There are more songs by Schubert that send chills to the bone (Der Doppelganger) but in Der Erlkönig, Schubert transforms an already scary poem by Goethe, inspired by the high infant mortality of the time, into a pinnacle of 19th century horror.
Gorecki's harpsichord concerto shows the solo instrument of its most heavy and spooky side. The frantic sounds rising from harpsichord and string orchestra, delivered with percussive persuasion, are like the beating of the wings of a giant bat. Perfectly suited for a living room concert in castle Transylvania.
One of the first operas I saw in the theatre was Wozzeck (more than the appeal of attending the first atonal opera in music history, it was the low price of the ticket I was drawn to. Ahum). Not immediately an obvious starting point for one’s exploration trips in the world of opera, Alban Berg's music drama was surprisingly accessible to ears that had grown up with movie music. Music in which notes and chords don’t have to shape themselves into recognisable melodies in order to be understood and be full of expressiveness.
“Music for the Haunted House” was the first association I had with Wozzeck and although Berg's opera cannot be narrowed down to a horror story that comes with scary music, Wozzeck has lost none of its creepiness that came at first impression.
“Music for the Haunted House” in a literal sense is the music score for the film The House That Dripped Blood. Music by the young deceased composer Michael Dress (he only turned 39) who also signed for the soundtracks of largely forgotten gems like The Mind of Mr. Soames and Rotten to the Core.
Atonal music had its share of hostile perception and is still considered by many as elitist, inaccessible and audience-unfriendly. It found its way to the mainstream nonetheless. Paired with moving pictures, it can serve as extremely effective film music.
From the album "Moving Pictures" comes one of the darkest and moodiest songs Canadian progrock trio Rush came up with in their decades long career. With a message that resonates more with topical times than one can consider comfortable.
The dynamics of this extremely atmospheric death metal song lies in the tension between the deep grunt of vocalist/bassist Dave Vincent, the jackhammer drumming style of Pete Sandoval and the ingenious guitar licks of Trey Azagthoth, a musician who is inspired by Mozart as well as Eddie van Halen (something that can be considered remarkable in this genre). It adds substance to the musical world of Morbid Angel and gives it an extra dark taste of the macabre.
A place in the Halloween top 10 must be reserved for Franz Liszt. Not taking anything away of the usual suspects in the Liszt catalogue when it comes to shiffer and shudder - Totentanz, Lugubre Gondola and Unstern –, it will be Via Crucis that makes it to the list. It’s a late work of Liszt, a piece of church music that can shroud itself as a soundtrack for a horror movie.
The film par excellence for Halloween is the movie with that name by John Carpenter. With a soundtrack, an earwig in the league of the Jaws-leitmotif, that tells the story, in all its simplicity, almost by itself. Here it is, copy-pasted into a clip of two hours. Music in which repetition, the predictability of the next note, does not bore but takes the suspence to an uncanny, unmatched level. A musical motive that is as Michael Myers, the bogeyman, who, in the end, always comes back. One of the very few pieces of minimal music that I not only endure but leaves, in fact, an emotional mark.
Of course this list must contain a piece of music from the man who gave this website its name. In Wagner's operas, possible candidates for a Halloween soundtrack can be found in Der Fliegende Holländer (the entry of Der Holländer), in Das Rheingold (the descent to Nibelheim) and Siegfried (the prelude of act 3 in which Wotan meets up with Erda). The cake, however, goes to Götterdämmerung. To the part where Siegfried is slain by Hagen and the Funeral March that follows. It is a intense piece of music that bears in it the prediction of the end of the world as we know it. It is richly variegated and is of a terrifying beauty that never fails to fascinate and move. The indefinable and the impenetrable of its beauty sends a shiver down the spine. A chill to the bones with which the piece claims its place in this top 10.
For the top of this Halloween top 10 Salome comes to dinner. Necrophilia served with scorching, tantalizing music. A strong stomach is needed. Herodias' daughter is performed here by Malin Byström who in looks, acting and voice, is a very impressive Salome. In this blood & gore production of Ivo van Hove, she occupies herself in the final scene not only with the head of Jochanaan but with his whole body.