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Music Library Thematic Displays: Musical Ghost Stories

This guide showcases resources from the George F. DeVine Music Library centered on specific themes. Selected themes reflect UT School of Music events and programs, as well as cultural celebrations.

Title: Musical Ghost Stories

Musical Ghost Stories

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October 2023

Musical Ghost Stories



The book Faust has been set to opera multiple times throughout the years by composers such as Gounod, Berlioz, and Boito. The most popular of these operas was the one written by Gounod, titled Faust. It was originally written as a play but was later adapted into an opera. While it was based on the novel, the opera took a few creative liberties such as Faust making the deal with Mephistopheles to get Marguerite's love rather than to receive all the world's power and knowledge like in the novel. Berlioz and Gounod both end their operas at the end of the first volume of the novel where Marguerite dies and Faust is damned to hell. (1)

(1.) Sternfeld, F. (2002). Faust. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 2 Oct. 2023

Huebner, S.  (2002). Faust (ii). Grove Music Online. Retrieved 2 Oct. 2023

Liszt's symphony was composed in 1852 and is divided into three movements, each based on a character from Faust. It is well known for its vivid character painting through the music. The first movement is based on the title character, Faust. It introduces many of the themes that will then be replicated later in the symphony and is one of the first published uses of the twelve-tone row. The second movement is Gretchen (also known as Marguerite). Her music is beautiful and shows themes from Faust's movement in a romantic light. The final movement is Mephistopheles's which is eerie and atonal. His movement also takes movements from Faust as well as Gretchen's and warps the sound, just like his character. Liszt dedicated the symphony to Berlioz. (2)

(2) Encyclopædia Britannica. (n.d.). Symphony. Britannica Academic. Retrieved October 2, 2023

Encyclopædia Britannica. (n.d.). Franz Liszt. Britannica Academic. Retrieved October 2, 2023

The Medium

Menotti wrote both the music and libretto for this two-act opera in 1946. In a note for the recording, Menotti wrote "Despite its eerie setting and gruesome conclusions, The Medium is actually a play of ideas. It describes the tragedy of a woman caught between two worlds, a world of reality which she cannot wholly comprehend, and a supernatural world in which she cannot believe" (1). The opera centers around a "fake" seance and the principal character Baba's relationship with the spirits and her family.

(1) Archibald, B.  (2002). Medium, The. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 2 Oct. 2023

Dies Irae


Translation of lyrics


Dies Irae was first written as a Gregorian Chant in the 1200s by a monk named Thomas Celano. It translates to "the day of wrath" and was used as part of the Requiem Mass in Catholic Churches. The melody has been used by many other composers such as Verdi, Bach, and Mozart. Often this chant (or chord progression) is used to emphasize themes of death, doom, and the supernatural. (1)

(1) Caldwell, J., & Boyd, M.  (2001). Dies irae. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 2 Oct. 2023

Danse Macabre

French legend believes that every Halloween, Death appears at midnight to play his fiddle. As he plays, skeletons rise from their graves and dance the night way. 


Skeletons dancing            Skeleton's playing trumpets

                                                                                                                (1)                                                                                            (2)

This legend is commonly shown in music such as an orchestral tone poem by Saint-Saens, the string quartet "Der Tod und das Mädchen" by Schubert, "Totentanz der Prinzipien" by Schoenberg and many more!

(1) Wolgemut, Michael. The Dance of Death. Wikimedia Commons. CCLXIIIIv

(2) Holbein, d. J. Danse Macabre. Wikimedia Commons.