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A Perilous Playlist of the Most Macabre Music

Looking for some scary sounds to spook the goblins and ghosts who come to your door Halloween night? KUSC has a treat for you: a perilous playlist of the most macabre music, personally chosen by KUSC hosts and staffers, to haunt your dreams and terrify trick-or-treaters big and small. It includes hair-raising classics and some daunting discoveries, as well. Hope you and yours have a harrowing holiday!

John Van Driel

The Dies Irae from Verdi’s Requiem. This depiction of the Day of Death will scare the Hell (seriously) out of anyone.

Dianne Nicolini

The Funeral March from Chopin’s Sonata in b minor is classic scary soundtrack music.

Not to mention almost any “Dies Irae” from a Requiem Mass is going to be scary, as well it should be since it’s depicting the Last Judgement or “Day of Wrath”! We already have Verdi’s on the list but we need Mozart’s too!

Brian Lauritzen

I love Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite, especially the opening and also “The Evil God and the Dance of the Pagan Monsters”.

Also, this delightfully creepy “Glorification of Death” from Sofia Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun.

Jennifer Miller

When I first performed Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar at Long Beach Opera, I used to hear the opening prologue and chorus in my sleep. I have chosen it for both its incessant rhythms and the eerie chords and vocal line.

Diablo 3 is a terrifying video game made even freakier by its standout number, “And the Heavens Shall Tremble,” composed by Russell Brower.

This one is equally sad and scary, mostly for the bridge “Don’t you hear your lover moan. Eyes of glass and feet of stone.” Chilling. “Black Swan” from Menotti’s The Medium.

Jeffrey Freymann

Hector Berlioz– Symphonie Fantastique

This list isn’t complete without Berlioz’s “Dream of a Witches Sabbath” from Symphonie Fantastique, complete with Dies Irae and tolling bells! Just read the description Berlioz himself wrote for this section.

“He sees himself at a Witches’ Sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of ghosts, sorcerers, and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque. There is a roar of delight at her arrival”…read the rest, if you dare.

Anna Gandolfi, KUSC Intern

John Williams – Jaws: Shark Theme

The main theme for the soundtrack is comprised of only two notes, and yet John Williams managed to create out of that an unforgettable atmosphere of impending doom. When Williams first played the simple bass line to the film’s director Steven Spielberg, Spielberg laughed. But Williams explains “I just began playing around with simple motifs that could be distributed in the orchestra, then settled on what I thought was the most powerful thing, which is to say the simplest. They’re often the most compelling.”

Sergei Rachmaninov – The Isle of the Dead

When Rachmaninov first saw Arnold Böcklin’s popular painting, The Isle of the Dead, he was so haunted by this mysterious image that he immediately began to write this tone poem. This powerful score transports us to a lonely and desolate island at the edge of the underworld.

John Williams – Dracula

Based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic novel, the plot of John Badham’s 1979 movie version finds Count Dracula arriving from Transylvania during a stormy night in 1913. His ship has run aground, so he descends upon a young woman at a clifftop mansion, intending to drink her blood and kill her (as one does.) The John Williams score underlines our sense of horror, intrigue, and suspense, yet at times hints at the seductive powers of the vampire, played by Frank Langella.

Here’s a scene from John Badham’s Dracula starring Frank Langella as the Count.

Franz Liszt – Totentanz

Though Liszt wrote many great sacred works, he also had a flair for the macabre. He even wrote a Danse Macabre. Here’s one of his many scary works for piano. The title in English is Dance of Death. It is an infernal concerto for piano and orchestra that creates a dark and dangerous mood. The opening takes off from the dire-sounding Dies Irae, a 13th century Latin hymn on the subject of the Last Judgment.

Maurice Jarre – Theme from the soundtrack to Ghost

The use of the Righteous Brothers smash hit “Unchained Melody” may be the most memorable use of music in Jerry Zucker’s 1990 smash hit, underscoring the most sensuous ceramics session in film history. But Maurice Jarre’s soundtrack is considered one of his greatest, earning its composer an Oscar nomination. The spooky score might just give you goosebumps.

Written by:
The Classical Team
The Classical Team
Published on 10.27.2021