Mark Kettlewell Art Online


Danse Macabre


This piece was an inspiration from a well known tone poem of the same name by the French composer Camille Saint-Seans. The story is about a graveyard at midnight where Death arrives with a fiddle and begins to play.  As Death scrapes away, all the skeletons in the graves pop out and dance a waltz to the music. I was introduced to this work at school and was always captivated by the strangeness of it. If I remember rightly there was a cartoon made that we all watched.  There are some memorable motifs in the music. The bold scraping of the fiddle represents Death leading the ceremony and the xylophone notes reminds us of some of the skeletons playing the same instrument but on the ribs of each other. The skeletons dance until cockcrow, at which time the sun begins to come up and all the skeletons return to their coffins. The final two chords of the music always made me think of the last two coffin lids closing.  Obviously this scene was not done from life so it was a challenge. I used the the sombre blue-greens of the moonlight to illuminate the scene and I added a fire to outline Death better in the foreground. The fire is out of shot to the left.

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