Last month, I shared with you some easy ways to listen to music and respond with art. Now that October is here and Halloween is right around the corner, I’m going to share some pieces of extra spooky music to get you in the Halloween spirit and inspire some art making!
My own kids are 5 and 8, and they are both prone to nightmares and sensitive to scary stuff, so it can be hard to find ways to make Halloween fun and exciting but not overly scary. That’s one reason I LOVE the chance to share music and art with them – it’s actually such an effective way to process things that can feel scary.
(Not Too) Spooky Halloween Music for Kids
There are lots of spooky pieces of music you can enjoy; I’m going to focus today on Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath from Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.
If you want to fall down a rabbit hole of fascinating characters, you can read more about the entire symphony and Berlioz’ state of mind while composing it, but for this activity, let’s focus on using it to help kids again listen with intent and respond to what they are hearing using art (or movement, as my son self selected!)
I used the recording below.
Listening to the Halloween Music
Just like in my previous music listening post, I like to begin by listening to the music with no explanation, no expectations, just an open mind.
Depending on your audience and how long you think their stamina might be, the music really starts to get interesting (and a bit more creepy) starting around 1:19, the E-flat clarinet comes in with the witchy theme and there are lots of dynamic changes, big drumbeats, and excitement!
If you can, try and make it as far as 3:30—there are some amazing chimes between 3:00 and 3:30 that create a really different sound. And then right at 3:30, the “Dies Irae” (the funeral theme) comes in played by the low brass along with the chimes, which is pretty remarkable and a huge contrast from the clarinet’s “witchy theme” that you heard at 1:19.
My kids loved this part!
You can also skip to around 9:07 to really hear some creepy sound effects – listen for when the string players use their bows to make scratching sounds starting around 9:17 – ghostly! Listening from 9:07 until the end is a lovely option for kids who are sticking with it after the first excerpt.
Talking about the Halloween Music
Once they’ve listened once, stop the music and ask that magic question: “What did you notice?”
When I have done this activity in the classroom, I like to tell the kids a little bit about the music here. I tell them that the title is “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” and that the composer was imagining himself dreaming about a gathering of witches, sorcerers and monsters and was trying to make the music sound like that and he used lots of interesting, spooky sound effects.
Then try listening again.
Responding to the Halloween Music for Kids
For this activity, the art response I set up was simple drawing with paper, colored pencils and markers in a dark palette. However, by the time we were through, my kids had expanded the palette and pulled out the paints :) Feel free to use any materials you like!
After the first listen, my 5-year-old, Ezra, really wanted to dance along with the music while Lucy was ready to make some art, so I played the music again from the beginning and let them each respond in their own way.
Here’s Ezra, the dancing man, using some Fort Magic tubes as drumstick props, a regular occurrence for him!
After Ezra was done dancing, he got out the paints and went to town. Soon, Lucy abandoned the markers and joined him.
We actually listened to the whole piece all the way through twice and they were still going strong, so I ended up playing some additional music (I included those pieces below) as a spooky backdrop to their art-making.
More (Not Too) Spooky Halloween Music for Kids
Here are two more spooky music pieces that would work well for this activity ::
Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
Literally means “the dance of death!” This tone poem features the Grim Reaper rousing himself from the grave at midnight on Halloween and brings all the skeletons in the graveyard to life to dance with him all night.
Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky
Another tone poem, this one is musically describing a witches’ sabbath on top of a mountain. This piece of music was included in the original Fantasia, so you can also watch the animation accompanying the music below (it’s scary, so watch it before showing it to your kids!)
I hope this inspires you to find something interesting (and spooky) to listen to and enjoy with your child!
Do you have other suggestions for (not too) spooky Halloween music for kids? If so, please share them below in the comments!
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