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Music / Night on Bald Mountain

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"Night on Bald Mountain" was a musical piece composed by Modest Mussorgsky completed on June 23, 1867. Unfortunately, due to his own mentor refusing to play it and despite his efforts, it never saw production in his lifetime. In 1886, his work finally achieved fame and is still best known in Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's edition, a "fantasy for orchestra" titled A Night on the Bare Mountain (1886), composed five years after Mussorgsky's death. It instantly became a hit in St. Petersburg.
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It is featured in the finale of the 1940 film Fantasia, and conducted by the late Leopold Stokowski. The story that goes with the piece, written by Mussorgsky describes a sabbath of witches worshiping Satan, or in the adaptation the Slavic God of Darkness, Chernabog, and the witness to the events.

Because of the story, many people associate this work with Hallowe'en; the sabbat it describes actually takes place on Midsummer's Eve/St. John's Eve (June 23rd in the Gregorian calendar, July 6th in the Julian).


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This work provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adapted Out: Satan is mentioned in the story that Mussorgsky wrote for the piece, but is replaced by the Slavic deity Chernabog in Fantasia. This was likely to avoid controversy by depicting Satan in what is ostensibly a family feature.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Near the end, the loud, ominous music is interrupted by a single tolling church bell, winding down into a soft finish for the song. In the Fantasia segment, the church bell prompts the retreat of Chernobog the Dark God and his ghouls; the bell denotes his doom. Mussorgsky himself intended the ringing of the church bell as breaking up the witches' sabbat described by the piece; witches and evil spirits traditionally could not bear the sound of consecrated bells.
  • Hellgate: The music evokes a witches' sabbath, garnered by Satan himself.
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  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: The Bald Mountain, where Chernabog dwells. In Fantasia it is implied that the top of it is actually him hiding behind his wings.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The music is very creepy and brilliantly evokes the idea of a witches' sabbath on a mountain during midnight, but the Fantasia adaptation adds in the visual component of Chernabog gathering an army of demons for some nefarious purpose, and he is the source of most of the terror the adaptation provides.
  • Rearrange the Song: Mussorgsky's original score was reworked by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and is nowadays always performed in this version.
    • The piece itself has been rearranged in more modern times too, including in a synthesizer version by Isao Tomita, as Night on Disco Mountain, and in the Hamilton and Neon Sabbath mixes in Fantasia: Music Evolved.

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