Horror Novel Soundtrack

While writing, my internet is usually turned to the wonderful allclassical.org (thank you DD!)

But then there is the specific music I seek out, or discover, that is divinely perfect for the story.

The soundtrack for my latest horror novel includes:

1. Swan Lake
2. music from the film version of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
3. lots of opera, including arias from La Pique Dame, Lulu, Elektra, and Lucia di Lammermoor

What music is inspiring your story?

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Happy Birthday to the most Famous Unknown Songstress

Dr. Patty Smith Hill  (1868-1946)

Many probably don’t recognize the name.

But it would be difficult to find someone who did not know a certain song she wrote.

Yes, today is the birthday of the woman who co-wrote the lyrics to one of the most famous songs in the English language.

Happy Birthday to You.

The four-line piece was writtten by Patty and her sister, Mildred J. Hill.    Both worked in Louisville, Kentucky  as teachers.  

In 1893, they wrote the piece (originally titled:  Good Morning to All) as a greeting for Patty’s kindergarten class.  Following its popularity, they published the work in their Song Stories for the Kindergarten.

The young pupils enjoyed the ditty so much they began singing it at parties, and the lyrics were changed to, “Happy Birthday”.

In 1996, a Forbes article stated the song brought in roughly two million dollars annually in revenue.

And for the record, I’ve heard more than once, different neighbors around me belting out the tune in their thick, German accents.  Now that’s a  aural delight not to miss!  😉

Isle of the Dead

Artists in all fields are inspired by each other.

One of the most famous examples of creativity enriching creativity involves, The Isle of the Dead.

Arnold Böcklin (Swiss Symbolist painter, 1827-1901)  painted five versions between 1880 and 1886.   All renderings depict  a rowboat arriving at a seawall.  In the bow, stands a figure clad in white.  

Böcklin would not elaborate on its meaning, only saying,  ” It is a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”

Many have interpretated the white-clad figure as Charon, leading human souls into the Greek underworld.

File:Isola dei Morti IV (Bocklin).jpg

In 1907,  upon viewing the painting, Sergei Rachmaninoff began composing a tone poem in its name.  The work, now considered a classic of late Russian Romanticism, was finished the following year.

In 1945,  Val Lewton produced a classic horror film with the same title.  The script, written by Ardel Wray, was inspired by the painting, and involves a group of quarrantined islanders who begin to die, one by one.

Danse Macabre

Come All Hallows Eve, Death calls the dead to rise from their graves.  While he plays his fiddle, the awakened spirits dance until the rooster crows at dawn.

French composer, Camille Saint-Saens, composed Danse Macabre for vocals and piano.  The text was written by poet, Henri Cazalis and the premiere took place in 1872.   Initial audiences were so disturbed by the piece (especially the eerie vocals) that Saint-Saens reworked it into a tone poem for orchestra.

English translation of the poem:

“Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking a tomb with his heel,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
The winter wind blows, and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
White skeletons pass through the gloom,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers.
A lustful couple sits on the moss
So as to taste long lost delights.
Zig zig, zig, Death continues
The unending scraping on his instrument.
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked.
Her partner grasps her amorously.
The lady, it’s said, is a marchioness or baroness
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright.
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him,
Like the rustic was a baron.
Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband!
They all hold hands and dance in circles.
Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd
The king dancing among the peasants.
But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world!
Long live death and equality!”

And an elegantly creepy, short silent film (starring Adolph Bolm and Ruth Page) set to the music of Danse Macabre:

Writing Meme: Day 7: Writing and Music

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

Not so long ago, the answer would have been, “no”.  I worked in utter silence or with the television on.  (yes, there is no need to point out the contrariness of that)  But then the lovely DD of Filling Spaces alerted me to the wondrous allclassical.org, and I was thusly hooked.  Love that station because they play such a fantastic variety of musicians and styles, introducing me to lots of composers  I’d never heard of.  And they prove such hosts can be tons of fun and lighthearted.  No  Charles Emerson Winchester the Third-ians need apply!

If PORTRAITS OF THE LIVING: A GHOST TALE has a soundtrack, then I think it would be The Hours.   Philip Glass’s haunting, somewhat monotonous piano music is reminiscent of my characters trapped in their personal hells.

Do you listen to music while you write?  Does your novel have a soundtrack?

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 11:29 am  Comments (8)  
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Puccini: A Birthday Celebration

The Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini, was born on December 22, 1858 in Lucca, Tuscany.   In 1876, he was inspired to write opera after hearing Verdi’s, Aida.  Four years later, he enrolled at the Milan Conservatory where he studied under Antonio Buzzini and Amilcare Ponchielli.  His first opera, Le villi (1883), lost in the school’s competition but gained him great respect.  While his second opera, Edgar, was a failure, he gained international success in 1893 with Manon Lescaut.

Manon was the beginning of an extraordinary career.  Although once dismissed by musicologists due to a supposed lack of “depth”, he is regarded today as one of the greatest composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  A remarkable use of orchestral colors, melodic artistry, and harmonic sensibility mark his work.    His work is also distinct due to the natural style in which the characters sing short phrases to each other as though they are truly conversing.   For this reason, critics state his best scenes are those in which two characters are alone.  Perhaps the best example of this is La Bohème.   Premiered at the Teatro Regio Theater on February 1, 1896, it is considered one of the most romantic operas ever written, mostly due to the earnest arias between Rudolfo and Mimi.

Rudolfo and Mimi sing of their newly discovered love:

After achieving great success with Tosca in 1900, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly met with initial failure in 1904.   Criticized for its excessive length, Puccini cut out a song from act one, and divided the second act.  He premiered the revised version  at Brescia on May 28, 1904.   From then on, the story of a Japanese woman betrayed by a callous American naval officer has been considered one of the most beautiful operas ever written and one of  the most performed around the world.

Maria Callas singing, Un Bel Di:

Puccini died on November 29, 1924 before he could complete his last opera, Turandot.   He had based it on a Persian story from The Book of One Thousand and One Days.  Using the 36 pages of sketches that Puccini left behind, the work was finished by Franco Alfano.  Although the opera is considered to be flawed, it brought the world the aria, Nessun Dorma:

Wuthering Heights-song by Kate Bush

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is my favorite novel.   Emily’s novel and her fierce poetry have been a huge influence on me.  Although my own writing style is more down-to-earth (despite the dark subjects I tackle), Emily’s dramatic and fearless writing remains an inspiration.

Published in: on July 22, 2008 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Rasputina- The New Zero: featuring Karloff and Lugosi

Rasputina is one of my fave bands.  Victorian garbed- rock cellists with irreverent humor

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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