Kubrick, Berlioz, Björk & Antony : Day of Wrath

I’m ready for a guest lecture at MADfaculty, KHLimburg. The topic I proposed: Stanley Kubrick and the use of music.

It is no secret that Kubrick’s use of music was specific and often stunning. His well balanced connections of movie and music made me draw links as well, and this one is too beautiful not to share.

Wendy Carlos used the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) melody in the opening scene. The melody goes back to the thirteenth century and is featured in catholic Requiem Masses. On the day of judgment, the last trumpet summons souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames.
A warning sign before anything has happened yet…

Carlos clearly based her version on the 5th movement from Berlioz’ Symphonie Phantastique, entitled Dreams of a Witches Sabbath (1830). It is a symphonic poem that tells the story of an artist gifted with a lively imagination who has poisoned himself with opium in the depths of despair because of hopeless love. Berlioz himself described the musical “action” as “The artist sees himself at a witches’ sabbath the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral.”


(the Dies Irae melody pops up at 3’30 and on)

Berlioz, Kubrick, and/or the Dies Irae melody even echo into the song “Dull Flame of Desire” by Björk and Antony from Antony and the Johnsons. A love song under a spell? Let’s suppose Björk heard the melody in The Shining, and was not aware of the connection with the dies irae (or it would be a sarcastic love song…).

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