By: AC Covarrubias
The devil is one of the most if not the most infamous figure in religious culture. His effect seems to be ever present in all forms of media. This reigns in art, film, drama, and literature. However it is in music where his presence reigns supreme.
The prince of darkness presence in music can be dated back in the Middle Ages. One of the most superstitious times in European history. During the 5th century the musical interval called the tritone, which was also known as "the devil in Music" or the “Devil’s Interval”, was banned by the Catholic Church due to the belief that playing the interval could summon the Devil himself. Later on the devil would strike again in 1773 in the mind of Giuseppe Tartini. One night Tartini had a dream where he sold his soul to the devil to make satan his servant and teacher. During this dream the devil would then play a song which is what he consider the most beautiful melody he has ever heard of. When he woke up he attempted to recreate that same melody he has heard in his dream. However in Lalande's Voyage d'un François en Italie, where he tells his story he states “The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the "Devil's Trill", but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me.”
But Tartini was not the only violinist to have some relations with the infernal and unholy. Niccolò Paganini was a famous Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. During his career there have been rumors that his skill was given to him by the devil. The evidence to support this was claims that when he played the violin his hand would contort and move in an inhuman way. One person claimed to leave after witnessing the devil helping Paganini play. To rop it all of it was said that when the priest came to perform last rites it was said that he refused this sacrament. Whether this was real of not is up for debate.
In the later years new genres of music emerged called Jazz and the blues. This genre of music is not directly linked to the devil but rather it was made linked to the devil. Because most of the jazz musicians are mainly African American in a still racist America people have been linking jazz with satan just to make the blacks look bad. During the time jazz was considered “Devil Music”. However, just because people linked jazz to the devil did not mean he did not have his hands on helping musicians master the blues. Some musicians such as Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson (the two are not related) where said to sell their souls to satan. Tommy was said to be a terrible guitar player until he sold his soul and just like that he became a master in an instant.
The devil would leave the would and jazz and the blues into something more fitting for a violent entity such as him: Rock. Like jazz and the blues, rock was viewed negatively as satanist, but there main target was not on the minorities, but on children. During this time Rock was the cool thing to listen to as a kid, so parents use this as a way to scare their children. Saying that rock will lead you to a life of sin. This, like jazz, is not true, but instead of ignoring these claims rock embraced those claims and became what those things parents back then where afraid off. Black Sabbath, the founding fathers of metal, have a lot of references to the occult and the demonic. One of the band members Geezer Butler was fascinated with the occult, which lead Ozzy Osbourne to give him a black book written in Latin with pictures of the devil. He put the book in his shelf and went to bed. He would wake up to see a black figure at the front of the bed, staring at him. Some say it was the devil, others claim it was the grim reaper, however one thing is certain, when the figure vanished Butler searched for the book only to find that it was vanished. This would lead to Black Sabbath’s song Black Sabbath which is about the experience Geezer when through with the first line being “What is this, That stands before me? Figure in black, which points at me”. With metal coming to exist the link to music and satan have been exclusively linked to metal rock exclusively.
Modern music seem to not discuss about the devil, with rock as the exception. The link between the devil and music is bizarre. With tales general consisting of encounters with the prince of darkness where it is meeting him face to face or committing to Faustian bargains. Whatever it is there is something fascinating about discovering the relations between music and the infernal.