Music to make you sad
May 11, 2006 11:07 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some pensive, melancholy, dirge-like chamber music for rainy days and blue moods? (Other genres, like post-rock, are also acceptable--but no vocals please . . .) Thanks.
posted by Crotalus to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
"Adagio", by Abinoni.

(It was used as background music for the movie "Rollerball", which tells you how classy I am.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:14 PM on May 11, 2006

(Also in "Gallipoli," I think, which... may or may not tell you how classy I am.)
posted by scody at 11:17 PM on May 11, 2006

Oh, and the instrumental stuff on Bowie's Low (and Heroes as well) fits the bill, too -- if you like dark, dirgey, haunted Central European electronica soundscapses, you'll love Low!
posted by scody at 11:19 PM on May 11, 2006

I want to recommend Zbigniew Presiner's "Requiem for my friend"- it is certainly dirge-like and terribly melancholy. But it has choir/operatic vocal parts and involves a lot more instrumentation than typical chamber music.

Not entirely/always melancholy but I often enjoy the work Rachel's did on the Music for Egon Schiele score. Just gorgeous, and certainly contemplative, rainy-day stuff.

Mono (lots of mp3's available there) is an incredible melancholy rock band, no singing.

Zoe Keating, again, not always melancholy, is gorgeous contemplative cello music. I recommend her over and over again.

The Donnie Darko soundtrack has a few gems on it, piano-old-synth and some rare drums; other good soundtracks include the Danny the Dog one by Massive Attack, (though rather repetitive, certainly dark and lovely)

Any of Mogwai's disks will please, but I think Come On Die Young was a singularly wonderful one, you should definitely check it out (for the post-rock end of things). Also assuming you know about Godspeed You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky and all those groups.

Looking forward to the real chamber music suggestions in this thread; I love the sound but I often can't find chamber music that's dark enough for my tastes.
posted by fake at 11:32 PM on May 11, 2006

Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten by Arvo Part (if you saw Fahrenheit 9/11, you'll recognize it as the piece played during the WTC attack scene). You can find it on the album Tabula Rasa.

There are several pieces on the album Early Music by Kronos Quartet that fit the bill as well.
posted by the_bone at 11:56 PM on May 11, 2006

This is a bad answer because it has vocals, but it's a good answer because they're in a made-up language and don't detract from your enjoyment of the music: Sigur Ros.
posted by evariste at 11:58 PM on May 11, 2006

Adagio for Strings by Barber. In 2004, it was voted the "saddest classical" work ever by listeners of the BBC's Today program.
posted by fvox13 at 12:16 AM on May 12, 2006

I'd second the Bowie stuff on Low and Heroes.

Also go for Brian Eno's ambient albums, Angelo Badalementi's soundtrack stuff is also fantastic for just these sort of moods.

While were in the world of soundtracks, Cliff Martinez Solaris soundtrack is very good for rainy days too.

posted by merocet at 12:27 AM on May 12, 2006

String quartets would be just the ticket in this case. Schubert’s Death and the Maiden quartet is 110% melancholy; most especially the 2nd movement. Or the opening of Schumann’s 1st quartet. I daresay some of Beethoven’s quartets would fit the bill too, but I’m not familar with them. And Shostakovich: the opening of the 8th quartet, or the adagio of the 10th are brimming with sadness. Even Philip Glass’s quartets can be quite plaintive; the opening of the 4th, say. Another piece that comes to mind (not a quartet this time) is one by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov called Der Böte (‘The Messenger’) which has been arranged for solo piano & for strings, which I think would meet your requirements admirably.
posted by misteraitch at 12:33 AM on May 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rachel's (indie chamber music)
Murcof (classical orchestration and sparesness with glitch. somehow manages to avoid sounding cliched)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble (just got this, love it)
Polmo Polpo (like hearts swelling, science of breathing)
Twine (self titled album is amazing.)
Valley of the Giants
posted by atom128 at 12:37 AM on May 12, 2006

Two very depressing canadian groups I'm fond of

Set fire to flames


Labradford have some quiet vocals on their early stuff, but less in the later works.
posted by backOfYourMind at 12:39 AM on May 12, 2006

Pärt's Fur Alina comes to mind, as do the late Beethoven quartets.

Cello is melancholy. You could undoubtedly get something out of Elgar's Cello Concerto, although that's orchestral rather than chamber. Bach's Cello Suites can lean melancholic, though that involves picking out the bits you want. For more experimental cello, I have a thing for Jorane's earlier albums, which are in Sigur Ros territory w/r/t/ vocals.

And speaking of soundtracks, you could always try the Clint Mansell / Kronos Quartet Requiem For A Dream, as long as all sharp edges are locked away. It's been overused by sound editors in the past five years, but in a large dose, it does the trick.
posted by holgate at 1:01 AM on May 12, 2006

Anything by Arvo Part: Te Deum.

