The Schwarze Szene


Schwarze Szene translates roughly to 'black scene' or 'dark culture', which has been used as a catch-all term by Goths and other alternative types 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 (and are collectively known as Schwarze Musik).

The Schwarze Szene as a movement 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."

For every group of people who look at their subculture of choice as versatile, dependent on their own tastes, preferences and opinions, and that the 'rules' of said subculture are (like the Pirate Code) more guidelines than rules, there are those who hold that being part of a subculture means fulfilling a certain criteria (dressing a certain way, listening to certain music) and then sticking more-or-less rigidly to those boundaries. Neither view is incorrect, but problems arise when cliquishness and elitism take effect and people are put under pressure to fit within the 'correct' boundaries for their subculture (for example, if you wish to self-identify as Goth you must only listen to bands within the Goth rock genre).

As such, a movement like the Schwarze Szene allows people to explore interests among multiple sub-genres of dark music and culture by promoting a more inclusive view of the dark alternative scenes. It offers creativity and experimentation amongst individuals without compromising their freedom to identify as a member of any of the dark subcultures or sub-genres under the Schwarze Szene umbrella.

[Note: Of course I, and, I'm sure, many of you reading this also enjoy plenty of things which don't fit under the dark culture umbrella, such as mainstream rock music, but rest assured that this does not automatically disqualify a person from participating in the Schwarze Szene; most people are aware that subcultural labels are not the be-all and end-all of an individual's identity.]

I am reliably informed that in Germany the term 'Goth' is often used as a synonym for 'member of the Schwarze Szene', which shows how convoluted and confusing arguments around the topic of 'what is Goth' can get, when even the term itself does not mean the same thing to everyone. When part of a subcultural community, some form of interest in and knowledge of the history, music and fashion of that subculture is obviously desirable, but even within a reasonably unified culture like Goth, the boundaries of what does and doesn't come under the label are often approximate and not agreed upon by everyone within the scene.

Additionally, most of the scenes united under the Schwarze Szene label are amorphic, ever-growing and developing, as well as being heavily influenced by and influencing each other, leading to an increasing amount of crossover. Therefore it seems logical for a more open movement based around a common appreciation of a certain aesthetic to exist.

This blog fully supports the ideal of a more inclusive dark alternative scene, which is why you will see more here than that which fits into the 'Goth' label, be it fashion, art, or music.

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