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"Scary" music?


Sepiatone
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My wife likes watching shows on THE FOOD NETWORK. Last night, after a broadcast of "Iron Chef", a show came on focusing on a Halloween "challenge". The program's introductory credits were accompanied by the opening strains of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor". This marvelous piece of music is often associated with horror genre movies and shows.

 

 

Now I'm willing to bet the rent that at the time it was composed, J.S.Bach did NOT have Halloween or Boris Karloff in mind. In fact, I don't believe any intent on making people sense anything sinister was intended at all. In Bach's time, music was composed for entirely different reasons other than setting a mood, or representing other aspects of life as was, say, Beethoven's "Pastoral" symphony( #6). But someone somewhere, and sometime, felt "Toccata and Fugue" sounded sinister and decided to use it as backdrop for movies of that ilk.

 

 

Can anyone here come up with some other seemingly innocent piece of music that got highjacked into an association with the "horror/thriller" movie genre?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Good thread idea. The earliest use of the piece as far as I can recall is the opening credits of *Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde* with Fredric March in 1931. The Toccata seems to be THE most widely-such thought of piece of "scary music" that was never originally composed with that intent.

 

Also, several Universal horror films of the early 30's used the "Swan Lake, Op. 20: Act II: No. 10 - Scene - Moderato" from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake for the opening credits. Any time I hear that piece...regardless of how it is being presented...I always think of *Dracula* or *The Mummy* (it was also used, I believe for *Murders In The Rue Morgue* ).

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> {quote:title=Sepiatone wrote:}{quote}

> My wife likes watching shows on THE FOOD NETWORK. Last night, after a broadcast of "Iron Chef", a show came on focusing on a Halloween "challenge".

I started a thread about that show titled "Halloween Wars". Food Network did the same thing last year.

 

[m-8683796]

 

This year's guest judge on the creative cooking competition is makeup legend Tom Savini.

They do it over four episodes...Episode 1 is tonight at 9pm EST.

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I can think of two "scary" pieces, one intentional weird and dark, the other maybe not so, but certainly dramatic. Although they are both very effective compositions, and "scary" sounding, I cannot identify any films in which they've been used. But I bet there are at least one or two; maybe someone else can supply the movie title(s).

They are Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky- ok, it was famously used as the penultimate piece in *Fantasia*, but anything else? Here's a clip of the music, and yes, I picked the *Fantasia* scene for the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8Ca_edg6RE

 

Pretty scary stuff, eh? :0

 

 

Also, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana: the chorus, "O Fortuna". Velly scahrly.

 

 

 

 

 

(Unfortunately I've seen this last used in beer ads,,,but anything else?)

 

 

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> They are Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky- ok, it was famously used as the penultimate piece in *Fantasia*, but anything else?

>

> Pretty scary stuff, eh? :0

>

>

> Also, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana: the chorus, "O Fortuna". Velly scahrly.

>

>

>

>

>

> (Unfortunately I've seen this last used in beer ads,,,but anything else?)

>

I think the original suggestion in the OP were pieces of music that have been used or hijacked into an association with horror films...not just scary pieces of classical music in general.

 

O Fortuna is probably best known from its use in the film *Excalibur* . Personally, I've never thought of it as "scary" music, but more associated with spectacle and widespread action (such as its use in *Excalibur* ).

 

A better choice we haven't mentioned yet is "In The Hall of The Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg, used most famously in Fritz Lang's *M* with Peter Lorroe as the child killer. He frequently whistles that music, and when you hear it you know a child is doomed.

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The Gregorian chant "Dies Irae" has been used by many composers in horror films. Gerald Fried used it for the main theme in Return of Dracula. Jerry Goldsmith wove it into the title music for The Mephisto Waltz, which is a creepy composition on its own (by Franz Liszt). I believe it also is heard in The Shining.

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> {quote:title=scsu1975 wrote:}{quote}The Gregorian chant "Dies Irae" has been used by many composers in horror films. Gerald Fried used it for the main theme in Return of Dracula. Jerry Goldsmith wove it into the title music for The Mephisto Waltz, which is a creepy composition on its own (by Franz Liszt). I believe it also is heard in The Shining.

It was also used in *The Screaming Skull* . It was indeed adapted by Wendy Carlos for the main title of *The Shining* .

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> {quote:title=SonOfUniversalHorror wrote:}{quote}...I think the original suggestion in the OP were pieces of music that have been used or hijacked into an association with horror films...not just scary pieces of classical music in general.

Yeah, I know. That's why I said this:

"...I cannot identify any films in which they've been used. But I bet there are at least one or two; maybe someone else can supply the movie title(s)."

 

I still think both pieces would be very effective as "scary" or at least eerie music to accompany a horror film. And I still suspect they've been used as such, I just can't think of the films.

Maybe not, though.

 

 

I agree that "Carmina Burana" is a poweful piece of music, but personally, I do associate it with , if not overtly "horrific" images, at least the strange, the bizarre...kind of "underground" music ( no pun intended.) It's actually about the wheel of fortune of life - as you can tell from the title ( "O Fortuna"), so it has this pulsing, urgent, feel to it. Also, like most "scary" pieces of music, it's in a minor key.

 

 

"Hall of the Mountain King" is another piece that suggests something strange and inexplicable, and it too is in a minor key, and it too sort of builds and rises to a thunderous and somehow disturbing or at least "dark" sounding climax. Interestingly it's from the same compostition that has"Morning" (also known as "Sunrise"), a gentle pastoral piece that is used often in both films and cartoons ( eg, Bugs Bunny). Both works are from Grieg's "Peer Gynt" Suite, a composition whose story is based on a tale by Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen.

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> {quote:title=SonOfUniversalHorror wrote:

> }{quote}Several Universal horror films of the early 30's used the "Swan Lake, Op. 20: Act II: No. 10 - Scene - Moderato" from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake for the opening credits. Any time I hear that piece...regardless of how it is being presented...I always think of *Dracula* or *The Mummy* (it was also used, I believe for *Murders In The Rue Morgue* ).

 

You're right - we who probably learned that tune from watching the classic Universal horrors are always going to think of them when hearing that part of "Swan Lake"!

 

In addition to the three titles you listed there are two other Universal features that use that "Swan Lake" excerpt:

THE MYSTERY OF LIFE (1931)

SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM (1933)

 

And, by the way, on the official Music Cue Sheets compiled by Universal for legal music publishing documentation for each of the five films the title of the piece is given as "Le Lac Des Cygnes". Never is the title "Swan Lake" used.

 

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Don't forget the Theremin, an instrument that is well suited to creating an aura of creepiness. Heavily used in horror films, but also a respected instrument in its own right. Here's a demonstration by its creator:

 

 

 

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>You're right - we who probably learned that tune from watching the classic Universal horrors are always going to think of them when hearing that part of "Swan Lake"!

 

I love hearing Swan Lake at the beginning of those old horror films. It sets the mood.

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