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Halloween: Top 5 Scary Classical Music Songs from Movies & Pop Culture!

Every year when Halloween rolls around, many of us like to follow time-honored traditions like carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, dressing up, and watching scary movies. That being said, the holiday absolutely would not be the same without the spine-tingling tunes that put us all in the Halloween spirit! Here's a list of our favorite classic tunes.


1. Edvard Grieg - In The Hall Of The Mountain King (1875)

Grieg composed this piece in 1875 for use in Henrick Ibsen's stage play Peer Gynt. The piece has since taken on a whole new life of its own, becoming one of the most recognizable songs with extensive representation in popular culture. The piece evokes a sense of dread and tension, initially meant to serve to build tension in Ibsen's play during the protagonist's encounter with a troll king and his creepy goblin subjects.


2. John Williams - Jaws Film Score (1975)

Williams' iconic score set the stage for Steven Spielberg's' classic horror hit. The piece expertly builds tension and foreboding for the shark-attack to come, as portrayed in the film. There's no doubt that Williams' soundtrack helped launch the film to its status as a highly influential piece of American film history. The film was even selected in 2001 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


3. Modest Mussorgsky - A Night on the Bare Mountain (1867)

In 1867, classical Russian musician Modest Mussorgsky worked on a series of compositions inspired by Russian literary fiction and folklore. This series, called "Night on the Bare Mountain," was influenced by the idea of a Witches' Sabbath, or gathering. While not achieving much recognition during Mussorgsky's lifetime, the score would later be known to wide audiences when fellow Russian composer Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov published an arrangement of the work in 1886, describing it as a "fantasy for orchestra." Rimsky-Korsakov's version achieved lasting fame, becoming a concert favorite in Russia and achieving international recognition through its use in Walt Disney's animated hit film Fantasia (1940).


4. Bernard Herrmann - Psycho (1960)

Although classical American composer Bernard Herrman wrote many acclaimed film scores throughout his career, none is as recognizable as the iconic score he wrote for Albert Hitchcock's thriller Psycho. The piece expertly builds a sense of tension and terror, before ultimately reaching a fever-pitch climax to reflect the film's famous shower murder scene. Hermann's use of shrieking string instruments perfectly encapsulates the horror of the attack.


5. Hector Berlioz - Dream of a Witches' Sabbath from Symphonie Fantastique (1830)

French composer Hector Berlioz wrote Symphonie Fantastique as a piece of program music, intending to tell a dream-like story of episodes in the protagonist's life. He described the symphony as "the first musical expedition into psychedelia." The fifth movement from the symphony, Dream of a Witches' Sabbath, depicts the last episode of the narrator's life, where he sees himself at a Witches' Sabbath. Witches, monsters, and other creatures have seemingly gathered for his funeral. The piece evokes a sense of dread and suspense at the presence of otherwordly creatures. Berlioz's work lives on through modern arrangements in popular films like Stanley Kubrick's interpretation (1980) of Stephen King's The Shining, Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) starring Julia Roberts, and several other popular works.


BONUS: The Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett (1962)

While not in the classical music genre, this song is nonetheless a fun classic Halloween favorite! The original Monster Mash was composed by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi in 1962. The song features extensive sound effects like the sound of a coffin opening and the sound of a cauldron bubbling over. It also included someone on the drums, the piano, and various vocal performers. The song was a hit and continues to be very popular to this day!


Interested in playing some of these spooky songs yourself? Check out our online music lessons! We offer them to all ages, regardless of prior experience! To book your first lesson with an experienced instructor for FREE today, please go to this page.


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