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Our Top Five Spookiest Selections

Demons, Spooks & Other Things That Go Bump In the Night



Exploring Music's Top Five Spookiest Selections

 Darkness has descended on Exploring Music as we investigate composers’ fascination with ghosts, goblins, Mephistopheles and other phantasmagoria. Here are the top five spookiest pieces we played this week in order from least to most terrifying. Disagree, think we missed something, or want to suggest your own scary selection? Post in the comments below.


Manuel De Falla's El Amor Brujo

More mysterious than menacing, this piece for orchestra and mezzo-soprano by Manuel de Falla follows the journey of one woman as she tries to exorcise the spirit of her dead husband. Anyone familiar with Falla's Siete Canciones Populares may be reminded of his song, "Polo", both pieces have a mezzo-soprano singing "Ay!" over active accompaniment !



Danse Macabre, camille saint-saens,

Join dancing skeletons, Death, spooks and more with Camille Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre.  Evocative use of the tritone might have pushed this selection higher on our list, but the work ends with a happy ending -- the break of day.



Listeners might remember Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain from it's use in the Walt Disney classic, Fantasia, but even without animation this work still frightens. Although, much like Danse Macabre the work ends happily.



Next Berlioz's La Damnation de Faustioz plunges us into deep darkness. The Ride to the Abyss is particularly chilling with real screams and a triplet figure that mimics galloping horses dragging Faust into Hell.



For all of Berlioz's bluster, Schubert is the one who understands true terror. In no song is this clearer than Erlkönig. From the seductive major tonality of Death, to the child's frenzied cries, to the father's denial, to the  narration of the inevitable conclusion, it's hard to think of a more chilling piece of music.

6 Responses to Our Top Five Spookiest Selections

  1. Judith Judson says:

    I have not heard all your choices this week, but would suggest for next year or next spook programs the delightful “when the Night winds howl” from Ruddigore, and also, since you are eclectic, the Zombie Jamboree. I also strongly suggest a discussion of Act II Giselle, by A Adam–the ominous pulsing heart beat in the Wili’s dance makes the mounting danger confronting Albrecht and Hilarion truly frightening. In this context the famous nuns’ dance from Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable could be considered. (I have never heard it–if it is not spooky by today’s standards, that could be an interesting comment.)

    thank you for considering these remarks

  2. Kathleen Geiersbach says:

    Another suggestion for next year: Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride, especially the part where the spectre is pounding on the door to be let it–terrifying!

    • Romby says:

      Yes Andrea, another composer from the Classical period, one or more from the Romantic period, etc. would be nice! And if their birthdays are in the Fall school semester that would allow our studios to continue these master classes year-round. Several co&72serm#8o1p;s who have Summer birthdays would allow us to offer several master classes when school is out and our studio size is lean. I know this would help me and my teaching friends out. Suggestions. Thanks!

  3. Kris Haight says:

    Completely agree with Erlkonig but what about Weber’s Der Freischutz?

  4. jcrismon says:

    Wonderful program & am always sorry when it’s over. Incredible variety & Bill McGlocklin best host ever!

    • Diandra says:

      MichaelOctober 1, 2012Christine:I too love the Halal at 53rd & 6th. I’ve been going there for years every time I’m in the city. I also love (ulploaogeticanly) Momofuku. You also have to go to Sullivan Street Bakery on 47th between 11th & 10th. That location has a tiny retail shop and the selection varies but I love the croissants and (when available for retail) the best brioche.Love what you do Christine. Keep up the great work. And cone to Portland soon.

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