Feature Image via opantanoeletrico.blogspot.com
I’m a composer, and I’m currently involved in a volunteer program where I get to teach middle schoolers how to write their own music. One of my students is a big horror movie fan, and he asked me for some music that would inspire him to write a “scary” piece. When I was hunting down some tunes for him, I realized that all the best scary music I knew was classical. Something about screeching violins, booming organs and choirs chanting in Latin is just spookier than any electric guitar or drum kit, right? And what sounds more like dancing skeletons than a xylophone?
So I was inspired. I knew I had to do an all-classical Halloween playlist for you. A few of these you might recognize, even if you’re not a classical fan — from their use in Looney Tunes or Fantasia. But I hope there will be a few surprises!
Night on Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky
Toccata in D Minor – J.S. Bach
Requiem in D Minor: Dies irae – W.A. Mozart
Erlkönig – Franz Schubert
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1: In the Hall of the Mountain King – Edvard Grieg
Black Angels: II. Absence – George Crumb
“Pirate Jenny” from The Threepenny Opera – Kurt Weill
Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns
Der Doppelgänger – Franz Schubert
Suite from Psycho – Bernard Herrmann
Symphonie fantastique: V. Songe d’une nuit du sabbat – Hector Berlioz
Lyrics with English translation for Erlkönig and Der Doppelgänger.
Add your favourite scary tracks in the comments below!
Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Crystal up on Formspring and someone of the team will make it for you.
You forgot Serenada Schizophrana by Danny Elfman!
Anyone want to guess which two tracks on this playlist Rose has performed at some point?
more clues needed! what instrument do you play slash do you sing?
Yeah, you’re right, sorry! I play cello and bass and I also sing (alto).
In that case, I’m going with Night on Bald Mountain and Symphonie Fantastique. You can’t be in an orchestra and not play those at SOME point!
yeah i’ll go symphonie fantastique and peer gynt
Nope, the two pieces were:
-Danse Macabre (high school orchestra)
-Mozart Requiem (college choir)
An orchestra I was in at camp read through the fourth movement of Symphonie fantastique but we didn’t perform it, and I’ve played the second Peer Gynt Suite, but not the first one (the one that has In the Hall of the Mountain King). So close, but no quite. Disappointing, though, since I love all the pieces mentioned, obviously! The piece I’m writing right now is actually somewhat modeled on Symphonie fantastique.
Only two? Jeez! I performed only in high school and I’ve played at least three…
My high school orchestra was pretty lousy, and I actually haven’t done too much performing since I’ve been in college (since I’m not majoring in performance).
The Cure – Lullaby.
I know it’s not classical, but it’s a CLASSIC and should be featured on any playlist that involves spooky. Or just any playlist. EVEEERRRRR.
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, backwards.
ah, fellow composer!
i’m a really big fan of charles ives’ quarter-tone piano pieces, and i guess they could sound pretty creepy if you’re not really into that…same goes for a lot of Penderecki’s music. Also, Harry Partch’s microtonal music!
so much love for this.
That’s cool that you’re also a composer, what are you working on lately? Also, I <3 <3 <3 <3 Charles Ives! He's my favorite American composer.
Re: Penderecki, I thought about including the Threnody, but figured that might be a little much – especially with the Crumb I put on there, too.
i’ve been playing around with polytonality a lot in this violin/cello duet i’m working on for class, and it’s really a lot of fun. and at the end of this summer i finished up a short minimalism piece for acoustic guitar, string quartet, and percussion.
charles ives + ruth crawford seeger are definitely my favorite american composers! and steve reich!
OMG I’m a huge Steve Reich fan, too!
I love Steve Reich! His music is amazing both to listen to and play. I have to say one of the highlights of my life was getting to talk to him a couple of times. What did I ask him? How to pronounce his name. DEEP STUFF
Steve Reich and music school high fives!
You actually met him? Jealous!
Love this playlist! I have to say that anything from Berg’s Wozzeck really creeps me out (must be the sprechstimme). Act III, Scene IV gives me the chills every time. :)
That opera is indeed creepy – but awesome! I love sprechstimme, I actually used it in a vocal piece I just finished. (It wasn’t all sprechstimme, just in some key moments.)
Yay! First playlist that I can listen to xD I’m so happy that I already know like half the list lol
Well, this is the post that finally got me to set up an Autostraddle account. When I was on tour with a musical group a couple of years ago, I would put my ipod on shuffle to sleep on the bus. I would often wake up in the middle of the night from terrifying dreams to find that I was listening to the Rite of Spring…
Rose, as for guessing what you’ve performed, tell us what you sing/play first!
See above! :)
One time last year my roommate turned out all the lights in the apartment and put on the Red Violin concerto by John Corigliano (fun fact: gay). We listened to the whole thing in the dark and it was TERRIFYING. So I recommend that. Especially the second and fourth movements.
love this! I was like ‘symphonie fantastique better be on there, nothing like a decapitated head rolling away’ and there it is.
Yeah, unfortunately I decided not to include that movement – as macabre as the whole scaffold scene is in the fourth movement, I thought the witch’s sabbath in the fifth was more befitting the Halloween theme.
By the way, if anyone wants to learn more about the volunteer program that I can talk about in the post, it’s called Junior Bach and you can read about it here: http://www.peabody.jhu.edu/3021 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Oh shit, you go to Peabody? That’s wicked sweet. I almost transferred there back in the day but they don’t take mid-year transfers (or at least they didn’t 3 years ago)
Cool list! I don’t have much in the way of classical or even just purely instrumental music, but I do have some Halloween-appropriate stuff that people might find interesting.
The Creepy List:
Something Dark Is Coming – Battlestar Galactica Season 2 soundtrack (okay, I do have some instrumental)
Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holiday
Bloodletting (The Vampire Song) – Concrete Blonde
Richard Hung Himself – D.I.
I Want To Kill You – Darling Violetta
Corrupt – Depeche Mode
The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnymen
My Computer Said Kill – The Groovie Ghoulies
Dark Carnivale – Gypsy Nomads
Kill Me Kiss Me – Hangry & Angry
Leveller – Inkubus Sukkubus
Vampyra – Inkubus Sukkubus (actually, pretty much their entire catalog qualifies)
Run Like Hell – Kittie
The Bonny Swan – Loreena McKennitt
Love Me Dead – Ludo
The Perfect Drug – Nine Inch Nails
Suicide Machine – No Fun At All
Beheaded – The Offspring
Wytches’ Brew – Omnia
Pennywise – Pennywise
Angry Johnny – Poe
REV 22:20 – Puscifer
Leechwife – Rasputina
Transylvanian Concubine (Manson Mix) – Rasputina
Casimira – SJ Tucker
Animated Corpse – Tilt
Prison Sex – Tool
Pretty When You Cry – VAST
Samhain List for my fellow Pagans:
Fires at Midnight – Blackmore’s Night
Witches’ Jig – Green Crown
Hail the Holly King – Inkubus Sukkubus
Samhain – Inkubu Sukkubus
Come to the Labyrinth – SJ Tucker
The Circle Song – Wendy Rule
Persephone – Stellamara
Fantastic list!! These spooky pieces are probably some of my faves. My partner and I are also classically trained musicians and were transported back to our great times in grad school. :)
Thanks so much for sharing!
PS – Especially love the performance selections!
OMG You don’t know scary until you’ve heard Penderecki.
As I said above, I thought about putting that on there but thought it was a little much…