The best Halloween music: top 15 selections

Carved pumpkinsI confess, Halloween is my favorite holiday. But most horror music disappoints when it comes to setting a truly creepy mood. Pop hits, cheesy maniacal laughter and backbeats just don’t cut it. So I’ve scoured the web to find the best music to give you goosebumps.

HORROR SOUNDSCAPES — You’ll need to slog through a lot of silly music to find the gems in this genre. The following are superior for setting the right mood.

1. Halloween Horror Music by Raw Fear. Alternates horror soundscapes with spooky tunes. Check out the music.
2. The Dark Soundscapes series by Terror Syndicate. Several CDs to choose from. Check out the music.
3. Monster’s Halloween Party describes itself as “The Ultimate Scary Sounds and Music for Your Halloween Bash.” You’ll find some versions with bonus tracks which are a bit lame, but don’t let that discourage you. iTunes offers the unadulterated tracks, which are all you really need.

SOUNDTRACKS — The problem with soundtracks is that you are given brief snippets of interesting music, but they don’t last long enough. Still, you can’t go wrong with master of the genre Charlie Clouser, who has worked with Rob Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and others. Here are a couple of recommendations:

4. Resident Evil: Extinction — Charlie Clouser
5. Saw III — Charlie Clouser (be sure to get the disc with the “original motion picture score,” available from iTunes, not the disc with dark metal songs)
Listen to Clouser’s music at Last.fm

THE CLASSICS — If you prefer music from the classical repertoire, there are really only a few pieces that are appropriate. You’ll encounter lots of lists with suggestions like “Dream of The Witches’ Sabbath” from Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, but the music changes key and mood too often to be useful in a spooky Halloween setting. Stick to these pieces:

6. “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana — Orff (YouTube video)
7. Danse Macabre — Saint-Saens (YouTube video)
8. Devil’s Dance — John Williams (of Star Wars and Harry Potter fame) (YouTube video)
9. Funeral March from Sonata No. 2 in Bb Minor — Chopin (YouTube video)
10. Isle of the Dead — Rachmanoniff (YouTube video)
11. Night on Bald Mountain — Moussorgsky (YouTube video)
12. Toccata and Fugue in D minor — Bach (YouTube video)
Fright Night CD13. By far, the best compilation CD you’ll find, which includes many of the pieces above, is Fright Night: Music That Goes Bump in the Night. Although some tracks fall into the shifting mood category, you can always pick and choose which tracks to play. But get the 2006 Sony release, available from iTunes or Rhapsody, which has twice the number of tracks.

DISSONANT MODERNIST MUSIC — Most people find this music unsettling, which is why it has been used so extensively in horror movies (think the shower scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho — which also happens to be on the compilation CD mentioned above).

14. Black Angels — George Crumb (YouTube video)
15. Adagio from Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta — Bela Bartok (YouTube video)

So turn out the lights, turn up the volume, and let your imagination go.

For additional posts that provide interesting music lists, see About Music and This Site.

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