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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Musical Interlude For Halloween

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Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns (1938-1921):


About Danse Macabre:
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The composition is based upon a poem by Henri Cazalis, on an old French superstition:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in a cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack—
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
According to the ancient superstition, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death has the power to call forth the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays his fiddle (represented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning). His skeletons dance for him until the first break of dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.
Musical Musings cautions:
The Danse Macabre (French for Dance Of Death) became a cultural symbol in late Medieval Europe. Artists painted scenes of the dead escorting the living to the grave with a final dance of death. The reality of a sudden and painful death were all too vivid after the horrors of the bubonic plague, the 'Black Death' epidemics of the 14th century. It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the total population of Europe perished in a four-year period.

The notion that death was the fate of all, as stated in the Latin motto that accompanied many of the artworks depicting the Dance of Death, Momento Mori (remember you will die) expresses the sentiment that no matter a person's position in society or station in life, our fate is the same. While the notion of death has been romanticized to a certain degree over the years and even trivialized in cartoons and videos, the Dance of Death was very real to people of earlier times.

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. _______ All Hallows Eve _______

    Trick or treating, barren branches claw
    On rooftops ‘gainst the biting Autumn air.
    Jack O’Lantern flickers. Would he gnaw
    An arm away, or set aflame the hair ––
    Conspicuously real above the masks ––
    Kindling Kindergartners at the door?
    Only Satan’s own perform such tasks,
    Leering, lisping, limping as to war.
    Awake! All Hallows Eve lets loose the ghosts.
    No one escapes the Grave for long. Be wise.
    The Jack O’Lanterns flicker on the posts ––
    Each one a sentry for the Lord of Flies.
    Run home to mother lest the Evil One
    NABS you, while you THINK you’re having fun.


    ~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper, Autumn, 1996

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  3. A perennial favorite. It manages to make eerie –– even menacing –– themes delightfully thrilling and entertaining. And that is EXACTLY wha Saint-Saens intended.

    Here's a magnificent performance of Liszt's transcription of the piece piece for solo piano with added touches by Vladimir Horowitz.

    https://youtu.be/S9Yxea6-CNU

    It's as fine an exhibition of finely honed piano virtuosity as you are ever likely to encounter.

    H___A___P___P___Y

    H___A___L___L___O___W___E___E___N___!

    ReplyDelete

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