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Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Schwarze Szene: Goth without limits

A lot of you have been worried that I am changing the name of the site because I feel under pressure to not call myself a Goth. Well, I can promise that that is not at all the reason for the change. Yes, a name like the Ultimate Goth Guide received its fair share of outrage, not surprisingly, but I'm not assuming that changing the name of the site will change people's opinions on what I have to say!

As I stated in my previous post, On Self-Identifying As A Goth, there have always been and always will be debates ranging from the intriguing to the increasingly petty on what, precisely, can be considered 'Goth'. In my younger years, around the age of sixteen or so, I spent a lot of time trying to make myself into the 'perfect Goth', and it's only over the last couple of years or so that I decided that I was going to experiment more and stop sticking so closely to 'the rules' regarding music and fashion. This led to the discovery of a whole range of 'dark alternative' fashion styles and music genres that I was interested in and felt inspired by; such a mix of influences can be accepted and appreciated by some who consider themselves Goths (i.e. you guys, most of whom I have noticed from reading your blogs and bios have an equally versatile, mix-and-match approach to music and personal aesthetic), but not all.

Which is fair enough, because when one is devoted to such a melting pot of inspirations and influences, it does push the boundaries of 'Goth culture' if you consider the original, literal, and admittedly quite narrow, definition of 'Goth' itself.

But what options does this leave someone who feels a strong appreciation for Goth music, its related culture and aesthetic? Stop experimenting and delighting in other areas of dark and alternative culture in order to better fit an adopted label? Continue exactly as you are and take flak from elitists on all sides? The second option sounds preferable to me as I am not in favour of adapting your personality to fit a social label, but in the end I find it leads to disillusionment with Goth culture and the community therein. You start to wonder what is the point of belonging to a supposedly non-conformist, alternative subculture when you feel attacked for having your own tastes and ideas.

In the end, thanks once again to Darling Violetta, I believe I have found a suitable direction, both for myself and for this blog. It's called the Schwarze Szene.

Source: Wikipedia
Schwarze Szene translates roughly to 'black scene' or 'dark culture', which has been used as a bit of a catch-all term by Goths and other alternative types for a while to refer to something that is often enjoyed by Goths without fitting neatly into the Goth bracket itself. For example, music genres like Neofolk, Industrial, Darkwave, and dark electronic types of music would come under this umbrella term. The Schwarze Szene as a movement, I learned, has been around since the 1990s, when it developed in Germany "as a way of describing several different dark musical genres and lifestyles. It is not a genre in itself nor a club with set rules and boundaries but rather a term that defines several different styles. The underlying unifying thread within this movement was an interest in dark, alternative culture." (From Dominion Magazine.)

Dominion Magazine, who describe themselves as a Schwarze Szene publication, have the following to say about the movement, "There are a number of other excellent reasons to look outside this narrow definition [Goth]. Many of the bands most people would associate with goth have never identified as such, most of those 'seminal goth acts' predate the existence of the term (the etymology of which is itself disputed) and some artists, for example The Sisters of Mercy, go to lengths to distance themselves from being included under the goth umbrella.

"Goth doesn't adequately describe the music that people within the UK's Schwarze Szene are listening to, or the shows they are attending, or the music that is being played in the clubs and festivals. With Deviant UK, Devilish Presley, Faderhead, Gene Loves Jezebel, Luxury Stranger, Zombina & the Skeletones, Pro-Jekt and Zeitgeist Zero, the line-up of York's DV8 festival in 2010 contained some goth artists, yet the mixture of acts was decidedly in keeping with Schwarze Szene. The central message behind Dominion's identity as a Schwarze Szene publication is a positive message of unity."

I cannot explain how excited and delighted I was when I read Violetta's post (I highly recommend you read it too!). The Schwarze Szene sounds like exactly what I have been looking for since I realised that my love for the dark, Gothic aesthetic and culture extends beyond the actual definition of Goth. I am thrilled that there is a dark alternative movement that, in theory, should be able to transcend elitism and genre boundaries; allowing people into any and all of these subgenres and sub-sub-genres to explore and enjoy whatever they so choose without, as Violetta puts it succinctly, "the pains and internal struggle of the "not-a-Goth" syndrome."

