Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. As a feminist media scholar, I’m fascinated (and sometimes troubled) by how people use clothes, make-up, and fake blood to re-create themselves in another person, character, or creature’s image. I’ve also taken part in the fun myself. A few years ago, I put together a makeshift Tina Belcher costume out of my own wardrobe and DIY bangs.
However, I didn’t embrace horror until I was a master’s student in the RTF department at UT-Austin and became friends with several feminist and/or queer scary movie enthusiasts. They introduced me to scholarship from Carol Clover, Robin Wood, Linda Williams, and Isabel Cristina Pinedo, who collectively pioneered archetypes like the final girl, oppositional identifications with villains, and feminist spectatorship. I also became drawn to filmmaker John Carpenter’s abrasive score work. Though nothing on this mix originated from horror film soundtracks, many of these songs use instrumentation and production techniques that create an ominous or mysterious sonic atmosphere.
Foremost, horror’s ability to metaphorize societal inequalities through paranormal phenomena resonates with me. Many of the songs on this mix use horror to comment on forms of oppression that afflict women and/or people of color. For example, Kate Bush’s “Get Out of My House” adapts Stephen King’s The Shining by recasting Jack Torrance’s brutalized wife Wendy as its protagonist. Likewise, Esther Phillips’ cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” mourns addiction and poverty’s demonic possession over the inner city while her reedy alto imbues the song’s elegy for a sense of home with a distinctly female subjectivity. And some of these songs are about actual ghosts and monsters. It’s my belief that feminism gives people a vocabulary to confront and resist subjugation and victimization; this mix offers a soundtrack to that process.
Alyxandra Vesey is a graduate student in UW-Madison’s Media and Cultural Studies Program. She uses industry and production studies approaches to explore the relationship(s) between gender, labor, and music. Her dissertation analyzes identity and music-based intermediary practices in post-network television. Her work has appeared in Antenna, Flow, In Media Res, The Moving Image, Cinema Journal, Studies in French Cinema, and Saturday Night Live and American TV. She is also a deejay at WSUM 91.7 Madison. You can listen to her show “Feminist Music Geek Presents…” on Mondays at 9 p.m.
Dusty Springfield – Spooky (Dusty … Definitely; Philips Records, 1968)
Out Hud – One Life to Leave (Never Let Us Speak of it Again; Kranky, 2005)
Kate Bush – Get Out of My House (The Dreaming; EMI, 1982)
Cristina – He Dines Out on Death (Sleep It Off; Ze Records, 2004)
PJ Harvey – Meet Ze Monsta (To Bring You My Love; Island, 1995)
Holy Ghost! (ft. Nancy Whang) – I Wanted to Tell Her (I Wanted to Tell Her single; DFA, 2011)
Ebony Bones – While the People S.L.E.E.P. (Behold, a Pale Horse; 1984 Records, 2013)
The Breeders – Hellbound (Pod; 4AD/Elektra, 1990)
Follow That Bird! – The Ghosts That Wake You (Casual Victim Pile; Matador, 2010)
Explode Into Colors – Wooden Ghost (Quilts; Sixty-Six Records, 2010)
Speedy Ortiz – American Horror (Real Hair EP; Carpark Records, 2014)
Esther Phillips – Home Is Where the Hatred Is (From a Whisper to a Scream; Kudu, 1972)
Crystal Castles – Plague (III; Fiction/Last Gang, 2012)
The Cocteau Twins – Musette and Drums (Head Over Heels; 4AD, 1983)