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Halloween Fright: Five Versions Of That Terrifying Toccata And Fugue

Many folks would call Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor the ultimate piece of scary music, thanks to any number of horror movies and pop culture moments that have used its thundering organ sounds as a kind of ghoulish shorthand. (But not always. Remember how it was used in Fantasia? The visuals were marvelous, though it wasn't quite as scary as, say, the Night on Bald Mountain segment — unless you count the conductor-as-deity narrative as inherently frightening.)

So with All Hallows' Eve later this week, we thought it would be a perfect time to look up some tricks and treats among the endless Bach arrangements on YouTube. We'll leave it to you to figure out which are the aural equivalent of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and which are the Mary Janes.

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Bach Tricks — And Treats

Toy-Minor Toccata

Looking for a way to really freak out the tots coming to your porch for Halloween goodies? Treat them to a toy piano toccata.

Musical Glasses

Ever heard the Toccata and Fugue played on over three dozen glasses? You'll be shattered by the technique — not to mention all those eerie overtones.

A Trombone Quartet

Ever imagine the lines of the Toccata and Fugue growling through a foursome of fearsome trombones? These very talented guys from Costa Rica have.

Purely Rhythmic

This obscure mono LP of Bach played by the New York Percussion Ensemble is so awesome, I have no words — and this has almost no pitches. As one YouTube commenter noted, it's as if Bach were transplanted into a film noir.

Visualizing Bach

Think you know this piece through and through? Try watching this visualization of the score in a bar-graph video that lets even non-music readers appreciate the hellish difficulty of this score.

Anastasia Tsioulcas
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR's Culture desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including the trial and conviction of former R&B superstar R. Kelly; backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; and gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards.