Haunted by the Past: Music and Folk Horror in Children of the Stones

Kolassa, Alexander (2024). Haunted by the Past: Music and Folk Horror in Children of the Stones. In: Cook, James; Kolassa, Alexander; Robinson, Alexander and Whittaker, Adam eds. History as Fantasy in Music, Sound, Image and Media. Music and Visual Culture. Routledge.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003291725-13


A strange genre of 1970s ‘Folk horror’ television and cinema has made a comeback recently. Infused with nostalgias for an ever-receding landscape idyll and a longing for irretrievable pasts and lost futures, Folk horror proposes a distinctly British form of medievalism in which history haunts and destabilises an ever and alienatingly modern present.

The 1977 ITV television series Children of the Stones, the tale of an uncanny town hypnotised by ancient stone circles, is an enduring chapter in the Folk horror canon: and in no small part due to its sonically jarring soundtrack, at once evocative of traditions of musical modernism, as well as of deep and ancient pasts. This layering of a music that is at once very modern but also imbued in various ways with the historical creates a feeling of being ‘out of time’.

Music, I would argue, has a destabilising presence in Folk horror, but it also is suggestive of unseen forces and, indeed, the uncanny landscape itself. Like the air the characters breathe, the music exerts a presence not easily reducible to a strict diegetic-nondiegetic binary. This chapter proposes, then, to investigate this phenomenon more closely, bridging the discursive gap between the crass and popular, horror, and modernism.

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