Borepatch prepares for Halloween by discussing Camille Saint-Saëns and his “Danse Macabre”:
He was a child prodigy, possessed perfect pitch, and more importantly had the mind of a polymath: in addition to his many musical compositions he published scientific papers on the acoustics of ancient Roman amphitheaters, wrote the first score for a motion picture, and sailed through the newly completed Panama Canal to conduct an orchestra in San Francisco.
This piece is based on a poem by Henri Cazalis, from a very old French superstition. Each year Death appears at midnight on Halloween and summons the dead to rise and dance while he plays his fiddle. The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, repeated twelve times: the clock striking midnight. The E Flat and A violin chords that follow are sometimes called the “Devil’s chords”. The piece is spooky and vigorous all the way through until the end, when the music quietens to a pianissimo as the dead return to their tombs as dawn breaks.