Classic horror themes are ominous and generally dread-inspiring for a reason: They are written in minor keys. Find a nifty melody, go minor, and watch the goosebumps pile up. For composers, sometimes it’s almost too easy.
To prove that it’s the minor key and not the melody that is eerily accenting the work of cinema’s most murderous villains, musician/writer/filmmaker Ian Gordon re-recorded five iconic themes in major keys. What comes next will definitely not frighten you.
A quick rundown:
The X-Files theme sounds like the beginning of an inspirational journey across side-scrolling Nintendo worlds. (One where you’re searching for a magic flute.)
Halloween sounds like the side A, track one of an indie-pop outfit’s meadow-frolicking breakout record.
Saw recalls the music that scores when the football game is getting out of hand and only the underdog protagonist can bring you back.
Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve) is an ancient celebration dating back to the sixth or seventh centuries. This holiday combines the Druid autumn festival and the Christian celebration of Hallowtide, long associated with witches, ghosts, devils, spirits, magic … and all scary things that go bump in the night.
• 1896 ~ Ethel Waters, American blues and jazz singer
• 1906 ~ Louise Talma, American composer
• 1912 ~ Dale Evans (Frances Butts), Singer, songwriter of Happy Trails to You, actress, wife of ‘King of the Cowboys’ Roy Rogers
• 1927 ~ Anita Kerr, Pianist, singer, record producer, The Anita Kerr Singers, composer
• 1930 ~ In a rare recording, William ‘Count’ Basie sang with Bennie Moten’s orchestra, Somebody Stole My Gal, on Victor.
• 1934 ~ Tom Paxton, American folk singer, guitarist and songwriter
• 1947 ~ Russ Ballard, Singer, songwriter, guitar with Argent
• 1952 ~ Bernard Edwards, Bass with Chic
• 1953 ~ NBC televised “Carmen” on Opera Theatre in living color. It was the first major opera televised in anything other than black and white.
• 1956 ~ Tony Bowers, Bass with Simply Red
• 1961 ~ Larry Mullen, Grammy Award-winning drummer, with U2
• 1963 ~ Johnny Marr, Guitarist with The Smiths
• 1972 ~ Curtis Mayfield received a gold record for Freddie’s Dead from the movie, Superfly.
• 1984 ~ Caribbean Queen became a gold record for Billy Ocean. It was Ocean’s second hit song and the only one of his 11 hits to become a million-seller. He would have two other #1 songs and a pair of #2 hits, but none as big as Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run). Billy’s from Trinidad, and his real name is Leslie Sebastian Charles.
• 1894 ~ Peter Warlock, British composer and writer
• 1939 ~ Grace Slick (Wing), American rock singer and songwriter with Jefferson Airplane
• 1939 ~ Eddie Holland, Songwriter in the writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. They were inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, singer
• 1941 ~ Otis Williams, Singer with The Temptations
• 1941 ~ The song that would become the theme of bandleader Tony Pastor was recorded. It was Blossoms on the Bluebird label. If you don’t remember Blossoms, maybe you remember this one by Pastor: Dance with a Dolly (With a Hole in Her Stocking).
• 1947 ~ Timothy B. Schmit, Bass guitarist, singer with Poco, who joined The Eagles, in 1977, (1977 US No.1 & UK No.8 single ‘Hotel California’, plus 5 US No.1 albums. ‘Greatest Hits 1971-1975’ is the second biggest selling album in the world with sales over 30m).
• 1964 ~ Roy Orbison went gold with his hit single, Oh, Pretty Woman.
• 1971 ~ Pink Floyd released their sixth studio album Meddle in the US. The album features ‘One Of These Days’ and the 23-minute track ‘Echoes’ which took up all of side 2 on the vinyl record. The cover image was photographed by Bob Dowling. The image represents an ear, underwater, collecting waves of sound, represented by ripples in the water.
• 1972 ~ A command performance was given for the Queen of England by Elton John.
