Can’t imagine the world without music…

By Puck Wildschut

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Thelast 15 years has seen a surge in speculative popular fiction focusing on theexistence of gods and mythical creatures trough a kind of thoughtform: If a
great enough number of people believe in the actuality of certain higher beings
deeply, passionately and for a prolonged amount of time, these beings are
enabled to ‘exist’, to intrude onto the physical plane of mankind and work
their not always so benign magic. In American
Gods
(2001), – soon to be transformed into another major fantasy
tv-production
 – Neil Gaiman explores numerous pantheon’s in this way, from the
ancient Egyptians’ to modern day media-goddesses; In his incredibly
entertaining urban fantasy series The Iron
Druid Chronicles
(2011- ongoing), Kevin Hearne makes the last remaining
Druid on earth battle witches, cooperate with vampires, and deal with Norse
gods and Native American tricksters; And traces of thoughtform motives can be
seen in the universes of such bestselling series as Jims Butcher’s The Dresden Files (2000 – ongoing) and
Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series
(2012 – ongoing).

The
power of thoughtform as a literary theme, however, is not restricted to novels.
Last January, at the 2015 Image Expo in San Francisco, it was announced that a
third series of the comic book (or graphic novel, whatever suits your fancy) Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie
McKelvie is to be published in August of this year. Its first volume Rue Britannia (2006-2007) tells the
story of the highly unlikeable chauvinist David Kohl, who is a phonomancer, a
rare kind of magician who feeds on people’s love for a certain type of music
and who can channel that love for magical use. Kohl is facing a dilemma: His
specific drug is Britpop, but suddenly the world appears to be slowly
forgetting its existence, and therewith Kohl’s, since he is kept alive by their
remembering. Kohl then starts on a literal trip down memory lane to save
Britpop, ensuring that not only he himself does not disappear, but, more
importantly in his eyes, people will still remember Kenickie as being the ultimate
goddesses of Britpop, that the mysterious disappearance of Manic Street
Preachers’ Richey Edwards
will makes sure he will always be remembered… and
that (praise the good Lord!) people will not start thinking of those
proto-hipsters of Kula Shaker as actual Britpop. Phonogram is a mixed read: Kohl is one of the most unsympathetic
characters I have ever come across, but he is redeemed by his love for music.
Every reader of Phonogram, Britpop
fan or no, will be able to connect
with Kohl’s nostalgic longing for those days when you were being immersed into
a certain music scene for the first time in your life and your personal gods
came into existence – an experience that will form you, and maybe even haunt
you, for the rest of your days.

Our
current time in history, we might say, is an especially grim one, with
ideological wars raging all over the world, people becoming more and more connected
through electronics but less and less connected as human beings, and
differences are often more important than similarities. The gods we believe in,
if we do at all, are gods of hate and anguish – at least, those are the gods
that haunt our news bulletins. ISIS fighters destroy Muslim art in the world’s
museums, while Feyenoord supporters trash ancient Rome’s relics in Italy’s
capital. Their gods of religion and sports are ‘thoughtformed’ by annihilation,
hate and oppression, created through acts of barbarism rather than art.

Phonogram’s gods, on the other hand,
are thought into existence by love, admiration and creativity; and above all by
people’s passion for music. And that is why I am glad the Phonogram’s saga continues, while, as an avid reader of speculative
fiction, I believe the theme of thoughtform is becoming rather a cliché. Phonogram shows precisely what it is to
be human, to truly have faith in something outside of ourselves, and most
importantly, it shows that art, in this case music, is a symbol of hope in a
time when the world is so off-balance. Maybe, if the people of this world could
believe just a little harder, a little more passionately, in the gods we hear
on our radio’s, those we see expressed on canvases in our museums, those we see
on the stages of our theaters and encounter in the words of stories, the world
could be just that bit more of a
hopeful place. So if you stumble upon Phonogram’s
next installment ‘The Immaterial Girl’ somewhere this summer, don’t hesitate to
give a go; it might just change the world.

Image via: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phonogramcover2.png

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