Friday, October 16, 2009

Classical Music for Halloween Part 2

My second classical piece to focus on is: Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens!

The Dance of Death (or Danse Macabre in French) is a sort of celebration that originated in late Medieval era. It was an allegory in which they recognized the unity of all mankind through death. No matter what a person's station, social status, or wealth, everyone ends up in the same place. According to Wikipedia,"La Danse Macabre consists of the personified death leading a row of dancing figures from all walks of life to the grave, typically an emperor, king, youngster, and beautiful girl- all skeletal. They were produced to remind people of how fragile their lives and how vain the glories of earthly life were. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest artistic examples are in a cemetery in Paris from 1424."

My favorite setting of this concept is that of Saint-Saens' tone poem for orchestra. The harp opens the piece playing 12 subsequent D's to signify a clock striking midnight. The opening violin solo acts as Death, calling forth the dead to dance for the night, until he lays them to rest until next year. The E string of the violin is actually tuned down to E flat to play the tritone chord, which was also known as the Devil's chord. The xylophone is used to call to mind the rattling of bones. The piece is just really fun! I could totally imagine this piece in The Graveyard Book during the Danse Macabre celebration in chapter 5, where the dead dance with the living. Please listen to the piece below and enjoy!


Misty said...

I paused my Radiohead to listen. Amusing. A few short parts of this I could see as movie music for something Halloweenish. One part made me think of witched flying on broomsticks.

vvb32 reads said...

i liked listening to this piece too. thanks.