Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture   8 comments

Endarkenment Cover Mockup(Note, March 2017: I no longer maintain this page, but am leaving it online for archival purposes.  Updated info on this book project is here, and a compilation of the quotes I’ve gathered for the book so far can be found here.  Want to help support this work?  Become a patron!)

Dark ambient music serves esoteric purposes for me, and for many others as well – it is a sonic facilitator of alchemy, enabling inner journeys deep into the dark waters of the shadow self and the void.  It is a superb accompaniment for meditations on the dark divine, especially if carried out in environments such as cave temples, crypts, dense forests, abandoned buildings, or ossuaries.

There is a serious esoteric undercurrent in dark ambient music and culture that deserves closer attention, and I have recently begun work on a book manuscript about it.  Here’s the promo blurb:

“Decay, death, grief, and darkness are just as essential as growth, life, joy, and light, yet modern culture has lost touch with this fundamental truth.  Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture will affirm the cultural value of embracing the sacred within the terrain of darkness – in the human psyche, as well as in ecology, art, and culture.  As the first book-length study of the dark ambient genre, Endarkenment will explore how dark ambient music, art, ritual, and culture can work together synergistically to promote a deeper esoteric and Earth-centered appreciation of the sacred dark.”

The photo is not the actual book cover, of course, since the book is in the writing process and has not yet been published.  It’s a mock-up that I made in Photoshop for my own creative inspiration, using a public domain image (the art is “An Incantation” by John British Dixon, 1773) with overlaid text.

More news to come as work on the manuscript progresses.

29 November 2013: The book now has an official Facebook page for updates.  From the page:

I’ve been asked about how the idea for this book project came together, so here’s a bit of background.

The idea took shape over a period of several years as I noticed the prevalence of some fascinating commonalities linked to esotericism in the culture of the dark ambient scene. I found interesting patterns not only in the musical themes, art, and symbolism of many releases (e.g., solitude, introspection, subterranean lands, autumn and winter, mourning, underworld mythology, Heathen gods and goddesses, runes, sigils), but also in things like:

• the frequent mention of the influence of entheogens
• performances and recordings taking place in focused ritual magic contexts
• many artists and fans wearing the Mjölnir or other Pagan symbols
• musicians openly discussing their occult affiliations and placing emphasis on the importance of ritual and the sacred in their music rather than entertainment

I am also fascinated by the way this music facilitates inner journeys through the terrain of the shadow self (in the Jungian sense), and holds a special appeal for contemplative and spiritually inclined people who appreciate the value of the sacred dark, and find a heavy emphasis on light and transcendence alienating.

Eventually it became clear to me that there is a strong undercurrent of serious esotericism in dark ambient music and culture – similar to what is happening in the black metal scene – and I felt that if it hadn’t already been explored, affirmed, and documented in writing, it certainly deserved to be.

I looked around for a book like this in English, and I didn’t find one…so I decided to write one!

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5 December 2013:

I am delighted to announce that an article I wrote on underrated dark ambient albums has been published at the highly respected music blog I Die: You Die.

If you’d like to read a sample of my published writing about dark ambient music, don’t miss this article.  It has garnered excellent feedback from musicians and fans alike.

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1 January 2014:

Here are the tentative chapter titles from the book:

Chapter 1: The Endarkening
A Short History and Cultural Overview of Dark Ambient Music

Chapter 2: The Wisdom and Gifts of Endarkenment
Dark Ambient as Catalyst in Alchemy and Witchcraft

Chapter 3: A Sonic Gnosis
Esoteric Symbolism and Ritual Magic in Dark Ambient Music and Culture

Chapter 4: Mirror of the Soul
Dark Ambient as Shadow Music for Earth Mystics

Chapter 5: The Inward Eye Reaches Out
The Synergy of Dark Ambient Music in the Visual and Performing Arts

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26 February 2014:

I have now embarked upon the first phase of the in-depth interview process for the book.  Over the next several months, I will be contacting dark ambient musicians, fans, artists, labels, and others involved with the dark ambient scene.

Also of note: In a recent review of the new Alphaxone release, I am mentioned as a “dark ambient guru.”  For the record, I consider myself a dark ambient disciple – or whatever the Pagan equivalent of that term would be – rather than a guru, but nonetheless, I do appreciate the vote of confidence from music journalists I respect so highly.

