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Season of the Witch

U2's awe-inspiring Reliant Stadium show prompts a search for the unknown — and unknowable — in music.

In any case, the Devil's Interval — achieved by striking the C and F sharp keys on a piano, for example — was sufficiently dissonant and unsettling that the Church banned its use in compositions in the Middle Ages, and those composers who did use it shared the same fate of, say, those suspected of witchcraft.

The Devil's Interval proved difficult to excommunicate, though, and became a recurring motif in classical music heard in, among other works, Liszt's Dante sonata, Wagner's Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) within his Ring of the Nibelung cycle and Camille Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre. Eventually the tritone, as it's also known, became one of the fundamental intervals of jazz and blues, which in their early days were often scoffed at by classical scholars for their reliance on dissonance.

Then, of course, the blues had a baby and called it rock and roll; that's also the Devil's Interval you hear in the introduction to Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." And ever since, the struggle for the soul of rock and roll has continued between salvation-seekers such as Santana and U2 and the more diabolically minded likes of Slayer — who titled their 1998 album Diabolus in Musica — and Marilyn Manson.

But whichever side you come down on, this season of the witch is no different from, oh, the previous eight or nine hundred. The shortest path to heaven, or hell, runs straight through your ear canal. Sleep tight, children.

SUPERNATURAL SELECTION

Noise's iPod currently contains just over 1,600 songs. Of those, a cool 75 — or about 4.6 percent — reference some sort of supernatural entity, location or condition in the title. (We need help, we know.) A random sampling:

"Bad Magick," Shooter Jennings

"Beast of Burden," Rolling Stones

"Bella Donna," Stevie Nicks

"Born Under a Bad Sign," Albert King

"The Cool Ghoul," John Zacherle

"Dead Souls," Joy Division

"Death," White Lies

"The Devil's Right Hand," Steve Earle

"The Ghost of You Lingers," Spoon

"Goliath and the Vampires," Monster Magnet

"Highway to Hell," AC/DC

"Houses of the Holy," Led Zeppelin

"I Walked With a Zombie," Roky Erickson & the Aliens

"Is There a Ghost," Band of Horses

"The Killing Moon," Echo & the Bunnymen

"Of Moons, Birds & Monsters," MGMT

"Personal Jesus," Depeche Mode

"Season of the Witch," Donovan

"Seven Spanish Angels," Willie Nelson & Ray Charles

"Spellbound," Siouxsie & the Banshees

"Turkish Song of the Damned," The Pogues

"Walking With a Ghost," Tegan and Sara

"Where the Devil Don't Stay," Drive-By Truckers

"Witchypoo," Heartless Bastards

chris.gray@houstonpress.com

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