archive for October, 2013

The Dancing Dead

dancing_skeletons

“Danse macabre” really gets things moving.

The dead rising from their graves and making merry on Halloween night: That’s the story told by Danse macabre, an instrumental piece written by the 19th century French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

The work is based on an old French superstition in which Death appears at midnight on Halloween and plays his fiddle, calling forth the dead to dance to his tune. As you listen to the piece, you’ll have no trouble envisioning a throng of grinning skeletons reveling through the cemetery as they celebrate their annual night of freedom from the grave.

Near the end of the piece, a rooster crows (an oboe, I think) to signal the coming dawn. The skeletons recoil in fright and glumly slink back to their tombs for another year.

My elementary school music teacher introduced me to Danse macabre waaay back when I was a little kid and I’ll always remember hearing it that first time. Every October I put it back into heavy rotation on my iPod and let the dead dance through my mind again and again.

The tune is about seven minutes long and is available on iTunes. You can also sample it with various video accompaniments on YouTube.

How to build a creepy Tim Burton Halloween scarecrow

Want something cool for the front yard this Halloween?scarecrow

If you’re a Tim Burton fan like I am, you can easily make a pumpkin-headed scarecrow straight out of Sleepy Hollow or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Start with a couple of long, fairly straight tree branches. Try to find one about 8 feet long and another about 6 feet long. Lash them together with some rope to form a cross. (The long one is the vertical piece.)

You can use a couple of thinner branches as supports for the crosspiece. Tie one end of a thin branch to the vertical piece and the other end to the crosspiece. Allow part of the branch to extend beyond the crosspiece; this is where the “hands” will go. Do this on both sides. (You can kind of see how I’ve done it in the photo.)

You can give the scarecrow “hands” by tying a few sticks together with twine and attaching them to the ends of the diagonal support branches. (I don’t know why, but those stick hands take the scary factor to a whole new level — perhaps because it’s creepy to imagine them grabbing you.)

The easiest way to put the scarecrow up is to insert the bottom end into a piece of pipe (about 2-1/2 feet long is sufficient) that you’ve pounded halfway into the ground. I’ve found this works better than trying to dig a hole for the base or supporting the scarecrow with ropes and stakes.

Decorating the scarecrow is the fun part. In the past I’ve tied on torn strips of old sheets. More recently, I bought some cheap black fabric to give it more of a “cape” or “batwings” effect.

Top it off with a pumpkin (larger ones look better) with an appropriately sinister grin applied with thick black magic marker, and you’re done! (Shining a light on the scarecrow at night is kinda creepy too, and it makes an eerie shadow on your house if the light and scarecrow are positioned right.)

So there you go. Have fun! Bwaaa-ha-ha-haaaaa!