There are quite a few musical works that I enjoy that evoke that magnetically dark and “spooky” atmosphere that I love in works of art. I thought that, as we approach the quintessentially spooky holiday of Halloween, I would make a few posts about some of my favorite pieces of Halloween-appropriate music.
I’m starting with this gem of intense witchification, Hexerei im Zwielicht der Finsternis, by the group (solo artist?) Aghast. I don’t think that they/she ever did any other albums (if I’m wrong, please let me know), but this one would be at the very top of my all-time occult-sounding works. It’s creepy, eerie, “witchy,” and sublimely beautiful in a darkly fun way. Listen for yourself, and enjoy!
These are the illustrations for the children’s book, The Quest of the Hammer, from The Home Adventure Library (Volume 7): Great Stories From World Literature, written by Abbie Farwell Brown, compiled by Doris Heitkotter, illustrated by John Everds, copyright of The Southwestern Company, 1968.
For anyone who doesn’t know the story, Thor’s hammer Mjolnir gets stolen by a Giant named Thrym.
Thor discovers his missing Hammer
When Loki flies out and discovers the thief, Thrym states that he will only give back the hammer if the beautiful Freya will become his bride.
Loki sets out to discover the thief
Loki then persuades Thor that he should stand in for Freya and be the Giant’s “bride.”
Thor dresses as Freya — with serious misgivings
“Freya” surprises the wedding party by eating and drinking everyone else under the table. Of course, Thor and Loki end up slaying the Giants and get the hammer back (after getting their bellies full).
Thor surprises his bridegroom with his voracious appetite (at the dinner table only!)
Orpheus just cannot be shut up …
Despondent in his failed quest to rescue his wife from Hades, Orpheus spurned human contact. This did not set well with some Dionysian Maenads, who tore him to pieces. His head washed up on the shores of Lesbos and prophesied to the people. This is a scan of a black-and-white image of an Attic red-figure vase depicting the bizarre event. The image is culled from Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry by Emily Vermeule (Sather Classical Lectures, Volume Forty-Six; University of California Press, 1979).
There is a better, in-color image of this vase painting at the unsurpassed Theoi site.
“He shall find the thornies set
In his bed at night.”
Be careful: Not all fairies are benign, ethereal sweeties. The Fairies, by 19th-Century Irish poet William Allingham, is a dark-themed children’s poem that includes the abduction (and eventual death) of a child. This artwork by Boris Artzybasheff adds to the creepiness. The poem and illustration were included in the Collier’s Junior Classics’ The Young Folks Shelf of Books, Volume 1 (“ABC GO!”; 1962) under the heading “Best-Loved Poems.” As a pre-schooler, I found the picture especially disturbing. It always comes to mind when I think I feel something scratchy in my bed at night.
Here are some excerpts from the poem:
Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting,
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather. …
They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back
Between the night and morrow;
They thought she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag leaves,
Watching till she wake.
By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite?
He shall find the thornies set
In his bed at night. …
You can find the entire poem at Poetry Archive
Last month, I posted regarding the exhibition/book release in Norway for Dreadful Folktales from the Land of Nosferatu. The book is authored by Gina Sandulescu and illustrated by Costin Chioreanu, both of Romania. Costin has now posted a short movie about the exhibition, including interview clips with members of the bands Einherjer and Vulture Industries:
This is a short video plugging Costin Chioreanu’s exhibition for Dreadful Folktales from the Land of Nosferatu. The exhibition will be this weekend in Norway. And I really wish that I were in Norway right now.
This is the first in what I plan as occasional posts of music that I find related to the Dark or Dark-Light current. I don’t think that anyone plugs into that current the way that Johann Sebastian Bach does in many of his works, and most particularly in this one, the Passacaglia from the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582. Mysterious, sublime, terrifying, unrelenting and cathartic, it captures, to my mind, most perfectly Jacob Boehme’s Ungrund concept. It can pluck you up and hurtle you deep within the darkest cosmos and spit you out to bask in the searing fire of illumination. Maybe it only affects me that way. But – it has to be performed well, as in this recording by Michael Murray. I have a recording of the work by another, very accomplished organist, and that performance leaves me very cold; while it may be technically perfect, it does nothing for me on an inner level.
The person who uploaded this YouTube video has put up the complete Michael Murray recording, which includes some other works; I tried to set it up here so that it would begin at the Passacaglia, but if it starts at the beginning for you, as is likely, then click forward to exactly the 20:00 minute mark, which is where the Passacaglia begins. I may replace this with my own video of just the Passacaglia at some point, if I get around to making one.
Lorenzo Mattotti, from “The Raven” by Lou Reed/Lorenzo Mattotti; Fantagraphics Books, 2011.
I have a guardian angel
I keep him in my head
When I’m alone and become afraid
He saved my life instead
When I’m alone and become afraid
He saved my life instead
— from The Raven (“Guardian Angel”) by Lou Reed, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti: Fantagraphics Books, 2011.
This is from a book of the lyrics from Lou Reed’s musical based on the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe, and illustrated by an artist whose works I’ve long admired, Lorenzo Mattotti. If you get a chance, check it out.