Sound and Documentary in Cardiff and Miller's Pandemonium

The Word "Pandemonium"

Pandemonium’s title encompasses intersecting notions of sound, place, and narrative. Milton invented the word in Paradise Lost (1667) as the proper name for, “the high Capital Of Satan and his Peers.” [83] His coinage plays with the Latin suffix “-ium” used to indicate “the setting where a given activity is carried out,” as in “gymnasium” or “sanatorium.” [84] It lends a sense of categorical correctness to someone or something’s belonging in a location. Pandemonium, then, denotes a place where demonic activities, or evil deeds, are most fitting. Mary Shelley’s more figurative use in Frankenstein (1818) captures a tension between an individual’s longing to belong and feeling demonized within a moralizing system. [85] 

In nineteenth-century travel writing, pandemonium came to signify noisy and chaotic places often with racial and primitivizing connotations. Several of the Oxford English Dictionary’s modern usages elide the term with rhythm and percussion in African-diasporan or nonwestern music. A passage in Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) reads, for example: “A great multitude of natives from several islands had kept the palace grounds well crowded and had made the place a pandemonium every night with their howlings and wailings, beating of tom-toms and dancing.” [86] From its beginning, pandemonium classified beings in space along moral and civic lines. Its modern meaning points to ways in which noise has since been constructed to represent ‘immoral’ or ‘uncivilized’ elements in social hierarchies.

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