Although it's choral, I wouldn't classify it as vocal - less distinct.

comprises the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

Great thinking, musing music.
posted by strawberryviagra at 2:05 AM on May 12, 2006

Mentioned these in the thread about music to get tied up to... but very appropriate here -

Sigur Ros
Godspeed You Black Emperor!
A Silver Mount Zion

Also, shameless plug follows for a friends band (it is imho appropriate though):
posted by twistedonion at 3:01 AM on May 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Coltrane - Alabama
The Dirty Three - Every Thing is Fucked
Gustav Mahler - Symphony No 9
Kind of Blue
Schubert Arpeggione Sonata
posted by thenextword at 3:21 AM on May 12, 2006

Philip Glass's violin concerto and 2nd string quartet
Shostakovich's 2nd piano sonata
Various permutations of Silver Mt Zion
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:31 AM on May 12, 2006

There's a piece on Martin Hayes' and Denis Cahill's recent CD of solo fiddle and classical guitar (The Lonesome Touch) that fits your request well - "Lament for Limerick" - but the best is actually their 12 minute medley, " Paul Ha'penny / The Garden of Butterflies / The Broken Pledge / The Mother and Child Reel / Toss the Feathers", which starts slow and sweet, but finishes very upbeat. Which makes it a good transitional song from sad to happy.
posted by jb at 5:15 AM on May 12, 2006

Of course - Miles Davis, Kind of blue - that's so very beautiful (thanks for reminding to play that right now, thenextworld).
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:55 AM on May 12, 2006

"Handwriting" by Rachels. Very moody, instrumental album.
posted by afx237vi at 6:12 AM on May 12, 2006

Beethoven's late string quartets.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:12 AM on May 12, 2006

Stars Of The Lid, Opiate, E*Vax, Labradford, Larsen, Colleen, Boards of Canada. Be glad to send you a mix if you like.
posted by mds35 at 6:17 AM on May 12, 2006

empyrium - where at night the wood grouse plays,
bohren and der club of gore - black earth

and seconding kilimanjaro darkjazz ensemble
posted by (lambda (x) x) at 8:25 AM on May 12, 2006

Give Abinoni's Adagio a try. Here's a link to a full MP3 version. You'll be whimpering at the Gods in no time. On a reread, what Steven C. Den Beste said. Damn.
posted by Ohdemah at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2006

Although you'd be hard-pressed to find it, the requiem from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is terrific.

Also I like Isolde's Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.
posted by plinth at 12:38 PM on May 12, 2006

The Barber Adagio for Strings, of course.

Ravel, Pavane for a Dead Princess.

Shubert, Rosamunde Ballet music (he also used it in the slow movement of his Quartet # 13 in A minor, D. 804).

Beethoven, Symphony # 3, slow movement (funeral march).

Tchaikovsky, Serenade for Strings, slow movement.

Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book # 1, Prelude # 1, plus its fugue.

Bach, Goldberg Variations.
posted by KRS at 2:01 PM on May 12, 2006

Britten's Cello Suites (the Rostropovich recording) fit the bill exactly.

There's a scene in Bergman's Fanny and Alexander where the two children are staring out of the window at the rain, and we hear Britten's Cello Suites on the soundtrack. It's a long time since I saw the film, and I've forgotten most of it, but that scene sticks in my mind as the most perfect combination of mood, image and music. I've loved the Cello Suites ever since.
posted by verstegan at 2:45 PM on May 12, 2006

Variation #9 (Nimord) of Elgar's Enigma Variations is another beautiful but melancholy adagio. It is often played as a funeral ode.
posted by bim at 4:15 PM on May 12, 2006

That's "Nimrod."

I can spell but I can't type!
posted by bim at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2006

While you are requesting "no vocals," I'm going to give several suggestions that have vocals... but, the words aren't important. It's more of the voice being used as a musical instrument. Listen to some of this stuff and you'll see. Links to iTunes because you can listen to samples easily, and because I imagine a lot of people have it.

This version of Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is often considered the best recording of it. Wonderfully sad.

Seconds, of course, for Barber's Agnus Dei (an a capella version of Adagio for Strings), Albinoni's Adagio for Strings and Organ (the vocal version, called The Beatitudes, rocks more), and the Nimrod variation (used as tribute pieces of deaths and tragedies (9/11, etc.))
posted by jeversol at 5:13 PM on May 12, 2006

I'm a bit late coming here, but the soundtrack to Tous Les Matins du Monde fits the bill nicely, with the exception of one track. Full disclosure: there are a couple of pieces with vocals. (This is all for the original disc; the rerelease has additional pieces.)
posted by moira at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2006

Um, pretty all my music is like this. I'd guess you'd call it post rock: listen here. Several albums for free. People seem to like it for a. being meloncholy, b. sleeping and c. making out.

go figure.

Also I'd say that the Juliard String Quartet's recording of The Art of the Fugue by Bach fits the bill pretty well also. Complex, even upbeat, but sad and wonderful and mellow.
posted by n9 at 10:09 AM on July 6, 2006

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