Scary Suggestions For Your Halloween Soundtrack

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Halloween is here, which means ghosts and goblins will soon be haunting your doorstep in search of candy. Why not have some spooky music ready to greet them when they shout: Trick or treat?

WCLV-Classical 104.9 Host Bill O’Connell says there’s a treasure trove of creepy classical sounds that will provide a perfect Halloween soundtrack. Among them is Russian composer Anatoly Liadov’s 1906 piece, “Baba-Yaga,” which musically depicts a frighteningly familiar figure that appears in many cultures.

“Baba-Yaga” was a witch-like character. The piece is a character sketch, mostly of her sinister nature and her ability to fly. This is like the ‘E.T’ flying music, but from Russian folklore,” O’Connell said.

Another Halloween favorite that dates back to the 1870s is Camille Saint-Saens “Danse Macabre.” The piece began as art song for piano and voice, but later was expanded for violin and orchestra. O’Connell says there’s a very important element in “Danse Macabre” that makes its sinister intentions clear.

“The critical part is when the violinist, which is the devil himself, strikes up his violin. He’s playing a tritone, which is a dissonant chord which is associated with the devil in music history, all the way back to the 16th or 17th century or maybe earlier. That discord means there’s trouble afoot and the devil is present. He plays his tune and all kinds of diabolical goings-on proceed.”

In countless films, television shows and cartoons, if a scary character needs to sneak around, a section of Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” has provided the perfect accompaniment- “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

“It’s like cliché, creeping-along-on-tiptoes kind of music, but then it explodes at the end,” O’Connell said.

Another frightening work that has become familiar is Modest Mussorgsky’s 1867 “A Night on Bald (or Bare) Mountain.” The piece was originally intended to portray a witches Sabbath, but we’ve come to associate with a legendary animated film.

“We know it best from the Disney film “Fantasia” and Leopold Stokowski’s 1940 orchestration, which was recorded by the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of composer/conductor Oliver Knussen,” O’Connell said.

Join WCLV on Halloween, as the station will feature scary music throughout the day!

Here’s a list of the pieces Bill O’ Connell and Dan Polletta discussed

Anatoly Liadov: Baba-Yaga Op 56 (1905)--Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev (DeutGram 447084 CD) 

Camille Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre Op 40 (1874)--Luben Yordanoff, violin; Orchestra of Paris/Daniel Barenboim (DeutGram 4796018 CD) 

Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt: In the Hall of the Mountain King (1876)--Estonian National Male Choir; Ellerhein Girls' Choir; Estonian National Symphony/Paavo Järvi (VirginClas 45722 CD) 

Modest Mussorgsky (arr Leopold Stokowski): A Night on Bald Mountain (1867)--Cleveland Orchestra/Oliver Knussen (DeutGram 2123 CD) 

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