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I like "classical"-style instrumental music that is more of a dark nature. The score from any Tim Burton movie would be a good example. I heard a few great examples from Mozart but unfortunately I wasn't able to get the names of the pieces. Also pieces that contain minimal instruments; for example, Cello, Violin and Piano.

Any ideas as to what genre I'm looking for or possibly where/who to look for?

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closed as off-topic by Bradd Szonye, Dave, Fergus, Shevliaskovic, Jason W May 27 at 14:56

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  • "Questions on identifying (or finding) a particular song, genre, instrument, etc. are off-topic since they are rarely useful to future readers." – Bradd Szonye, Dave, Fergus, Shevliaskovic, Jason W
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The obvious thing to look for is Danny Elfman's film scores. –  luser droog Nov 17 '11 at 21:24
Can you do an update on what you've found? I like this kind of music also and it would be interesting to hear what you've come across that was really good. –  Dunk Jan 24 '12 at 14:08

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The closest thing to a genre name for this is "Sturm und Drang" ("Storm and Stress"). This is dark, violent music. It started around 1800 and followed a literary movement of the same name. (Any novel that starts out "It was a dark and stormy night" is probably Sturm und Drang.)

Haydn experimented with it once or twice. Listen to the first movement of the "Farewell" symphony. Beethoven was all about Sturm und Drang. For the fast violent stuff there's the Appassionata sonata, the last movement of the Moonlight, and the first movement of the 5th symphony. For the slow depressing stuff there is the slow movement of Symphony number 7, and the slow movement of the sonata number 7 Op. 10 number 3 which is absolutely the best music to play when there's a violent thunderstorm outside and they have locked you in the room at the top of the tower because you KILLED YOUR LOVER and ATE HER HEART RAW!

This kind of music continued well into the twentieth century. For the violent kind: Mendelssohn's First Symphony, Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, and the piano concertos by Dohnanyi and Rachmaninoff.

For the slow depressing kind: The third act of a Wagner opera frequently opens with things-are-the-worst-they-could-ever-possibly-get-and-getting-worse music, notably Tristan und Isolde and Meistersinger. Liszt's "Funerailles" for piano solo is another one, alternately depressing and violent. See if you can find Petrassi's "Coro di Morti", a very depressing piece for male chorus, and Gorecki's Symphony number 3, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs". You'll need a sound system with good strong bass for that one; it opens with a slow eight-voice fugue for double basses.

Mahler's "Tragic" symphony (number 6) depicts a man who is smashed to the ground by a hammer-blow, not once but three times. The last movement of Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony (number 6) is as dark as music ever gets. Oddly prophetic too -- you can look at it as a depiction of his entire life. The premiere performance was a great triumph and corresponds to the end of the third movement. Shortly thereafter, something totally unexpected happened and his life was ruined, just as the fourth movement predicted! How did he know?

Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony -- listen to the whole thing and when you get to the last three minutes, turn the volume up loud.

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+1 - Thanks for the commentary with each song. There's a few in there I have never heard and will have to track down. –  Dunk Aug 23 '11 at 13:19
That was priceless. I have a lot of things to listen to now! :) –  Pitto Aug 23 '11 at 15:28
Also check out Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov (and of course, his protege, Stravinsky). Prokofiev, too (you can almost "see" the aggression on the page). –  luser droog Nov 17 '11 at 21:22

There's no "dark genre" per sé. However, a lot of music written for funerals or mourning has the element you are looking for. So, what you should look for is requiems. They have very common themes that are recycled in other genres of music precisely because they evoke darkness/sadness/mourning/death.

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The way you say 'classical' music might not make my answer relevant because I am not sure what exactly lies within that, but there is a world of dark music in quite a few genres that you might love.

Do you have a taste for jazz? Because there is a whole movement termed 'darkjazz', and I would suggest you listen to 'The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble'. They are a very dark, atmospheric, and definitively instrumental outfit.

Other than that, I can think of a lot of albums that have the kinds of Tim Burtonish/film score/orchestral dark elements within them, but right now they are just sections within the rest of the music which is of a different genre, like rock/progressive rock/electronica. If I remember whole albums that might have your specified taste I will update my answer.

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That's excellent I'm going to check out darkjazz as well as the others. –  DustinDavis Aug 19 '11 at 15:29

I would assume you are hoping to play some of the songs and not just for listening, since this is a musical practice and performance site. Thus it might be helpful to know what instrument you play.

With that said, I don't know the genre name nor do I know the Tim Burton music you are referring to but some composers/songs you might want to look into are:

  • Bach - Air on a G String, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Chaconne
  • Beethoven has a lot of dark sounding songs: In particular the Moonlight Sonata Movement 1*, (But my all-time favorite is the 3rd Movement*, even though it isn't dark), Sonata 23 in F Minor, The Tempest, Egmont Overture
  • Chopin's Funeral March, Raindrops* and some of his Nocturne's, Prelude Op. 28 No. 4,
  • Debussy - Clair de lune
  • Rachmaninoff - Morceaux de fantaisie*
  • Mendelssohn - The Venetian Gondolier
  • Liszt - Consolation No. 3, Totentanz*,
  • Wagner - Ride of the Valkyries
  • Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake
  • Prokofiev - Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2
  • Mozart - Symphony No. 40, Fantasy No. 2
  • Vivaldi - The Four Seasons Summer 3 Presto
  • Saint-Saens - The Carnival of Animals — Aquarium
  • Holst - The Planets — Mars
  • Mussorgsky - Night on Bald Mountain
  • Satie - Gnossienne No. 1

Of course that's not a complete list but should get you started to opening up some new music to you. I haven't used Pandora for classical music but that would be worth a try.

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+1 for Bach's "Dorian" Toccata. –  luser droog Nov 17 '11 at 21:26
Also, check out Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. (the piano version; I think Ravel just butchered the orchestration, putting snare drums over all the gorgeous harmonies.) –  luser droog Nov 18 '11 at 6:15

Have you listened to the music that plays in the beginning of the movie The Shining? Dont know the title of the song but it's a dark song. Check the credits I'm sure it's there

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Thanks, that gives me a place to start. –  DustinDavis Aug 18 '11 at 22:25
The soundtrack to The Shining was written by Wendy Carlos. wendycarlos.com –  Wheat Williams Aug 18 '11 at 23:07
Wendy Carlos. Thanks wheat –  DimebagFan Aug 19 '11 at 14:53

I don't think you're talking about a specific genre, other than "film music" which of course would embrace anything written for any kind of motion picture, dark or not.

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I was using the "Tim Burton" as an example of the style tha tI'm looking for. As I said, I've heard a few Mozart peices but didn't get the names. So it isn't just for film. anything that has a dark tone and is instrumental (classical or not) –  DustinDavis Aug 18 '11 at 23:10

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