces the effects of such drugs cannot be held to account. I propose both conclusions are true. Goth is psychedelic by the current academic model, but this model is problematic; in particular its reliance on prototypes has had the unfortunate side-effect of imposing a culturally biased understanding of psychedelic drug experiences upon the repertoire to which the term might refer. Whilst I demonstrate how music analysts might map out a more stylistically inclusive definition of psychedelia in a manner that is mindful of the prototypes involved, I suggest the highest potential for understanding how music is able to reproduce the effects of such drugs lies in a pharmacological concept known as set and setting.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page