The Secret to Composing Halloween

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

John Carpenter explains that the secret to composing and performing Halloween came from his father:

He was a music professor. He taught me 5-4 time when I was 13 on a pair of bongos of all things. And 5-4 time is bop, bop, bop. Bop, bop, bop. Bop, bop. Bop, bop. Bop, bop, bop. Bop, bop. Bop, bop, bop. Bop, bop. So I simply sat at the piano and I rolled octaves, so that’s how it came about. It was simple, repetitive and, like you said, causes tension in the audience. They’re waiting for something to change. [...] It puts you in a little bit of discomfort emotionally. Why is this not evolving and changing? It’s repeating over and over and over again.

By the way, Carpenter got into the movie business to make Westerns, but Westerns died.

Night On Bald Mountain

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Let the Night On Bald Mountain segment from Fantasia (1941) put you in the Halloween spirit:

Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Danse Macabre”

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Borepatch prepares for Halloween by discussing Camille Saint-Saëns and his “Danse Macabre”:

He was a child prodigy, possessed perfect pitch, and more importantly had the mind of a polymath: in addition to his many musical compositions he published scientific papers on the acoustics of ancient Roman amphitheaters, wrote the first score for a motion picture, and sailed through the newly completed Panama Canal to conduct an orchestra in San Francisco.

This piece is based on a poem by Henri Cazalis, from a very old French superstition.  Each year Death appears at midnight on Halloween and summons the dead to rise and dance while he plays his fiddle.  The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, repeated twelve times: the clock striking midnight.  The E Flat and A violin chords that follow are sometimes called the “Devil’s chords”.  The piece is spooky and vigorous all the way through until the end, when the music quietens to a pianissimo as the dead return to their tombs as dawn breaks.

Benefits from Trade Day

Friday, November 1st, 2013

November 1, the day after Halloween, should be known as Benefits from Trade Day:

Friday, American children will be making piles out of their loot: stuff they want to keep, and stuff they want to swap for treats they actually like. They will then commence creating and participating in a market, trading things they don’t want for things they want, negotiating exchange rates between various bite-size currencies, and sometimes trading things they do want for things they want more, or for more of something else they want.

They do this entirely out of self-interest: because it will increase their happiness. No adult needs to coerce them into trading, or even suggest or facilitate it.

There is no better day to teach kids about the benefits of trade (and about subjective value), so I propose we promote November 1 as Benefits from Trade Day.

The Plague Behind Zombies and Vampires

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The plague behind zombies and vampires is rabies, of course.

It’s pronounced “Eye-gor” now

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The canonical Igor of pop-culture — Dr. Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant — does not exist in the original novel and isn’t named Igor in the movie.

Foseti’s Vibrant Halloween

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I wonder if Foseti will be inviting unsuspecting bourgeois friends over for another vibrant Halloween this year.

Gremlins on a B-17 Bomber

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Horror sci-fi classic Alien was originally going to involve gremlins on a B-17 bomber.

No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy — at least not yet.

The Birds

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead — but with birds instead of zombies.

Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Candy Witch?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Children believe in Santa, because they have plenty of evidence that Santa exists. They’ll also believe in the Candy Witch if she comes and replaces their candy with toys.

Calvin’s Snowman House of Horror

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I still love Calvin’s Snowman House of Horror.

Some Words with a Mummy

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

A few years ago I read Poe’s Some Words with a Mummy for Halloween, and it turned out to make for excellent election-year reading.


Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I don’t recommend Frankenstein, either the novel or the film, but do note that the two are very, very different.

The Circus of Dr. Lao

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

If you’re looking for Halloween reading, I might recommend The Circus of Dr. Lao — but pass on the movie adaptation, Seven Faces of Dr. Lao.