• 1976 ~ The group, Chicago, started its second (and final) week at number one on the pop singles charts with If You Leave Me Now. The hottest LP was Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life”. The album was number one for a total of 14 weeks.
• 1984 ~ Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, aka The Blues Brothers (Jake and Elwood), hit the two-million-dollar sales mark with their LP, Briefcase Full of Blues.
• 2000 ~ Steve Allen, the bespectacled, droll comedian who pioneered late-night television with the original “Tonight Show” and wrote more than 4,000 songs and 40 books, passed away. He died at the age of 78 of an apparent heart attack. In addition to starting the “Tonight Show,” Allen starred as the King of Swing in the 1956 movie “The Benny Goodman Story.” He appeared in Broadway shows, on soap operas, wrote newspaper columns, commented on wrestling broadcasts, made 40 record albums, and wrote plays and a television series that featured “guest appearances” by Sigmund Freud, Clarence Darrow and Aristotle. “I’ve known him for almost 60 years. … He is one of the great renaissance figures of today,” comic Art Linkletter said. Said entertainer Dick Clark: “He had a magnificent mind. He was a kind, gentle, warm man. He would be embarrassed for me now, because I can’t put into words the way I felt about this man. I loved him.” His ad-libbing skills became apparent in his early career as a disc jockey. He once interrupted the music to announce: “Sports fans, I have the final score for you on the big game between Harvard and William & Mary. It is: Harvard 14, William 12, Mary 6.” Allen’s most enduring achievement came with the introduction of “The Tonight Show” in 1953. The show began as “Tonight” on the New York NBC station WNBT, then moved to the network on Sept. 27, 1954. Amid the formality of early TV, “Tonight” was a breath of fresh air. The show began with Allen noodling at the piano, playing some of his compositions and commenting wittily on events of the day. “It was tremendous fun to sit there night after night reading questions from the audience and trying to think up funny answers to them; reading angry letters to the editor; introducing the greats of comedy, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood; welcoming new comedians like Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, Mort Sahl and Don Adams,” he once said. Allen’s popularity led NBC in 1956 to schedule “The Steve Allen Show” on Sunday evenings opposite “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS. A variation of “Tonight,” the prime-time show was notable for its “Man in the Street Interview” featuring new comics Louis Nye (“Hi-ho, Steverino”), Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Pat Harrington and Bill Dana. The show lasted through 1961, the last year was on ABC. Among his TV routines: parodying juvenile rock ‘n’ roll lyrics by reading them as if they were sublime poetry, and “The Question Man,” in which someone would give him an answer and he would guess the question – forerunner to Johnny Carson’s “Karnac.” He wrote great quantities of songs, and several were recorded by pop vocalists. His most popular song was This May Be the Start of Something Big. His books ranged from autobiography (“Hi-Ho, Steverino: My Adventures in the Wonderful Wacky World of TV”), to philosophy (“Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion and Morality,” to murder mystery (“Die Laughing.”) Steve Allen came by his humor naturally; both his parents, Billy Allen and Belle Montrose, were vaudeville comedians. Steve was 18 months old when his father died, and his mother continued touring the circuits as a single.
• 2003 ~ Franco Corelli, a dashing Italian tenor who once starred alongside Maria Callas, died at the age of 82. Corelli rose to operatic stardom in the 1950s and remained there well into the 1970s. “He was the most viscerally thrilling and handsome tenor of the post Second World War generation,” the late Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan once said of Corelli. Born in 1921, Corelli grew up a keen singer but his opera career did not really take off until 1951. He made his debut that year singing Don Jose in Bizet’s “Carmen.” Three years later he appeared alongside Maria Callas in Gaspare Spontini’s “La Vestale” in Milan. The Italian’s fame spread and before long his career took him to Paris, Vienna, London and New York. His versatile voice and good looks made him a popular choice for romantic lead roles.
“In the Hall of the Mountain King” is a piece of orchestral music composed for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play Peer Gynt. It was originally part of Opus 23 but was later extracted as the final piece of Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46. Its easily recognizable theme has helped it attain iconic status in popular culture, where it has been arranged by many artists, including for the piano.
