November 9: Matthew Arndt

The Dark Side of Oz as Allegory of Spiritual Transformation

The Dark Side of Oz, the mashup of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, has established itself as an inspiring work of art, giving rise to live shows as well as new music and art. It is also a decidedly open work. It does not merely eschew authorial prescription of its meaning; rather, it has no identifiable author at all. It also has no generic conventions; rather, it has singlehandedly established the genre of the cinematic progressive rock mashup. Faced with these interpretive challenges, scholars have hardly examined the phenomenon in artistic terms at all, with the exception of John Richardson. But in all cases, virtually the only analytical method brought to bear is borrowed from the blogosphere: identifying sync points.

This study adopts the premise that the meaningfulness of the mashup is grounded not in its sync points as such but in its affordance of a conceptual blending of the album’s musical-lyrical content with the film’s narrative. In this blend, the divergence of the disparate source materials is just as important as their convergence or syncing. This divergence opens up a space of the unknown, the sublime, while the convergence implies its meaningfulness, which is read against the grain of the originals. I interpret this sublimity as spiritual, partly due to the role of faith in executing the juxtaposition. More specifically, as a prism selectively activates color, so the album serendipitously activates elements in the film to present an allegory of spiritual transformation that closely matches the analysis of this process in St. Theophan the Recluse’s magisterial The Path to Salvation.

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