Top of page

Celebrating Halloween by Exploring a “Danse Macabre”

Share this post:

Frequently for holidays we’ll celebrate by posting an evocative picture for students to explore. Today we are using evocative music: Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. Below is a page of the manuscript in Saint-Saëns’ hand.

Draft of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns, 1 Nov. 1877. From the Moldenhauer Archives at the Library of Congress.

Sound recordings of the piece can be found on the National Jukebox. One is a two part piano duet by Guy Maier and Lee Pattison. The second is by Vessella’s Italian Band.

Cemetery. Carol Highsmith

Ask your students to listen to the music and use the primary source analysis tool (printable tool version and question sets) to encourage deep listening and analysis. Ask your students to listen to the music and to write down how they feel as they listen to the music. Is it telling a story? Where does the story take place? In the version by Vessella’s Italian Band, which instruments are used to portray a specific mood or theme? Students can draw a picture or create a poem or dance to go along with the music. For more inspiration, they might examine an evocative picture, such as this photograph of a cemetery.

The Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Sound Recordings will provide additional prompts that can help students dig deeper.

Have a wonderful Halloween and let us know what your students discover with this activity.




Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.