Top headlines

Lead story

Most everyone who celebrates Halloween will recognize the ominous opening chords. But far fewer probably know that the spooky organ piece is called Toccata and Fugue in D minor – and that heavyweight composer Johann Sebastian Bach penned the tune.

Megan Sarno, a music professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, explains how Bach’s Toccata and Fugue is an example of what scholars call “sticky music” – songs not written with a specific meaning or use in mind, but which, over time, come to represent a specific holiday, ceremony or tradition.

“Bach,” she writes, “could not have thought that his nearly 9-minute organ piece would become so strongly associated with haunted houses and sinister machinations.”

Of course, the sound of an organ – always a bit creepy to today’s ears – certainly doesn’t hurt the cause.

[ Sign up for our weekly Global Economy & Business newsletter, with interesting perspectives from experts around the world. ]

Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

In Bach’s era, the pipe organ was one of the world’s most technologically advanced instruments. Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis via Getty Images

How Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor became Halloween’s theme song

Megan Sarno, University of Texas at Arlington

The famous composer certainly didn’t have haunted houses in mind when he wrote the piece.

Politics + Society


Arts + Culture

Economy + Business

Ethics + Religion

Trending on site

Today's graphic 📈