Music for Halloween: Dies Irae

 

Although not technically a “halloween piece” this very old Gregorian Chant (from the 300s!) is used in a lot of music that sounds spooky.  Dies Irae is a Latin term that means “Day of Wrath”.

The words of Dies irae have often been set to music as part of a Requiem service. In some settings, it is broken up into several movements; in such cases, Dies irae refers only to the first of these movements.

The traditional Gregorian melody has been used as a theme or musical quotation in many classical compositions, film scores, and popular works, including:

  • Marc-Antoine Charpentier – Prose des morts – Dies irae H. 12 (1670)
  • Thomas Adès – Totentanz
  • Charles-Valentin Alkan – SouvenirsTrois morceaux dans le genre pathétique, Op. 15 (No. 3: Morte)
  • Ernest Bloch – Suite Symphonique
  • Hector Berlioz – Symphonie fantastiqueRequiem
  • Johannes Brahms – Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118, No. 6, Intermezzo in E-flat minor
  • Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind – Opening theme for The Shining, 1980
  • Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco – 24 Caprichos de Goya, Op. 195: “XII. No hubo remedio” (plate 24)
  • Michel Chion – “Dies Irae” (on The Roots 2014 album …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin)
  • George Crumb – Black Angels (1970)
  • Michael Daugherty – Metropolis Symphony 5th movement, “Red Cape Tango”; Dead Elvis (1993) for bassoon and chamber ensemble
  • Gerald Fried – Opening theme for The Return of Dracula, 1958
  • Donald Grantham – Baron Cimetiére’s Mambo
  • Jerry Goldsmith – scores for The Mephisto Waltz (1971) and Poltergeist (1982) – quoted during the track “Escape from Suburbia”
  • Charles Gounod – Faust opera, act 4
  • Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 103, “The Drumroll”
  • Gustav Holst – The Planets, movement 5, “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age”Ode to Death for chorus and orchestra (1919)
  • Arthur Honegger – La Danse des Morts, H. 131
  • Gottfried Huppertz – Score for Metropolis (1927)
  • Aram Khachaturian – Symphony No. 2
  • Franz Liszt – Totentanz
  • Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Frozen II (soundtrack), “Into the Unknown”
  • Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 2, movements 1 and 5
  • Ennio Morricone – “Penance” from his score for The Mission
  • Modest Mussorgsky – Songs and Dances of Death, No. 3 “Trepak”
  • Nikolai Myaskovsky – Symphony No. 6, Op. 23
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 1, Op. 13; Symphony No. 2, Op. 27; Symphony No. 3, Op. 44; Isle of the Dead, Op. 29; The Bells choral symphony, Op. 35; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43; Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, Piano sonata No. 1, Études-Tableaux, Op. 39 No. 2
  • Ottorino Respighi – quoted near the end of the second movement of Impressioni Brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions)[23]
  • Leonard Rosenman – the main theme of The Car (1977)
  • Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre, Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony), Requiem
  • Dmitri Shostakovich – Symphony No. 14; Aphorisms, Op. 13 – No. 7, “Dance of Death”
  • Stephen Sondheim – Sweeney Todd – quoted in “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and the accompaniment to “Epiphany”
  • Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji – Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis and nine other works
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Manfred Symphony, Orchestral Suite No. 3
  • Eugène Ysaÿe – Solo Violin Sonata in A minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Obsession”

 

By itself, it sounds like this:

 

See if you can find it in these other places:

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you watch movies or listen to music, see if you can hear a hidden Dies Irae.