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Detail,‘GardenofEarthlyDelights’byHieronymousBosch

LastweekIposedthequestionofthespookiestpieceofmusic,decidedlylandingonSaint-Sa?

ns’sDanseMacabre。

Iwouldn’tgobackontheclaim?

—?

I100%standbytherattlingxylophonebones!

—?

butIalsoarguedDanseMacabreiscampy。

It’sthe’80shorrormovieofclassicalmusic。

Youjumpalittle,maybe,thefirsttimeyouexperienceit,butyou’realsolaughing。

AndifDanseMacabreisNightmareOnElmStreet?

ThenHectorBerlioz’sSymphonieFantastiqueisThe?

VVitch。

I’vebeenreadingabookbyThomasForrestKellycalledFirstNights,whichdetailsfivehistoricpremieresofclassicalmusic。

In1830?

—?

somorethanfortyyearsbeforeSaint-Sa?

ns(1874),andsixtyyearsbeforeDvo?

ák(1893),HectorBerlioz?

—?

ayoung,red-headedFrenchcomposer?

—?

debutedhisfive-partsymphonywithaprogram。

Symphonyprogramsupuntilthatpointjustlistedthepiecesyouwereabouttohearandwhotheywereby,ratherthanwhatanyofthepieceswereabout。

AtitspremiereinDecember1830,BerliozlaidouttheentirestoryofSymphonieFantastiqueforhisaudience,detailingastoryaboutaParisianartist[thinkingemoji]scornedbyawoman[threethinking?

emojis]。

Thefirstthreemovementsofthepiecedetailthetwoyounglovers,meetinganddancing,onlyforhisinsecuritiestointerferewiththeirrelationship。

Convincedtheirloveisdoomed,theyoungartistattemptstopoisonhimself,excepthemostlyjustoverdosesonopiumandhasawildtrip。

Inthefourthmovement,heimagineshekillshislover,andismarchedtohisowndeath。

Inthefifthmovement,theartistfindshimselfinHell,witnessinganorgyofwitches—andwho’srightinthemiddleofthis?

Well,youbetterbelieveit’shislover!

Thenthewholethingendsthere,inHell。

Quiteaturn!

Priorsymphonieshadbeenruminationsonthemesandkeysandmelodies;thiswasthefirstsortofliterarysymphony?

—?

onewithastory,longoutdatingtonepoemsandotherprogrammaticpiecesof?

music。

ThereissomuchtodiscusswithSymphonieFantastique,butbecauseit’scomingonHalloween,andbecauseofWITCHES,I’mjustgoingtofocusonthatfifthmovementforthetimebeing,knownasSonged’unenuitdesabbat,or,DreamoftheNightoftheSabbath。

It’saneccentricallycreepypiece,mixingfairlyupbeatviolinandwoodwindmelodies(thewitches!

)withloud,deafeningbrass(theDevil!

)。

There’saversionoftheDiesirae,aLatinhymndepictingJudgmentDay,usedthroughout。

It’saltogetherdissonantandinfernal。

Imean,theguyiswritingaboutrunningintohisexwhomhemurderedwhilethey’rebothinHell。

TalkaboutabadHalloween!

Ithinkalotaboutthechimesinthispiece,whichringinhauntinglyaroundthemiddleofthemovement。

Chimes?

—?

ortubularbells?

—?

areagiantsetofuprightbellsplayedwithbig,felt-tippedmallets,andoftensoundthesameaschurchbells。

Theyechothroughoutanyperformancespaceinapowerful,nearlyobnoxiousway,andtheywerescarcelyusedinmostorchestralmusicatthispointunlessitwasreligiousinnature。

Inthe1830s,theuseofaholyinstrumenttorepresentatwistedversionofHellis…prettyfucked?

up!

ThestorybehindSymphonieFantastiqueisthekindofthingthatwouldfeelabstractandwild,eveninpresentday。

We’dlookatitandsay,“man,thisguywroteasymphonyaboutaversionofhimself,”androlloureyesthewaywedowhenYoungLiteraryMendoitnow。

Itwascertainlynotthefirsttimeanartistofanycapacityhadwrittena“version”ofthemselvesintheirownart(thiswascommonenoughbythe1830s),butIcan’tletgooftheideaofwritingyourselfhavingacrazyopiumtripwhereyoucommitandmurderandthenseeyourowndeathandthengotoHell。

Extremelymetaland/orjuststupid,Ican’treally?

decide。

Ithelped,Isuppose,thatBerliozhadawildlovelife。

BerliozwroteSymphonieFantastiqueabouthismaincrush,anactressnamedHarrietSmithson,towhomhewrotelettersallthetimeandwhoneverwrotehimback。

Thisisthe“scorning”thesymphonyisabout:amorefamouswomanjustdidnotacknowledgealessfamousmanwhichisFINEandshehadEVERYRIGHTTODOSO。

Inthemeantime,BerliozgotengagedtoCamilleMoke,awomanwhowasessentiallyhisco-worker,inpartbecauseshetoldhimthatHarrietSmithsonwasNOTREALLYALLTHATGREATandhadforsureHADSEXFORMONEYbefore(whetherthiswastrueremainstobeseen,andinmypersonalopinion…?

Itwasalie)。

SaidengagementcameafterthepremiereofSymphonieFantastique,whichwassortoftheofficialsocialwelcomingofBerliozintohighsociety。

Thishaslittletodowithanything,butthereisatranscriptofaletterBerliozwrotetohisfriendinwhichhewrites:“Eversince[Camille]heardmySabbath,[she]callsmeonly‘herdearLucifer,herdear?

Satan。

’”

[screamsfor10,000?

years]

Regardless,whileBerliozwasengagedtoCamilleMoke,shewentonvacationandthenwrotehimalettersayingshecheatedonhimandwasnowengagedtosomeoneelse。

SothenBerliozcraftedanactualplan?

—?

notahere’swhatthesymphonyisaboutplan?

—?

tomurderCamilleandhermotherandhernewfiancé,butheneverdidit。

It’satthatpointthatI’mlike,“Hm,maybeBerliozisnotagoodguy,”eventhoughIdefinitelyshouldhavethoughtthatsooner。

Whatdoeswinduphappening,ofcourse,isthatatthesecondbigperformanceofSymphonieFantastique,whoshouldshowupotherthanHARRIETSMITHSON。

Andherreactionislike,“Wow,thisistheguyI’veignoredthewholetime?

Heseems…hotandcool。

”Theywindupgettingmarried?

—?

aclassictwist?

—?

andmakingeachotherverymiserableforseveralyearsbeforeseparating。

Tomyknowledge,sheneverreferredtohimas“mydearLucifer”or“mydearSatan,”butyougotta?

hope。

Okay,anyway,thepointofthisis:EveryonewhohasscornedyouwillshowupinHellrightalongsideyou!

HappyHalloween!

FranHoepfnerisawriterwhousedtobeamusician,butnotinanacousticguitarsense,moreinthethemovieWhiplashsense。

Askidsheragediscoveredthepopularmusicoftheearly’00s?

Franspent10–15hoursaweekinprivatelessonsforpianoorplayingtimpaniinseveralChicagolandyouthsymphonies。

Becauseofthat,shedidn’tdiscoverpopmusicuntil2008,andnowhermusiclibraryisalmostexclusivelyclassical。

Youshouldlistentomoreclassicalmusic,notforanyself-importantreason,butjustbecauseit’smoreaccessiblethanyouthinkitis。

Alsoit’svery?