Piano Sonata #9, Opus 68. Alexander Scriabin’s dissonance and atonality make it one of the creepiest pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It’s not over-the-top scary. It’s just off. Nothing about it fits the ear’s expectation, and the unknown is always scary. Even its name is sinister – “The Black Mass”. Mammon, my current work-in-progress, is full of music, and Scriabin’s dark opus is the main piece.
If this book is ever published and made (dare I hope?) into a movie, I picture the opening scene being a waist-high trip through the empty house, before Jennifer and Michael go inside for the first time, with those dread-infused chords echoing off the walls as the title and credits scroll by. These chords are the same “…music [that] wrapped [its] icy fingers around [Jennifer’s] heart” in Chapter Nine, so it will also have to appear later in the picture.
Music is one of the watermarks used to measure Jennifer’s and Michael’s mental state throughout the book, and I thought it would be easy to pick the songs out. My musical taste is eclectic, and I have something playing pretty much all day, unless I’m with someone. No problems then. Right? Just pick out a few songs and go. Yeah, whatever. Over to the right, beneath the picture of the red umbrella, is a playlist (you’ll notice “Black Mass” is at the top). It’s all of the songs and artists that appear in the book. Every one of them, except for the Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald tunes, were picked only after much research. Not one of them is something I could identify just by listening to it, and most of the groups are ones I’d never heard of.
Chapter Nine is a pivotal point in the story, and I needed a piece that would recall the characters’ subtle descent at the same time it foreshadowed the coming changes. The research took all of my writing time for several days, and then I found this deliciously dark little ditty. It not only filled my need in Chapter Nine, it seemed to fit the whole book.
A member of one of my critique groups, a lady with extensive musical experience, let me know I’d made the right choice with one of her comments. After reading the chapter and listening to the piece, she wrote, “I love the build up and the dissonance. At times, the almost playful treble notes sound like they are teasing only to be crushed by heavy bass chords…Kind of like Jennifer and the house. Or am I reading too much into this?” I so desperately wanted to respond by saying Yes! That was on purpose! I planned it! But, I couldn’t. It was just a happy accident.
Scriabin wrote much of his music based on his philosophical beliefs. He also taught that each musical key had a corresponding color. Two of his poems were even performed on a clavier a’ lumie’res, a color-organ designed especially for those performances. Instead of sound, it gave the audience a show of different colored lights projected onto a screen. He was a rebel, and believed many of his contemporaries were boring rule-followers. He was a man who, I believe, neither understood nor accepted normal. Oddly enough, he was also a genius.