Danse Macabre

Since Halloween/Samhain is right around the corner, I want to tell you about my favourite piece of classical music.

And no. I don’t love it solely because the composer and I basically have the same name.

This piece of music makes me want to put on a really large black skirt, head to the nearest cemetery on midnight, Halloween, and dance. But since this might be the most offensive and disrespectful thing I ever wanted in my whole life, I’ll pass. I might not always be the most considerate thing in the world, but there are some things I just won’t do.

Some snipped-out information from the Wikipedia article:

According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays his fiddle (here represented by a solo violin). His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year. The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times (the twelve strokes of midnight) which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. The solo violin enters playing the tritone consisting of an A and an E-flat—in an example of scordatura tuning, the violinist’s E string has actually been tuned down to an E-flat to create the dissonant tritone. The first theme is heard on a solo flute, followed by the second theme, a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. The first and second themes, or fragments of them, are then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra. The piece becomes more energetic and at its midpoint, right after a contrapuntal section based on the second theme, there is a direct quote played by the woodwinds of the Dies Irae, a Gregorian chant from the Requiem that is melodically related to the work’s second theme. The Dies Irae is presented unusually in a major key. After this section the piece returns to the first and second themes and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Then there is an abrupt break in the texture and the coda represents the dawn breaking (a cockerel’s crow, played by the oboe) and the skeletons returning to their graves.

The piece makes particular use of the xylophone to imitate the sounds of rattling bones. Saint-Saëns uses a similar motif in the Fossils movement of The Carnival of the Animals.

There are also some different videos that I found on YouTube that I also found to be pretty neat.

For the Tim Burton fan:

An old animation(-ish) thing from the eighties:

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