Borrow a copy of the sheet music from the O’Connor Music Studio. I have this arranged for piano, duet, 2-piano, simplified…
8 part vocal orchestra (plus a tiny pair of cymbals)
• 1961 ~ The top, pop song on the charts belonged to Dion (DiMucci). Runaround Sue was in its second week at the tiptop of the top~tune tabulation (it was in the top 40 for three months).
• 1970 ~ Neil Diamond received a gold record for the hit, Cracklin’ Rosie.
• 1981 ~ Loretta Lynn received a gold record for her album, “Greatest Hits, Vol. 2”.
• 1983 ~ After four weeks at #1 on the pop music charts, Bonnie Tyler’sTotal Eclipse of the Heart slipped to #2. It was replaced by Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
• 1987 ~ Woody Herman, American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and big band leader passed away
• 2001 ~ Henry Berthold “Spike” Robinson, a Britain-based American saxophonist admired for his liquid tone and lyrical verve, died at the age of 71. Robinson was born in Wisconsin and came to Britain as a U.S. Navy bandsman after World War II. In his spare, he time played with British bebop pioneers such as Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth and Victor Feldman, making a series of recordings for the Esquire label. He returned to the United States and completed an engineering degree, continuing to play in jazz clubs while working for Honeywell Corp. He returned to music full-time in 1981 after recording an album of Harry Warren compositions featuring Feldman and bassist Ray Brown. In 1989 Robinson moved to England. Despite poor health, he played steadily throughout Europe and the United States. He also recorded for the Edinburgh- based Hep label.
Night on Bald Mountain refers to a series of compositions by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). Inspired by Russian literary works and legend, Mussorgsky composed a “musical picture”, St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain on the theme of a witches’ sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which he completed on that very night, June 23, in 1867.
• 1813 ~ Franz Schubert, age 12, finished his first symphony, The Symphony in D Major
More information about Schubert
• 1896 ~ Howard Hanson, American composer, educator and conductor
More information about Hanson
• 1909 ~ Josef Gingold, Russian-born American violinist
• 1936 ~ Charlie Daniels, American CMA Award-winning musician (1979), guitar, fiddle, singer with Charlie Daniels Band
• 1941 ~ Curtis Lee, Singer
• 1941 ~ Hank Marvin (Brian Rankin), Guitarist with The Shadows
• 1945 ~ Wayne Fontana (Glyn Ellis), Singer with The Mindbenders
• 1948 ~ Telma Hopkins, Singer with Dawn
• 1955 ~ A local kid from Lubbock, TX opened a concert for Marty Robbins and Elvis Presley. In the audience was a youngster by the name of Scott Davis. He would later become a superstar. We know him as Mac Davis. The kid who opened the concert was Buddy Holly.
• 1957 ~ After a show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles, local police told Elvis Presley that he was not allowed to wiggle his hips onstage, the local press also ran headlines saying Elvis would have to clean up his act. The next night, the Los Angeles Vice Squad filmed his entire concert, to study his performance.
• 1961 ~ Brian Epstein, a record store owner in London, was asked by a customer for a copy of the record, My Bonnie, by a group known as The Silver Beatles. He didn’t have it in stock so he went to the Cavern Club to check out the group. He signed to manage them in a matter of days and renamed them The Beatles.
• 1965 ~ Earl Bostic, American jazz alto saxophonist and a pioneer of the post-war American rhythm and blues style, passed away
• 1980 ~ Annette Funicello, Cubby O’Brien, Tommy Cole, Sherry Alberoni and Dickie Dodd joined other Mouseketeers wearing black ears and white shirts on a sound stage in Burbank, CA. They were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Mickey Mouse Club. The five special events each week were:
Fun with Music Day on Monday
Guest Star Day on Tuesday
Anything Can Happen Day on Wednesday
Circus Day on Thursday
Talent Roundup Day on Friday
• 2003 ~ Oliver Sain, a saxophonist whose work was later recorded by artists from Loretta Lynn to Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, died of bone cancer. He was 71. Sain was a musician, songwriter and producer, known for his performances on songs like Bus Stop and Feel Like Dancing in the 1970s. He performed as recently as the previous night, his wife said. Sain’s work was sampled by Combs on his “No Way Out” CD and recorded by artists including the Allman Brothers Band, Chaka Khan and Ry Cooder. Sain grew up in Dundee, Miss., where he became known for his saxophone playing. He moved to St. Louis in 1959 and opened a recording studio in the city in the next decade.
