666: Six Aspects of Horror (Part I)

666: Six Aspects of Horror (Part I)

Horror is not about zombies, or vampires, or even torture at the hands of maniacs. As we head into the season most associated in America [1] with horror, I want to point out that horror is more concerned with mortality than with decoration. (“A home-movie from Hell.” 40 years in, still one of the best examples of a true horror film.)  More often than not, we get so wrapped up in the trappings attributed to “horror stories” – monsters, chainsaws, thunderstorms and so forth – that we forget what makes horror HORROR. As I’ve noted before,  artists and audiences keep Read more »

Recognizably Human, Unquestionably Other (On Wyld Feet, They Fly, Part IV)

Recognizably Human, Unquestionably Other (On Wyld Feet, They Fly, Part IV)

I met a lady in the meads, Full beautiful ― a faery’s child, Her hair was long, her foot was light, And her eyes were wild. – John Keats, La Belle Dame sans Merci (Part IV of a series; for Part III, click here.)  (I Do Believe, by Amy Brown.)  “Wanna go for a barefoot walk in the woods?” So asked my friend the Magnolia Fairy. Having just picked me up at the airport during a tour for my newest book, she drove us both to the mountains where she lived. Shortly thereafter, we padded down a narrow, winding trail. Read more »

Intimate Familiarity (On Wyld Feet, They Fly, Part III)

Intimate Familiarity (On Wyld Feet, They Fly, Part III)

Beauty began to change. Her hair was almost always a tangle… she was almost always barefoot ― there were hard calluses on her soles. Her senses were so sharp that she could smell and hear things she had never known existed before. This was the happiest she had ever been in her life. – Francesca Lia Block, Beast (Part III of a series; for Part II, click here.)  (La Belle Dame sans Merci, by William Waterhouse.) My first crush was a barefooter girl. So was my first wife, whom I met in a medievalist group. Cathi never brought shoes to Read more »

Hobnails and Hot Iron (On Wyld Feet, They Fly, Part II)

Hobnails and Hot Iron (On Wyld Feet, They Fly, Part II)

She looked so sweet, from her two bare feet To the crown of her nut-brown hair Such a coaxing elf, sure I shook myself To see if she was really there… – “Star of the County Down” (traditional Irish folk song) (Part II of a series; for Part I, click here.)  “Don’t your feet hurt?” folks asked us as we hiked. “Don’t you have blisters?” we replied. It’s funny how many times I was called “Wild Man” by fellow travelers in that wilderness. Each night we shared with them, Pooka and I watched other hikers rub their feet, change bandages, Read more »

Iron Men and Diamond Dogs (Music, Magic & History, Part VIII)

Iron Men and Diamond Dogs (Music, Magic & History, Part VIII)

…those born of the underground had found the massive financial rewards of their commercial success overwhelming, and misspent the better part of the music’s artistic currency. That failure of nerve had simply and tragically reduced rock’s practical power to the power of business. – Fred Goodman, The Mansion on the Hill (Though largely absent from the airwaves, the original Black Sabbath changed the face of rock.) Social unrest and abhorrent popular culture spin a number of musical experiments into full-blown movements during the 1970s. Although metal, punk, reggae, and other styles can be traced back to the 1960s – and Read more »

Sucking in the ‘70s (Music, Magic & History, Part VII)

Sucking in the ‘70s  (Music, Magic & History, Part VII)

It was as if Morrison had foreseen the Manson-esque destruction of the hippie idyll, confronting the dysfunction of hippie kids initially liberated by sex, drugs and music but now disoriented, frightened, and potentially dangerous. – Barney Hoskyns, from the liner notes for the 2007 expanded CD edition of the Doors album Strange Days (As with the ’70s themselves, folks often forget how dark this movie really was.)    Magic has a price. And as the late ‘60s slide into the early ‘70s, the musical bill comes due. By the time President Nixon resigns and the last U.S. helicopters flee Saigon, Read more »

The Times, They Are A’Changin’ (Music, Magic & History, Part VI)

The Times, They Are A’Changin’ (Music, Magic & History, Part VI)

I throw myself on the altar of your art. Publicist Diane Gardiner, to Jimi Hendrix Change comes from unlikely places… in this case, coffee dens, German nightclubs, second-hand blues records, and a collection of recordings made decades ago. In the backwash of rock’s first tide, creative misfits take the lead. England, Germany, France and other nations catch rock-n-roll fever even as it dies down in America; here, though, many fans prefer authentic blues to the whitewashed product humming on U.S. airwaves. An armful of blues and rock recordings sparks one of music history’s most significant partnerships; Keith Richards re-encounters his Read more »

Mystic Rhythms: Rumble (Music, Magic & History, Part V)

Mystic Rhythms: Rumble (Music, Magic & History, Part V)

If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars. – attributed to Sam Phillips, owner of  the Memphis Recording Service, and the man who “discovered” Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley (incidentally, Phillips denied having ever said this) (Arguably the first rock-n-roll recording, Ike Turner’s “Rocket ’88′”) It starts with the blues riffing of a poor boy named Bo Diddly. It rises in the duck-strut of a handsome dude named Chuck Berry. It ignites when a white truck driver catches “that Negro sound” in the gyrations of his Read more »

Mystic Rhythms: Anything Goes (Music, Magic & History, Part IV)

Mystic Rhythms: Anything Goes (Music, Magic & History, Part IV)

The sound is the freedom. The chord don’t mean nothing.– Ornette Coleman, interviewed in Andrew Zuckerman’s book Music   (Image from Powerchords: Music, Magick & Urban Fantasy; art by Bryan Syme) If blues is the Devil’s music, then its offspring – jazz, country, soul and rock – are its four horsemen. Thundering across electric highways, these fertile musicologies plunder everything they find. Jazz shares the outlaw origins of blues, but focuses more on instrumental prowess than personal catharsis. Supposedly named for sexual intercourse, jazz takes the most sensual elements of European, African and American music, and then heats them to Read more »

Mystic Rhythms: Music, Magic & History (Part I)

Mystic Rhythms: Music, Magic & History (Part I)

The first sounds a child hears are the rhythms of his mother’s heart. At birth, he breathes deep and cries loud. To the child, all things are musical… and as we grow older, music often helps us return to that childlike fascination. It’s primal, elemental, something beyond words even when it employs them. Music invokes a transcendental state – literally “crossing up and across” from one state to another. Is it any wonder, then, that faeries adored Thomas the Rhymer, or that aliens spoke to humanity through song in Close Encounter of the Third Kind? The harmonies, vibrations, beats and intervals of music guide the waves of Read more »