(Non-obvious) classical music to scare girls to...?
October 29, 2008 4:13 AM   Subscribe

Can you suggest some dark, foreboding, scary classical music? Not the obvious stuff like The Hall of the Mountain King or Carmina Burana, but some pieces that might not be instantly recognisable. Can be any era - I'd love to find some stuff from the baroque era that fits the bill - but any period as long as it sends chills up and down the spine.
posted by skylar to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata, II" from the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack is kinda freaky.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 4:21 AM on October 29, 2008

"La Valse" by Ravel has sort of that effect on me. It's unsettling, while ostensibly being a dance form, Ravel does some freaky and dark things to the music. There's a sense of unstable motion, misty and half-seen scenes, that I always thought would make a good horror soundtrack.
posted by pjern at 4:32 AM on October 29, 2008

I'd also add Tchaikovsky's Symphony #6.... If there's bleaker, more hopeless music on the planet, I don't know what it might be.
posted by pjern at 4:38 AM on October 29, 2008

Shostakovich's String Quartet #8 (starting with the 2nd movement).

2nd movement of Bruckner's 9th Symphony.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:44 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great suggestion - Ligeti! Yes, of course, Ligeti is TERRIFYING. Great suggestions. And keep bringing on the bleak and hopeless. I love you, oh dark souls of AskMeFi...
posted by skylar at 4:46 AM on October 29, 2008

There's plenty more unnerving Ligeti: Atmosphères and the Requiem, for example. In a similar vein, Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.

Seconding Ravel's La Valse, which sounds even spookier when played from a crackly old LP.

Some suitable piano pieces could be Rachmaninov's Prelude in C-Sharp minor, or Scriabin's White Mass sonata.

Are classical-lite soundtracks OK? if so, I have a fondness for the nicely ominous music from the not especially scary movie The Ninth Gate.
posted by misteraitch at 4:49 AM on October 29, 2008

Bartok The Miraculous Mandarin for insane freak-out scary.

Xenakis string quartet 'Tetras' for spine-bending psychosis.

scherzo from Malcolm Arnold's 5th symphony for Grand Guignol silly scariness.

Varese 'Arcana' for aggressive fright.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 5:16 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another silly scariness is Camille Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre.
posted by that girl at 5:22 AM on October 29, 2008

I'm afraid my tastes run to the late Romantic and Modern, so no baroque from me:
  • Shostakovich: "The Execution of Stepan Razin"; Symphony No. 8, third movement; Symphony No. 11, second movement; Symphony No. 15, second movement; most of the "Katerina Ismailovna" Suite, except for the Allegretto.
  • Prokofiev: Second movement ("Le dieu ennemi et la danse des esprits noirs") of the "Ala and Lolly" Scythian Suite, Op. 20
  • Stravinsky: "Kashchei's Infernal Dance" from the "Firebird" Suite. (Perhaps a little too "obvious", though?)
  • Revueltas: "Sensemaya"
  • Respighi: "Il Giubileo" from "Feste Romane", and "Pini presso una catacomba" from "Pines of Rome" (though both of these movements have decidedly non-bleak sections.)
  • Berlioz: "Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat" from "Symphonie Fantastique"
  • Mussorgsky: "Night on Bald Mountain" is almost certainly too obvious, but movements 12–14 of "Pictures at an Exhibition" are nice & foreboding.

posted by Johnny Assay at 5:25 AM on October 29, 2008

Film music any good? How about the soundtrack for Enduring Love, proper stalker strings.
posted by Augenblick at 6:17 AM on October 29, 2008

Response by poster: I'll take film music as long as it's not too easily-recognisable as a classic movie theme.
posted by skylar at 6:33 AM on October 29, 2008

Try 'Milch Des Mondes Fiel Aufs Kraut' from Weber's Der Freischutz. So eerie. (Yeah, there's an umlaut there, but I could never type the damn things in Windows.)
posted by spamguy at 6:45 AM on October 29, 2008

