ma·ca·bre \mə-ˈkä-brə\ adj 1 : having death as a subject 2 : dwelling on the gruesome 3 : tending to produce horror in a beholder syn see GHASTLY
When I played piano decades ago, I once performed a rudimentary piano arrangement of “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Thinking of it even now, my fingers remember some of the notable moves, though I no longer have a piano on which to practice it.
Why did this piece of music reenter my consciousness today? Memories and language are strange creatures, difficult to pin down. They convey details, if inexactly.
This lovely piece, heard more often around Halloween than the Fourth of July, brings to my mind dancing skeletons. [Listen to a far more musical rendition of it than I ever played here.] I thought of it when I had the occasion to use “macabre” in note to a friend about a piece of art.
At first I wondered if I was using the word accurately, and then I wondered why a distinctive bit of piano music had become an earworm. Despite the dour meaning of macabre, I think of the word as being pretty and cheerful (like Saint-Saëns’ piece, a dance). The word and the composer are both French, too, which brings to my mind elegance. Morticia Addams would the personification of the word for me.
So in Minnesota Transplant’s world, the word macabre is musical and sombre, though tinklingly light like clanking bones, and sophisticated.
How strange to plumb these depths.
“How ghastly for her, people actually thinking, with their brains, and right next door. Oh, the travesty of it all.”
~ Gail Carriger, author of Soulless