What are monsters? They are the offspring of our fears and imagination. Zombies can be viewed as a symbol for society’s assault on the individual, or our fear of death, or worry over the apocalypse. Bram Stoker’s Dracula bundled Eastern European exoticism with sexual desire forbidden at the turn of the century. Godzilla was created in Japan to help negotiate the trauma of nuclear attacks. This is not particularly surprising, but our yearly celebrations of these terrible creatures is fascinating.
Monsters exist so we can tell stories about their defeat, but each Fall children costumed as mummies and witches collect candy and dentists decorate their lawn with werewolves and ghosts. People suddenly love the gruesome.
Why do we celebrate monsters? Personally, I like to celebrate the creativity applied towards finding ways to explore our deepest fears. A frightening amount of my shelf space is dedicated towards films, books, games, and comics about evil creatures. This fascination obviously extends to music that addresses the topic, and I’m thrilled to present some of that music to you in our Monsters concert at Moonstone on 10/22.
Two of the pieces on the program are from the classical repertoire. An obvious choice for our theme was Schubert’s Der Erlkönig. The work is a beautiful setting of Goethe’s haunting story of a child attacked by a vague evil spirit. The performance will be an arrangement that replaces the piano with harp, clarinet, and tuba. We’ve recruited Brandon Frumolt to sing the vocal part and the piece should be a treat for all.
Additionally, we decided to explore the music of Carlo Gesualdo; the Renaissance composer infamous for killing his wife and the man she was having an affair with, then displaying their mutilated bodies outside his palace for the entire town to see. Yet this monstrous man’s music is both gorgeous and chromatic in a way that was not seen in Western music again for generations. We chose three madrigals from his many books of vocal music: Non T’amo o voci Ingrata, Itene o miei sospiri, and Gia piansi nel dolore.
New pieces, old instrument
We’ll be premiering two brand new pieces as well at our Monsters program. When Beta Test was first formed, Justin mentioned to Doug that he also played an instrument called the hulusi. The instrument is a Chinese folk instrument with free reeds and two drone pipes. It has an extremely sweet tone. Doug used the first excuse he could to write some music for it which you will hear in “Kezar Lake Siren Song for the hulusi and harp”. Lake Kezar, possibly most famous for being the residence of horror writer Stephen King, is a spectacularly peaceful place in central Maine. Work began on the piece while vacationing there and playing on a very out of tune piano. The image of sirens calling out from the lake became clear almost immediately.
We’re also very excited to play Melissa Dunphy’s ”Under The Bed”. I think the title explains itself, and I can assure you it’s as thrilling as a child’s fear of that hidden place. Melissa is a fantastically talented composer, and I’m really glad she was able to find time between her other awesome projects (including recording her vocal piece Tesla’s Pigeon and work on an opera about Ayn Rand) to write music for us.
Video game and movie music
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Beta Test performance if we didn’t have some classic video game and movie music. We’ve brought back the zany soundtrack from “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” for this show. In a similar vein, we’ve created an arrangement of the theme from Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice”. Both would have you believe that fighting the dead is actually a pretty fun circus-y time. Since I don’t have any personal experience, I really can’t argue with that view.
We’d be embarrassed to put on a monster themed geeky concert if we didn’t include music from Castlevania. For many, the soundtracks from those titles are more memorable than the actual game play. Kinuo Yamashita created the trademark sound for the game, which tried to match the Gothic settings musically. We selected a few of the more famous moments as well as some unique musical moments.
Finally, the music from Chrono Trigger seemed to resonate with our theme in a unique way. Video games are full of villains who have some monstrous qualities, but Chrono Trigger features the apocalyptic parasite Lavos. Sure, to win the game you need to defeat the monster, but its not a diabolical scheming villain. Appropriately, the music for Lavos is not so much sinister as it is overwhelming.
We feel that we found a unique characteristic in each piece that still fits the Monsters theme, and we hope you enjoy the variety. The music represents that fascination with evil creatures that we tend to celebrate once a year. Come join the celebration with us. You can find all of the details of the concert here.