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Halloween History with dj mozzie

Howdy y’all! Halloween has some of the best holiday music around, and I wanted to write a bit about the history of the holiday and the music! Halloween originated from the Celtic festival named Samhain, which was celebrated in ancient Britain and Ireland. Ancient Celts believed that November 1st marked a new year, and that the souls of those who had died would revisit their homes the night before. People took part in rituals and practices to try and scare away these spirits, like lighting bonfires or wearing masks to be unrecognizable to the spirits. Today, we still dress up in costume, but it is not to scare spirits away. 

Halloween music has that spine-shivering feeling because of the use of dissonance and minor chords. In the Middle Ages, they referred to this as the “Devil’s interval.” The Devil’s interval was an augmented 4th interval and was banned in Renaissance church music because of its association with evil. This interval can be heard in the opening of Danse Macabre. Part of the reason high-pitched nonlinear noise and dissonance in music is seen as scary is because of the association we’ve given it with scary movies. The other reason is because these sounds remind us of animal distress sounds. In the 20th century, blues was associated with the devil because of the secularity of the lyrics. A lot of blues music reflected the experiences of oppression Black Americans faced. Blues artists were accused of selling their soul for success and talent. Blues music uses the blues scale, which features a flat fifth note. This scale creates a similar interval to that of the devil’s interval.

One of my favorite Halloween songs, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” (1956) was part of this labeling of “the devil’s music.” Halloween specific songs did not come out until the 1950s-1960s. After this, Halloween music moved to the rock realm, with hits like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” The 1970s and 1980s was the peak for Halloween horror music from films. These years were also when cult classic horror films were being released. 

Now, here is my Halloween playlist to get you ready for the best holiday of the year!

  1. I Put a Spell on You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  2. Halloween by Phoebe Bridgers 
  3. The Way Some People Die by Yo La Tengo
  4. Strange Things by Marlon Williams
  5. Ghosting by Mother Mother
  6. You’re Dead by Norma Tanega
  7. Hudson by Vampire Weekend
  8. Season of the Witch by Donovan (was mentioned in last week’s blog, but you can’t have a halloween playlist without it!)
  9. House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals 
  10. Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo

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By dj mozzie

assistant daytime music director @ wknc 88.1 fm hd-1 <3