In the spirit of themed piano concerts, I decided to do one for Halloween, after my previous one for Earth Day in April 2014. Because Halloween is so popular in the USA, rather than run away and hide from trick-or-treaters as I usually do, I thought I’d face the music and celebrate with an audience that may appreciate a journey down memory lane.
The word Halloween originates from “All Hallows’ Even” or “the eve of All Hallows’ Day.” All Hallows’ Day is simply another name for All Saints’ Day, the day the Catholics commemorate all the saints.
You might remember the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” “Hallowed be thy name” means “let your name be sanctified.”
As a kid growing up on an American air base in Okinawa, I remember looking forward to Halloween fondly. We’d go trick or treating unchaperoned. When I got older, I stayed at home and gave out the candies. When we ran out of candies, we’d go trick or treating and recycle the candies.
Thus it was a disappointment when I moved to London and discovered trick or treating was a very American tradition. I forgot completely about this custom until I was caught off guard on my first visit to Maui in 1999.
The music of Halloween can be associated with horror films, the most terrifying of which is the 1960 Hitchcock movie “Psycho.” Half-steps naturally create dissonance, as heard even more menacingly in the lowest register in the “Jaws” theme.
When we hear Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” we immediately think of the Exorcist, though it was not originally written for the movie. The treble pitched ostinato travels from 7/8 to 9/8 time and back, meandering through additions of organ and other instruments.
This example of minimalist music can be found in John Carpenter’s theme to Mike Myers’ 1978 movie “Halloween.”
You could do a lot with repetition, as in the ostinato above, but also a simple broken chord placed in a high register, such as that of Hans Zimmer’s “Samara’s Song” in the 2002 film “The Ring.” It gives an eerie and chilling effect.
That same steady broken minor chord was used by Mark Snow in the theme from the TV series “The X-files” and by John Cale in “The Ritual” and “Monologue 1” in the 2000 thriller “American Psycho” starring Christian Bale.
Where did this repeating minor chord come from? Perhaps you have heard of the first movement from Beethoven’s Sonata no. 14, op. 27, no. 2, Quasi una fantasia. Moonlight Sonata, as it has become affectionately called, is hardly the prelude to a horror movie, but rather, composed with romantic intentions.
And there are plenty of love songs and romantic stories to do with vampires, monsters, and ghosts.
Perhaps I should end my Halloween Piano Concert with love or a sense of humor. The theme from the 1984 comedy Ghostbusters starts with repeating half-steps, similar to that of Jaws, and is anything but ominous.
Anne Ku, piano
Friday October 31, 2014
10 – 11 AM
Roselani Place, Kahului, Maui