The music is foreboding and unsettling—perfect for the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, The Shining. So perfect, in fact, that most people assume it was written for the film.
But in fact, the melody is from a 13th thirteenth-century Latin hymn that describes God’s “Day of Wrath,” the Judgment Day when the faithful will be saved, and the others cast into eternal flames.
Sung originally in the Christian Mass for the Dead, by the 19th century, the tune symbolized not only human mortality, but the forces of evil—sometimes in serious fashion, sometimes not.
In this hour, the “Dies Irae” melody in works by Liszt, Berlioz, Saint-Saens, Rachmaninoff, and many more.