“Hollywood composers are responsible for no shortage of spooky original music, from Bernard Herrmann and Wojciech Kilar’s respective scores for ‘Psycho’ and ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ to John Carpenter’s … theme for ‘Halloween,’ ” writes Chris Gray in last Thursday’s (10/11) Houston Chronicle. “But … an unsettling interval … known as ‘the devil’s tritone,’ or diabolus in musica, has been haunting composers and audiences since the Middle Ages. The ‘Dies Irae,’ a medieval hymn sung in the Catholic funeral Mass, has been quoted by dozens of composers, including Verdi, Holst, Rachmaninoff and Mahler…. The introductory bars of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) … perhaps the most instantly recognizable theme in all of classical music … left an indelible impression in ‘The Black Cat,’ (1934) when Boris Karloff … performs it on the organ…. In ‘The Exorcist,’ [George Crumb’s ‘Electric Insects’ movement from Black Angels] appears as the malevolent entity possessing Reagan McNeil [in photo]. Skittering strings quickly threaten to bring on actual physical discomfort, a dead-on musical depiction of a young girl literally crawling out of her skin.” Also cited are cinematic uses of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre, and Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.

Posted October 18, 2018