Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
   Much of the haunting eeriness that pervades STANLEY KUBRICK’s THE SHINING derives from the accompanying music from Béla Bartók’s Music for String, Percussion and Celesta. Bartók (1881–1945) was one of the great amalgamators of music, integrating folk materials from his native Hungary with modern dissonant harmony. His Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta was composed during the summer of 1936 and premiered in Basel, Switzerland, on January 21, 1937. It is scored for two string quartets, percussion, double basses, and celesta. The four movements are marked andante tranquillo, allegro, adagio, and allegro molto. The third movement, which Kubrick incorporated into The Shining, is one of Bartók’s most famous “night pieces. ” The twisting chromatic melody, the slithery glissandi for timpani and strings, the mysterious tappings of the xylophone, and the series of fortissimo climaxes create a disquieting and neurotic mood. In the opinion of historian Jack Sullivan, this work belongs to a select group of Bartók masterpieces that evoke terror and anxiety. They include the opera Bluebeard’s Castle (1911), with its “ghostly echoes of Debussy” and its “blood-drenched lyricism”; the slow movement of the Out of Doors suite for piano (1926), “which treats the piano as a percussion instrument shimmering and vibrating with the sounds of nocturnal birds and insects”; and the pantomime ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin (1918), a “lurid, violent”work that “treats the orchestra like an instrument of aggression. ” Sullivan describes the latter work “as blood-curdling as anything in music. ”
   ■ Gillies, Malcolm, The Bartok Companion (Portland, Oreg. :Amadeus Press, 1994), pp. 303–314;
   ■ Sullivan, Jack, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (New York:Viking Press, 1986) pp. 22–23.
   J. C. T.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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