Silent Night –

What emerges in the darkness

The difference between night and day is more than just darkness. Night is just as much a borderline experience, full of fear and fascination. The silence of the night can be oppressive, but also contemplative, festive and romantic. Sleeplessness at night awakens thoughts and feelings, the ‘inner demons’ coped with since time immemorial and which we endow with an external form. The night is thus expressed in art works in painting and music, as well as in the rituals and festivals of light in diverse cultures. The night can be both distressing and creative, mystical and familiar.

Art – Wistful moonlit nights

Who could fail to find a cosy moonlit night romantic? The mysterious light and meditative ambient sound has long been an inspiration for the arts. The night is a perfect setting for painting and music. On the one hand, ‘nocturnes’ in painting or music – art works or songs inspired by night-time images – express emotions: love, sadness, and an affinity with nature. On the other, they reflect the night’s ambiguity: good and evil, light and dark, brightness and shade. Operas such as Mozart’s Magic Flute unify these opposites in their characters, while paintings capture them as worlds of colour.

© Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg

Festival of Lights – Between contemplation and celebration

The attempt to explain the darkness is always accompanied by a desire to set something against it. Many diverse cultures juxtapose darkness and light, whether as the radiance of the celestial bodies or candlelight at home. In Islam, the Koran was revealed in a night with a ‘bright, calm and tranquil moon’. Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and died under a full moon. In Christianity, when Christ was born, the night sky was filled with innumerable lights. In Judaism, a candle is lit in the ceremonies to mark both the start and end of Shabbat. Only with light can you find a path through darkness.

© Lanna Photobook, 2013

Goths – Children of the night

The goths emerged in the 1980s from punk and new wave. They take up the feeling of the night, and with the appropriate accessories, fashion and music create their own culture of the night. For goths, black is de rigueur. Goths are fascinated by mystical, morbid, or melancholic subjects. The aesthetics of the Victorian age also plays a key role. Today, many subgenres exist – including ones mockingly ironic. They can all be found gathered at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen, the annual world festival for goth subcultures in Leipzig.

© Janine Sielaff, photo: Katharina Hahn