• 2008 ~ A statue honoring AC/DC’s Bon Scott was unveiled at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour in Western Australia. Although born in Scotland, Scott grew up in Fremantle after his family emigrated to Australia in 1952. Bon started out his newfound Australian life in Melbourne, his family lived in the suburb of Sunshine for 4 years before moving to Fremantle. Scott was born in 1946 died on 20th February 1980. He is buried in Fremantle Cemetery.
Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin.
Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP (Look for Arrangements and Transcriptions) or borrow a copy from the O’Connor Music Studio. I have this arranged for organ, piano, duet, simplified…
Amazon has a great Dover edition for solo piano. This splendid compilation features a variety of the composer’s best piano works, all reproduced from authoritative sources. Taking its title from the popular orchestral work “Danse Macabre” (presented here in the brilliant arrangement by Liszt), this collection also includes “Allegro appassionato,” “Album” (consisting of six pieces), “Rhapsodie d’Auvergne,” “Theme and Variations,” plus six etudes, three waltzes, and six etudes for left hand alone.
• 1941 ~ Everything I Love, by Buddy Clark, was recorded this day, number 6469 on the Okeh label.
• 1943 ~ Lee (Melvin) Greenwood, CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, 1983 and 1984, sax, piano, bandleader
• 1957 ~ The Crickets started a three-week run at No.1 on the UK singles chart with ‘That’ll Be The Day’. It was also a No.3 hit in the US where it went on to sell over a million. The song was inspired by a trip to the movies by Holly, Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis in June 1956. The John Wayne film The Searchers was playing and Wayne’s frequently-used, world-weary catchphrase, “that’ll be the day” inspired the young musicians.
• 1958 ~ Simon LeBon, Singer with Duran Duran
• 1975 ~ Rocker Bruce Springsteen appeared on the cover of both TIME and Newsweek. Things were certainly going well for ‘The Boss’ that week.
• 2000 ~ Walter Berry, a bass-baritone who won acclaim for his interpretations of Mozart and Strauss and was beloved by Austrians for his renditions of Schubert, died of a heart attack at the age of 71. Known for the powerful timbre of his voice, Berry was a prolific performer who sang 100 different roles in more than 1,280 appearances at the Vienna State Opera. His U.S. debut was a 1963 performance with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His interpretations of classical lieder by fellow Austrian Franz Schubert won him his most loyal following. Austrians who rarely went to the opera loved Berry for his renditions of popular Viennese songs performed as they believed only a native- born son could. In 1989, he became a professor at the Vienna University for Music and Performing Arts.
• 2001 ~ John Roberts, a promoter of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969, died of cancer. He was 56. Roberts produced the festival concert with three others, almost by accident. The idea originally was a pitch for a television comedy show about two young venture capitalists with money but no business plans. Roberts and his partners funded the festival with Roberts’ inheritance and ticket sales. They lost $2.3 million but recovered their loss with royalties from film and album spinoffs, and held on to the profitable name and trademark symbol of a dove on the neck of a guitar. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Roberts later invested in other companies, avoiding the music business. Roberts also was a championship bridge player.
• 2006 ~ Amy Winehouse released her second and final studio album Back to Black. The album spawned five singles: ‘Rehab’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Back to Black’, ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’ and ‘Love Is a Losing Game’ and won Best Pop Vocal Album at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. Back to Black sold 3.58 million copies in the UK alone, becoming the UK’s second best-selling album of the 21st century. Worldwide, the album has sold over 20 million copies.