Melodies, Moods, and The Zone as a Hole


  • Eldritch Priest



Chernobyl, moods, soundscape, melody-casting, acoustic ecology


I traveled to Chernobyl in June 2018 with a small group of academics and artists to think about what dwelling in and passing through a zone of exclusion might entail, not in a metaphysical sense but also not not in a metaphysical sense. As I learned, thinking about The Zone (as I’ll call it) is not a straightforward affair. On the one hand The Zone is exactly what you might think it is – a radioactive territory whose crumbling ruins and growing wildlife bear witness to the failure of the soviet nuclear dream. Yet on the other it’s also not what you think it is, like a hole is not the nothing it appears to be but a something that, strictly speaking, it isn’t. Because of this ontological uncertainty The Zone is not only something to wander in but something to be wondered about. And as such, it may be better dreamed than simply thought of. Drawing on my zonal meanderings and a speculative-pragmatic form of acoustic ecology, as well as employing a liberal dose of poetic licence, I develop a fabulation that takes a stroll through a forgotten cemetery, an improvised melody played beneath a secret radar array, and a daydream had in a dilapidated post office as expressive of a thought experiment whose meaningful result is more a fictional achievement than a factual reckoning. Images and sounds from my peregrinations through The Zone figure in this work as elements that advance a story about a future people displaced by climate change who evolve the ability to lure affections from environmental spaces by casting melodies into them. In this future history we learn about the costs of noise and the nature of holes; we discover that media travel backwards in time, and we sense not what The Zone is but what mood it’s in.


Article received: April 25, 2020; Article accepted: May 30, 2020; Published online: October 15, 2020; Original scholarly paper

Author Biography

Eldritch Priest

School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia,

Eldritch Priest is Assistant Professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and writes on sonic culture, experimental aesthetics, and the philosophy of experience from a 'pataphysical perspective. He is the author of Boring Formless Nonsense: Experimental Music and the Aesthetics of Failure (2013) as well as numerous journal articles. Eldritch is also a composer. His works have been performed in Canada, the United States, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.


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How to Cite

Priest, E. (2020). Melodies, Moods, and The Zone as a Hole. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (23), 45–66.



Main Topic: How to do Things with Speculative Pragmatism: Anthropocene, Aesthetics, Art