Eerie 20th Century Music

Edgard Varese: Hyperprism
Luciano Berio: Symphonia
posted by stubby phillips at 6:59 AM on October 29, 2008

The soundtrack to Needful Things. While it does have the expected In the Hall of the Mountain King, the rest is pretty good and creepy. Check out Patrick Doyle's other soundtracks, namely Frankenstein and Hamlet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:07 AM on October 29, 2008

Oh! And Kronos Quartet's Black Angels.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:09 AM on October 29, 2008

The human voice used effectively is terrifying-
Modern Era:
St. Luke's Passion-Penderecki (horrifying serialist meditation on Christ's crucification)
Ancient Voices of Children-Crumb
Barqoue era: Check out Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
Classical Era: Mozart's Requiem (Popular but still dark as hell)
Romantic Era: Rachmaninoff's Isle of Dead

Let me know if you'd like some more recommendations.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 8:34 AM on October 29, 2008

Franz Liszt: Totentanz
Third on György Ligeti, especially Atmospheres.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:47 AM on October 29, 2008

How about instrumental-only versions of the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera?
posted by radioamy at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2008

From "the Omen" soundtrack
posted by canoehead at 9:12 AM on October 29, 2008

Bernard Herrmann's score for Hitchcock's Vertigo is quite haunting.
posted by bent back tulips at 9:12 AM on October 29, 2008

Check out some requiems (they're all about death - a good starting place for your needs, here). The "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem is especially wail-of-tormented-souls scary.
posted by Quietgal at 9:15 AM on October 29, 2008

Saint-Saens, "Danse Macabre"
The Allegro from Schumann's "Märchenbilder"
Rachmaninoff, "Toteninsel"
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 9:34 AM on October 29, 2008

Danzig's Black Aria
posted by aperture_priority at 9:57 AM on October 29, 2008

Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta (movement III) by Bela Bartok - not instantly recognizable by most but has the scary advantage of being used by Kubrick in The Shining
posted by mincus at 10:37 AM on October 29, 2008

George Crumb's 'Black Angels' is one of the most terrifying pieces of chamber music I've ever heard. I strongly recommend that you take a listen. There's a great recording with the Kronos Quartet.
posted by taramosalata at 2:07 PM on October 29, 2008

Response by poster: Superb. I'd like to give you all "best of" answers if I could, but I'm going to listen to all of the above before reporting back at some later date. Huge thanks.
posted by skylar at 3:23 PM on October 29, 2008

Seconding the "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem.
posted by johnvaljohn at 5:45 PM on October 29, 2008

Check out Alfred Schnittke's terrifyingly awesome Faust Cantata.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:03 AM on October 30, 2008

Also Arvo Pärt, Collage sur B-A-C-H, and Credo [1] [2].
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:06 AM on October 30, 2008

The soundtrack to "The Fog of War" by Philip Glass
posted by LC at 7:15 PM on October 30, 2008

Total self-link (Sorry, but it answers the question...): A few years ago, my team at work put together a digital compilation of stuff called Fright Night: Music That Goes Bump In The Night (its $9.99 for 3cds worth of exactly this kind of material)...or you can stream on rhapsody/napster/whathaveyou.
posted by softlord at 2:18 AM on October 31, 2008

Ravel - Gaspard de la Nuit ...... a three part piano suite....every part is very unique, scary, and very atmospheric. I highly recommend the version played by Martha Argerich... There should be some vids of this performance on youtube unless they've been removed.
posted by captain cosine at 7:22 PM on November 3, 2008

oh, here is the 3rd part. Apparently its also one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire. Heh, repertoire.
posted by captain cosine at 7:28 PM on November 3, 2008

  • Bach - Passacaglia in C Minor
  • Handel - "Darkness" from "Israel in Egypt"
  • Bach - Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042, II.

posted by archagon at 2:40 AM on November 10, 2008

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