Ah, October! This is the time of year when the days become noticeably short and gloomy, the air begins to take on a bit of a chill and the wind once again rustles the treetops on moon-filled nights, signaling to all that Halloween draws near. This is the season when the darker genres of music beckon to us compellingly; and why not? Melancholy music compliments the mood created by this season of death and decay perfectly. For me, doom metal, dark ambient and neoclassical dark-wave create the desired effect better than anything else I can think of. Still, there are some classical pieces that work quite nicely.
There is one such composition that I'd like to talk about in this blog post. It's a symphonic poem composed by the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, and it's called The Swan of Tuanela, which in turn, is part of a larger musical work known as the Lemminkäinen Suit or the Four Legends from the Kalevala. Needless to say, this musical work is steeped in a very compelling piece of Finnish mythology.
As the story goes, a young warrior and shaman named Lemminkäinen falls in love with one of the daughters of Louhi, a sorceress, shape shifter and Queen of the dark realm of Pohjola. Louhi tells the warrior that she will allow him to take her daughter's hand in marriage only if he brings back the dead body of the Swan of Tuonela, a supernatural creature that swims around Tuonela, the haunted island of the dead that is ruled by the dark god Tuoni.
Of course, lots can go wrong for Lemminkäinen because he goes forth on a most perilous journey indeed. My purpose for this post however, is to introduce my readers to the beautiful but melancholy music inspired by the myth rather than delve too deeply into the story itself. It is an interesting tale though, and you can read how everything turns out by following this link.
As for Sibelius' symphonic poem itself, the piece serves as a wonderful musical accompaniment to the mythology that inspired it, or it stands alone as suitable listening on a rainy, blustery October afternoon. It was written for a small orchestra consisting of cor anglais (an oboe type instrument), bass clarinet, various horns and brass instruments, oboe, harp and strings. The cor anglais serves as the voice of the swan.
I hope you'll give this melancholic music a listen. It's not too long and it may just make a gloomy autumn afternoon even more enjoyable.