When Christmas time comes around, everyone knows where to find appropriate music. The song trough is filled to the brim with perennial classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and a passel of traditional and contemporary favorites that most people know the words and music to without resorting to sheet music.
But what about Halloween?
Expenditures in recent years is a good indicator that Halloween is quickly becoming one of our most popular holidays, and soon may even overtake Christmas when it comes to money spent on parties, costumes, and decorations. Lagging behind, however, is the music, for there is still no real tradition for Halloween music. The media has tried to assemble lists of the “Top Ten” Halloween songs – these include such expected hits as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” and Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash.” But what else is there?
Classical music provides a wealth of spooky melodies that are not only memorable, but in the public domain. Chief among them is “Danse Macabre,” a seven-minute tone poem written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The work is an artistic genre of late medieval allegory on the universality of death. The subject has made its appearance in a number of musical settings dating back to the sixteenth century. In case you are tiring of Saint-Saëns’ work, there is a wealth of alternate choices that deal with the same theme. Some include “Songs and Dances of Death” by Modeste Mussorgsky, “Totendanz” by Franz Liszt, and the second movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. Some modern-day rock settings of the legend include “Dance of Death” by Iron Maiden and “Circus of Fear” by Sinultimata.
Other P.D. classical compositions suitable for Halloween include “A Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, “Funeral March” by Frederic Chopin, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from the “Peer Gynt” by Edvard Grieg, and “Funeral March of a Marionette” (a melody associated with film director Alfred Hitchcock) by Charles Gounod.
Film music is also a popular choice to give your Halloween party that special eery ambience. Some favorites include Bernard Herrmann’s screeching violins from the shower murder in Psycho, the scores to The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride by Danny Elfman and Interview with the Vampire by Elliot Goldenthal. More popular choices would have to include the theme from Ghostbusters, “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and John Williams’ “Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s theme) from The Empire Strikes Back.
One can dive into more obscure titles to get a nice variety of creepy music, including jazz (“Skeleton Jangle” by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band), blues (“Dark Was the Night – Cold Was the Ground” by Blind Willie Johnson), rock ’n’ roll (“The Devil in Disguise” by Elvis Presley), country (“Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash), and TV theme songs (Casper, the Friendly Ghost, The Addams Family, The Munsters).
So, although you might have to do a little “digging” (to use an appropriate word for the season), Halloween can be a frightfully delightful time to share your musical resources.