I reiterate that I still feel comfortable to self-identify as a Goth, for ease of explaining my tastes and preferences to those not entirely clued-up on the ins, outs and social politics of alternative subcultures and because of my undying fondness for the label and all it covers. But I am utterly enamoured of the wider-reaching, boundary-free Schwarze Szene and look forward to exploring it further. I am glad that there are others out there who feel that their interests should take priority over the label they fall under and that the creativity and passion so many of us feel in relation to dark culture has led to the development of such a movement.

It's a fine line between being serious about your dark aesthetic and lifestyle and taking it too seriously. A movement like the Schwarze Szene provides those of us who don't want to argue about what is and isn't 'Goth enough' room for freedom of expression without having to compromise on our 'Gothiness', give up, and become 'normal'. Sounds pretty much perfect to me - I hope this will strike a chord with some of you as it did with me.

21 comments:

Silver Snow said...

Thanks Amy. :) I've been having some labeling problems and this just sounds great. I'm excited that I am now "allowed" to branch out. -___- Those elitists are just gonna have a fit, but oh well. My music and fashion tastes all expand beyond Goth, so this is gonna be great for me and, I think, a lot of other people. :)

Geddren13 said...

I guess we can have our cake and eat it too :) Thanks!

gothified said...

Living in Germany and having been a part of the "Schwarze Szene" for quite some years now, I didn't realize that the term as well as the concept isn't as well known elsewhere. Over here we often use the terms Goth (or the german term Gruftie which has a similar but not exactly the same meaning in terms of musical and (sub)cultural history) as synonyms for "member of the Schwarze Szene" so a discussion about what is "goth" would usually be a discussion about what is considered to be part of the "Schwarze Szene" instead of what is the difference between Goth (Rock) and, say, Dark Wave. I think it's a good example for how limiting and misleading labeling can be...

DarkAngelCase said...

Well, this is just what I have been looking for lately because I have been feeling that just goth doesn't quite do it for me as I am becoming more and more interested in dark alternative music and styles. And it sure did strike a cord. Thanks, Amy.

P.S. I do love your new blog title. <3

Anonymous said...

Well this sounds AMAZING. Thank you for posting about it :)

Mal. said...

Interesting......I think I've been unconsciously doing this for years. Since my mid twenties it's been hard to be all out Goth do to things like work, family, costs, and lack of time. Eventually I just got to where I did what felt good and made me happy, as a result I felt more confident and most of the voices started to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher. I just figured that if the person was going to s&*t a brick over it, they needed to search some more for themselves.

On another note.....HUZZAAAHHH Darling!!! I admire a well rounded person who loves to learn throuout through out life!!!!

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. ~ Rousseau

Mira said...

A minor caution about using that term- in Yiddish, "schwartze" is a derogatory term for black people. In other words, I wouldn't use this label around my family, though most probably wouldn't have that problem. I do like having a wider umbrella term than goth, though- it's why I've taken to calling myself a "romanticist."

Nyteshade said...

My chord has been throughly striked :3

VelvetBat said...

Great post, very interesting!
I knew the term Schwarze Szene before, but I thought it was the same as goth, without the subtile difference you talk about.

I must say that myself I identify as goth, because I love the goth music, aesthetic and different clothing styles, but I also notice that the last year clothingwise I faded away from the general goth and move more towards lolita and gyaru, though often with a gothy touch.

So now I think that I would fit more into the Schwarze Szene label more.

And I like your new blog title too by the way, even though I also liked the previous one. ^_^

Daniel_8964 said...

Interesting post and let your imagination run wild. I do fit in the 'Goth' umbrella term and ideas of my own , even I look heavily influenced in punk with a dark edge. I tend to have a combination of Trad, Deathrock, Victorian and Romantic style, but have different sides at once. I may look too punky and a little romantic, then next time I'd dress romantic and little bit punky. Even video game inspirations and styles which I'm obsessed on such as Final Fantasy. I cannot be defined in one box. I have lots of tastes in different ways, depending what I adore and love.

Nightwind said...

Although I identify as Goth or Gothic and have a keen interest in dark music, literature, dress, etc., it's not the only thing that defines me. I'm very much an individual and this fact is reflected in my own personal demeanor and style.

