Possibly the most unearthly piece I’ve ever heard, The Ghost Sonata presents a psychotic, twisted tale of suicide that sends gooseflesh across my skin. The theory behind the album, written between 1980 an 1991, was to create a horrifying soundtrack by allowing the artists of Tuxedomoon to write their own suicides. The pieces were then put over an even more ghastly opera, which contained no lyrics, except for the pale words spoken during “The Funeral of a Friend.” The suicides included drinking, excessive romanticism, wrist slashing, and the loneliness of drowning. The video was then filmed in Brussels.
At times, the album is a beautiful, eerie lullaby only to dissolve into sounds of gloom and despair. The opening track fades in and the near-dead narration tells of the suicides and funerals that will take place. It then leads into the gorgeous, uncanny piano, and somber violin that transforms The Ghost Sonata into what it is. The instruments at times shriek and then reach such lows they seem to creep. Their presence sustains the bleak feel of the entire piece. The album also contains clarinets, oboes, flutes, and cellos to enhance the theatrical emotion throughout.
They come together during “An Affair at the Soiree” and create a ghastly carnival sound that conjures a dark visual of some haunted carousel operating under its own power. During “Music Number Two” and “The Cascade,” the piano often reminds me of Chopin with a Nick Cave twist while the violins create the emotion of a funeral with slow, grieving slides of the bow across strings. Blaine Reininger’s orchestration provides additional coldness to the already dismal soundtrack of suicide. The music never goes over the top with its grim feel, but also never reaches a point of safety.
At first, I was in fear that such titles as “Funeral of a Friend,” “A Drowning,” and “A Mystic Death” would probably give me some gothic vampire sound reminiscent of early horror movies. The Ghost Sonata was done with such beauty that I go so far as to call it a masterpiece. The musical classification is somewhere between classical and theatre and there are merely two emotions found among the elegance: fear and mourning. The beauty encountered is spiritually uplifting at times and warped at others. The pieces are theatrically perfect and now I start my quest to find the Brussels video that currently eludes me.
Written by Nolan Shigley.