Top Five Ear-Curdling Classics
By Rex Levang
Halloween, 1997

Torch in one hand, cross in the other, music librarian Rex Levang crept into the darkest recesses of MPR's music collection to snatch these works from the clammy fingers of undead radio hosts. Click on the works below and listen ... if you dare (parental discretion advised).

Click for audio Audio is provided in RealAudio 3.0 28.8 kbps format.

J. S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in d minor
Bach could never have predicted what happened to this piece. Why have the opening bars become a symbol of the sinister and the supernatural? Why do mad scientists play the pipe organ in their spare time? It would take a cultural historian like Karal Ann Marling to give us the full answer.

Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King
The "mountain king" is actually the king of the trolls. In Peer Gynt, this is the music that accompanies the enraged trolls as they try to hunt down and kill the human interloper in their kingdom.

Saint-Saens: Danse Macabre
We usually hear the orchestral arrangement of this one, but it began life as a song. The words tell how Death strikes up a tune on his fiddle, and the skeletons join in the dance.

Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
Another ghostly revel. Like the two pieces before it, this one originally had words -- including some in a language known only to the supernatural meanies of pagan Russia. (Sample words: "Sagana," "axafat," "tenemos," and "tsop.")

Herman Stein and Henry Mancini: Tarantula Film Music
Granted, this piece may not show up on many concert programs. But for many babyboomers, this is the music that will inevitably conjure up the ghost stories of their youth: the horror films they watched on late-night TV. Join us now, as we bring you another tale of sheer, petrifying, blood-curdling terror....

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