Saturday, August 28, 2010

Music For Zombies

Trick or Treat - Remember the Warren magazines you read as a kid? You know, titles like VAMPIRELLA, EERIE, CREEPY, and FAMOUS MONSTERS? Remember the ads for all the great stuff, such as the Don Post line of movie monster masks, and records like An Evening With Boris Karloff, Dr. Druids Haunted Seance, and Vampyre at the Harpsichord? Well, those masks and music albums have one thing in common: they were all produced by make-up artist and musician Verne Langdon. He is back with his first album of weird and disquieting music in many years. Music for Zombies is an excellent CD to get for the Halloween season. It is a mix of classic Langdon and new offerings, containing six tracks of new music and three tracks from previous albums.

The opening piece of music, Zombie Sonata, is a spare and memorable composition on piano.. Images from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari came into my mind as I listened to it. It is easily one of Mr. Langdons best pieces.

Other compositions are played on a Wurli-Morton Theater Organ or a steam calliope. On Spirit Symphony, first heard on his album Music for Magicians, Mr. Langdon uses the bell-like celeste of the theater organ (in a way that suggests the innocence of childhood) against a sinister bass line. The composition was used recently in the daytime soap, Passions.

The theater organs vibrato is used to good effect on Hypnotique, creating an eerie sound similar, but more expressive than, the theremin. Here Mr. Langdon juxtaposes a strange melody of lingering notes against a march-like accompaniment of drums.

Carnival of Souls sounds like music you might hear at a circus for the insane. It is a diverting, even raucous piece. Those folks who find clowns scary will be especially disturbed by it.

His longest piece of music on the album is Zombie Suite, which is divided into three movements. This is the most symphonic sounding piece, with swelling horn and string sections. The music here struck me as more melancholy, even romantic, than creepy. After hearing it, I wondered why Mr. Langdon has not gone into composing for film. His compositions are better than some of what I hear at the movies these days. He certainly has the creativity required for music that touches and underscores emotions.

Mr. Langdon is known for his sense of humor (he used to be a gag writer for television) and he has some jokes here: the CD opens with the sound of a coffin opening and it ends with the sound of one closing. One track begins with a rather human-sounding wolf howl and another with a snippet of a funeral march. The CD is subtitled Grave Music for Brave People. Despite all that, the music is not treated lightly, but is well done and worth adding to your collection. I have a lot of music in this vein (no pun intended) and this one ranks with my favorites.

1. Opening 2. Zombie Sonata 3. Flowers Of Evil 4. Hypnotique 5. Spirit Symphony 6. Carnival Of Souls 7. Tombs Egyptian 8. Zombie Suite - 1st Movement 9. Zombie Suite - 2nd Movement 10. Zombie Suite - 3rd Movement 11. Closing


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