Funeral Chants
June 2, 2008 9:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for funeral chants, prayers and songs that are beautiful and mournful.

I'm doing an experimental DJ set and I want to base it around all kinds of funeral chants, prayers, drones, etc. Vocal lines of any language. Should be aurally beautiful and mournful/emotional. Any ideas? Links to recordings/samples would be doubly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by naju to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Samuel Barber's 'Adagio for Strings'!
posted by kldickson at 9:41 PM on June 2, 2008

You could get Tiesto's version of Adagio for Strings, too. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:55 PM on June 2, 2008

Gaelic psalm singers.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:06 PM on June 2, 2008

"O Death" from O Brother Where Art Thou
Dead Can Dance - The Host of Seraphim
Anything by Diamanda Galas - though not all would call her vocals "beautiful."
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:07 PM on June 2, 2008

Best answer: Albert Ayler - "Witches And Devils"
posted by rhizome at 10:35 PM on June 2, 2008

Mozart's Requiem
Fauré's Requiem
posted by ddaavviidd at 10:36 PM on June 2, 2008

Antonio Vivaldi - Stabat Mater, his other motets are worth checking out as well.
posted by hortense at 11:14 PM on June 2, 2008

Best answer: I find the Mourner's Kaddish in Jewish prayer to be poignant and beautiful. Don't know what kind of recording you could find of it, though.
posted by gnutron at 11:19 PM on June 2, 2008

Angel, Sarah McLaughlin.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:25 PM on June 2, 2008

Cecilia Bartoli - Vivaldi
posted by hortense at 11:57 PM on June 2, 2008

The march from Henry Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary is staggeringly haunting and sad. (The only thing is, it was covered for the title theme from A Clockwork Orange, so it is a pretty recognizable tune. I don't know if relative obscurity is a factor for you.)
posted by cadge at 12:17 AM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: "Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten for strings and bell," by Arvö Part.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:19 AM on June 3, 2008

Spiegel Im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt perhaps, though it's quite minimalist.

Definitely The Eternal: Variations On Joy Division.

This CD looks like it might be of interest.
posted by Martin E. at 12:22 AM on June 3, 2008

"Jesus Blood never failed me yet" by Gavin Bryers with Tom Waits.
posted by jonathanstrange at 12:31 AM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: Hej, plyve kacha (mp3 sample) blows my mind every time I listen to it. The subject matter is funereal, although I don't know that it would actually be sung at one.

Original lyric. Translation, omitting repeats, and very approximate since the lyric is either Rusyn or extremely dialectical Ukrainian:

A duck swims upon the Tysyna [river].
Mother of mine, don't cry for me.

You will cry for me in an evil hour;
I don't know myself where I will die.

I will perish in a strange land,
And who will bear me to the grave?

Foreign people will carry me out.
Won't this be a grief to you, mother?

How ever, little son, could it not bring grief?
You [once] lay upon my heart.

... A duck swims upon the Tysyna.

posted by eritain at 12:51 AM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some incredible responses so far, thanks!

I should probably add that I'd like to include a fair number of non-Western sources... one example I just stumbled upon is this Sulawesi funeral chant. Sounds beautiful to me, but I realize now that "beautiful" is way subjective (maybe has specific connotations to the Western ear?) and shouldn't have been demanded in my question. :)
posted by naju at 1:03 AM on June 3, 2008

You'll likely get a lot of mileage out of the tracks on The Prayer Cycle, a really beautiful and diverse recording of a "nine-part contemporary choral symphony, using twelve languages including Hungarian, Hebrew, Latin, Swahili, Tibetan, and Urdu." (from the Wikipedia page)
posted by nelleish at 2:52 AM on June 3, 2008

You're going to post a link to your set in Projects, right?
posted by canine epigram at 5:51 AM on June 3, 2008

It's not a funeral chant per-se, but Monteverdi's Lasciatemi Morire (also called Lamento di Arianna) is one of the most mournful (and beautiful) choral works that I've ever heard. Here is a brief operatic sample, and here is a lovely madrigals version of it.
posted by numinous at 6:19 AM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: Gavin Byars:Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. (sample and info on linked page) Built around a vocal loop of a tramp singing a snatch of a religious song, it frequently reduces people to tears.

The album Black Angels by the Kronos Quartet contains the piece Doom. A Sigh by Istvan Marta which contains field recordings of two women singing laments, through their tears, which describe their persecution under the Caucesceau regime.

It also contains an adaption of Spem In Allium by Thomas Tallis, though you would be better off with the original version, a 40 part motet (40 unaccompanied voices), as well as a recording of Dimitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No 8 dedicated .'to the victims of war & fascism'.

Alabama by John Coltrane was written after he heard of the bombing of the 16th St Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama in September 1963 which killed four young girls. I would also recommend his After the Rain which is a quiet reflective counterpoint, perhaps to the searing meditation on death and loss that is Alabama.
posted by tallus at 6:43 AM on June 3, 2008

All of the songs on Songs from My Funeral are about death or funerals.
posted by shothotbot at 7:43 AM on June 3, 2008

I'm actually rather fond of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Requiem, especially the Pie Jesu. It's no Mozart, mind you, but I think it's quite good in its own right.

Now that I think about it a bit more, maybe that Pie Jesu is more "comforting" than "mournful." Perhaps other sections would work better for your needs.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2008

"General Taylor" by Great Big Sea, a Canadian group out of St. John's, Newfoundland. Beautiful vocals. It's a funeral march.
posted by carmelita at 10:20 PM on June 3, 2008

Death Announcements and Funerals by Sigur Rós is as majestic and mournful as you get. If memory serves it's their take on a traditional Icelandic tune.
posted by monocultured at 10:32 PM on June 3, 2008

Also, this might be of interest: New music for national grief & mourning.

From the page linked above:
The radio show "Ström" asked ten Swedish electronica artists to create new music for national grief
posted by monocultured at 6:15 AM on June 5, 2008

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