Spooky, Strange, Eerie, and Mysterious Music

It’s the middle of October and you know what that means.  Halloween is right around the corner.  Here’s some spooky music to impress your students and teach them about why music can be spooky! And maybe you’ll have some of these pieces in your repertoire that they can sight read or sight sing a few tunes.

  1.  Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky.  Adapted from a Russian folktale, the music paints the picture of a witches’ gathering on Bald Mountain on St. John’s Eve.  Used to effect in Disney’s Fantasia, the fiery percussion and eerie strings help create the frightful atmosphere of the piece.  Mussorgsky was only a teenager when he was inspired.  Check out the clip from Fantasia
  2. Funeral March of a Marionette by Charles Gounod tells the musical story of two marionettes who get into a duel.  When one dies, his friends carry him off, but stop for a brief drink and tell stories of their lost friend, thereby creating the fanciful nature of the piece.  Used famously in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, it also appears in Disney’s Fantasia.  Great opening for woodwinds!
  3.  In the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg.  Peer Gynt, a Norwegian adventurer and rascal, finds himself in the Hall of the Mountain King captured by trolls.  When he refuses to marry the king’s daughter and become a troll himself, he barely makes it out.  Great example of how tempo and dynamics create suspense in music.  Check out this version.
  4. Toccato and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Your students will definitely recognize this piece within its first few measures.  Composed in a minor key, it is recognizable in so many horror movies throughout generations.  Does the organ create a sense of foreboding? Musical scholars are still unsure whether it was originally written for the organ and some even question whether Bach wrote it at all due to its unusual dynamics which are distinctly un-Bach-like – unsolved musical mysteries.
  5. Jaws by John Williams.  Two notes and fear strikes!  Hypnotic and primitive, it is so closely aligned with sharks that just those two notes, at whatever dynamic, takes the listener to whatever lurks in the deep. 
  6. Verdi’s Requiem – “Dies Irae” – Day of Wrath.  Terrifying, powerful, and vigorous, your singers will definitely be moved by this recognizable work by Giuseppe Verdi.  When Verdi composed the piece, female singers were not allowed to perform in the Catholic Church, but Verdi always intended to include them.  Hear this version by the Metropolitan Opera.
  7. Double Trouble by John Williams.  The music of Harry Potter is timeless and magical.  Double Trouble is performed at Hogwart’s Opening Feast in The Prisoner of Azkaban.  Lyrics taken from Shakespeare’s MacBeth and the line, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” from a Ray Bradbury fantasy novel of the same name.

Your students will probably share some of their suggested music for the holidays.  Great to have a chance for fun in the classroom.