There is beauty in decay. The beauty in destruction is more complicated, ethically and artistically. The composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s all-too-timely comments about the spectacle that was the destruction of the Twin Towers in Manhattan on 9/11 haunted him right up through, and will no doubt long past, his recent obituaries. In “Requiem for a Dead Church,” a musician who goes by the name Screwtape has forged a sonic consideration of a church in Moonee Ponds, Australia, that was destroyed back in 2004. The destruction occurred in an arson attributed to a drunk fan of black metal.
Writes Screwtape, “One can lament the destruction of a building that has community value even if the community is not one’s own. One can also admire the beauty of its present form, forlorn, forgotten, fenced off, charred, blackened and ruined yet still retaining a sense of past dignity.” The sound in “Requiem for a Dead Church” (MP3, mp3.com.au) allies itself with both those interpretations of the church’s fate. The nearly 10-minute track can most easily be imagined to be a rendering of the haunting of the space: phantasmal voices slurring by, the portal to another realm symbolized by ruptured textures that signify liminality, trespass and dread. The sorrow and sense of loss are unmistakable, but one listens just as much for the care taken with, and the resulting beauty of, the sonic transformations.