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14 March 2014:

In response to reader requests following the popularity of my first article for I Die: You Die, I am writing a second article on underrated dark ambient releases, featuring 12 more of my picks for hidden gems of the genre.  It will be published on I Die: You Die in 2015.

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30 April 2014:

The interviewing phase of the book is in full swing now.  All interview queries have now been sent, with the exception of a few that require a bit more research to find contact information or other details.  Over 30 musicians, label owners, and fans have agreed to participate, and two completed interviews have been received so far.  Thank you very much, early responders!

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8 July 2014:

Here is the first in a series of author videos I’ll be making in which I discuss my book project on camera.  (Note: it looks a lot better if you watch it in HD!)

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17 January 2015:

I have now received seven fully completed interviews!  And there are many more on the way.  In the coming months I will be posting “teaser” quotes from these inspiring and thought-provoking interviews on the Facebook page for the book.  The most recent quote is from Johan Levin of Desiderii Marginis.  I have also confirmed that there will be other artistic contributions to the book from some of the most highly respected musicians in the dark ambient genre.  Details will follow when the announcements are ready; stay tuned!

The writing process is proceeding in fits and starts.  I work on the book whenever I can – my writing has to be fit into the time that remains after I’ve handled the heavy demands of running a business.  This is going to be a multi-year project.  In my ideal world I’d be able to work on the book full time, but like most writers I must earn a living doing something other than writing, which means I need a full-time day job.  (Ah, if only I – and everyone else – had a basic income!  This is one of the reasons I started Rethinking the Job Culture.)  In the meantime, I will continue to do the best I can, and I appreciate my readers’ patience.

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2 February 2015:

It is with the greatest pleasure and inspiration that I can now announce that my friend Pär Boström, of Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast, will not only be providing illustrations for my book, but also designing the book’s cover.

Pär is not only one of the most respected musicians in the dark ambient genre (and with excellent reason!), but also a talented artist, printmaker, and illustrator whose work is inspired by mysticism and religious art. His art graces two of my favourite albums: Phelios‘ “Gates of Atlantis” and Allseits‘ “Hel.”

Exciting news!

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22 April 2015:

My interview with musician, artist, writer, and esotericist Abby Helasdottir of Gydja is now published on Heathen Harvest Periodical.  She speaks candidly about artistic work as devotional and spiritual practice, her many-faceted appreciation for Bandcamp, post-industrial music as a boys’ club, her upcoming album with Edgar Kerval of Emme Ya, and the Rökkr or shadow-dwellers of Germanic and Norse cosmology.  She is also being interviewed for my book, so this interview will give you a little taste of what to expect.

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12 September 2015:

I am happy to announce that the second feature article in my series on underrated dark ambient albums for the venerable I Die: You Die music zine has now been published.  Lots of love and care went into this one!  There will be a third article in this series also, which will be published in 2016.

I’ve now received eleven fully completed interviews for the book, and am working on editing them.  Thank you so much to all the contributors!  Teaser quotes from all the interviews are being posted to the Facebook page – the most recent is from the talented Hærleif Langås of Northaunt.

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23 July 2016:

I now have fifteen completed interviews, and more on the way!  The latest interview quote is from Simon Heath of Cryo Chamber; the next one will be from Hristo Gospodinov of Shrine.

The interview process is very time-consuming – much more so than I could possibly have imagined when I started out!

When I started writing this book in late 2013, I submitted query letters to publishers, but received no responses, so I decided to just write without any publisher support.  This has been difficult for someone in my precarious financial circumstances – it means that all my writing time remains unpaid, and I have to devote most of my attention to my day job, since it pays the bills and writing does not.  In January 2o16 I received an offer from a publisher for my other in-progress book manuscript, so that one is going to be finished first.  I will continue to work on Endarkenment as often as I can, but it’s safe to say that this project is going to take me several more years, unless I can find some other form of financial support.

I am planning to launch a Patreon campaign in October for The Black Stone Hermitage, and if it does well, I will be able to spend more time writing and less time at my day job.  More news when it’s available!

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Posted 2013/11/27 by The Black Stone Hermitage

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