William Shakespeare said, "This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

I think this pretty much sums up the situation.

Under_The_Stairs said...

This is interesting.I'll have to look into this more,perhaps.

Vyzov (Mike) said...

I really love the new name of your blog,I think it reflects alot of growth and maturity on your part. Now if only it'll update in my RSS feeds. (Minor Annoyance, may have to re-add it.)

I feel sorry for anyone who lets themselves be pigeonholed by labels as they are so very limiting. While I can say that yes, the label "Goth" does apply to me I can think of at least 20 others that would also apply. I am so very much more than any one label, I am a much more complex creature than that and I refuse to be held back and defined by a label and so should all of you.

I am me, our lovely blog owner here is "Amy" she is not goth, goth is a part of who she is. A subtle change in phrasing but it makes all the difference in the world.

Be true to yourself, don't be held back by labels. If you're taking flak from those "gothier than thou" elitists because you have some brightly coloured clothes, or don't like wearing heavy makeup, or like some music that is of some other genre (ugh, don't get me started on music genres, they are also complete nonsense) take pity on them. There is so much more to life so get out there and experience as much as you can, decide what you like and stay true to the only label that matters. You.

Lady Bethezda @ Bethezdas Preoccupations said...

I am always very impressed with the level of thought and research you put into your posts. Cheers to you and blessings on your new blog name. ;)

linnea-maria said...

I understand more about your feelings and I can't do anything but agree. I listen to goth but mostly metal and I have been doing that since my early teens. I loved this post. Very well written!

Dani DeathBiscuit said...

Hazar!! *clap clap for Amy*

PonPon said...

I love your blog and I like the posts you make. But this is kind of "giving in" to the goth stereotypes. You're sort of allowing the term goth to have limits and to feed in to that idea.

Dark Fantomzy said...

Will definitely look into this ^^

Darling Violetta said...

Once again, thank's for the mention! I was reading Dominion Magazine the other day and say this article titled "Schattenspiel: Schwarze Szene in London". A well known DJ in London started a club specializing in Schwarze music! And, the article says the night was a big hit. Looks like the idea of the Schwarze Szene is spreading! Woo hoo! :D

InfiltratorN7 said...

I’ve heard of the term before and like the openness of it. In Jillian Venters Gothic Charm School book she predicts that the goth scene will grow larger and diversify with splinter groups appearing such as steampunk. I like the idea of the Schwarze Szene as it’s more encompassing and feels less restrictive then the idea that goth must be x, y and z. I love traditional goth music but I also like industrial, synth, EBM and other bleepy sounds and I’m interested in dieselpunk. I have several friends who enjoy either goth or cybergoth but also have a foot in the metal camp. I find it sad that there are those who feel you must stay firmly and rigidly in one area and never dip your toes elsewhere. I also think diversifying is good for the scene. It can be inspirational and respark interest in the subculture. To keep things exactly the same in the 80s and never trying anything new would lead to stagnation. It could also lead to people getting frustrated and leaving the goth subculture altogether wanting to explore their other interests as they would find the ‘goth label’ too restrictive. Goth is supposed to thrive on creativity not inflexibility, stagnation and lack of imagination and openness to new ideas.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Amy! I have always been drawn to the darker side of existence, myself. I thought that I had struck gold when I discovered the goth scene. Sadly, I faced far more ridicule and rejection within this scene just because my dark tastes didn't conform exactly to what was considered "true goth". I have left the scene because I would rather be true to myself than compromise my identity and my tastes just to be a part of a subculture that is so closed and elitist, yet proudly trumpets its so called tolerance and diversity. I have many goth friends who are still close to me, and we still partake in dark culture together with glee. However, I just refer to myself as a dark individual instead of wearing the goth label. I'm more of jeans and spooky t-shirt person who absolutely loves metal, classic literature, and horror movies. I'm a bit of a gore hound, as well. These things will get you in big trouble with the secret goth cabal, thus resulting in the permanent revocation of your goth card (thanks for the heads-up, Mrs. Venters). Being me is FAR more important than being goth. I can still be me and indulge in the wonderful things that drew me to the dark side in the first place.

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