Music: Read all about Camille Saint Saens and his magical Danse Macabre

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Have you ever seen the episode where Daffy duck tries to teach Bugs Bunny a little bit about western classical music? Here’s the link.

Daffy is trying to get him to pronounce the name of classical music’s iconic composer’s, Camille Saint Saens, correctly.

Music Files

Saint Saens was born in 1835, in France. He was a brilliant man! He was especially good at mathematics and music and composed several pieces with interesting stories behind them!

Danse Macabre is one such piece which is centered around everyone’s favorite spooky festival: Halloween. It was inspired by a popular poem by Henri Cazalis. This musical piece is written in the style of a tone poem, which implies a single musical voice accompanied by an instrument. Eventually, Saint Saens replaced the voice with a violin, accompanied by an entire orchestra.

He describes the initial strumming of the harp twelve times to be akin to a clock striking twelve at midnight on the 29th of October. Suddenly with the plucking of the double bass, the coffins fly open. Beware, as each skeleton peeps out of his or her coffin and climbs out. They watch each other as Death, in the form of the lead violin plays a tune. Each skeleton starts dancing to the violin’s (Death’s) principle tune. All of them match their moves to the pace of the music till it picks up into one enormous swirl of sound!

Suddenly the rooster (represented by the clarinet) sings his cock-a-doodle-doo and the skeletons, fearing the early rays of dawn, crawl back into their coffins. The horrors of the night recede and dawn is represented by a safe, secure morning tune.

Follow the link below to hear this magical Halloween piece!


Contributed by Dr. Dhanwanti Rajwade

Dhanwanti is a doctor by day and western classical musician by night. She loves digging through history and uncovering quirky facts about the great Masters of Classical music! 

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