Halloween decorations, masks, and costumes can all be pretty scary – but nothing beats horrifying sounds and music. A scream in the dark, dragging footsteps or the sound of a squeaky organ instantly trigger fear reflexes. Last Halloween, Karen Biehl took us to “The Castle” – an eerie medieval fortress filled with ghosts. This year we are going somewhere else, but equally scary: “The House of Karen: The Attic”. It is a collection of singles that are perfect as background music for a Halloween party, filled with scary clowns, graves, and in the center of it all: A haunted house.
Karen Biehl has studied with former Metropolitan Opera star Thomas Hayward before completing her master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is also classically trained in piano and violin. For “Starlight Dreams”, released in November 2018, the readers and listeners here on Newagemusic.guide awarded Biehl the Best Solo Piano 2018 award. In 2019 and 2020, Biehl has released several singles; “Portal to Peace”, “As It Was, Ages Hence”, “Echoing Canyon” ( I & II), “The Aftermath“, “Reflections” – to name a few. See the complete list on Spotify.
The House of Karen: The Attic
We will start this scary adventure in “The House of Karen: The Attic”. One thing seems obvious, even without looking at the cover artwork; This place is haunted! A ghostly choir sings lonely songs before a high-pitched cello starts playing.
Biehl’s marvelous vocal is heard in the background. The melody is completed by piano – as if the cello is unable to complete the narrative it just started. The underlying atmosphere is about a deep and wrenching sorrow, so powerful that it lives on in the form of a ghost. Something horrible has happened in this attic, and even time has been unable to wash away the memories.
The name of the piece comments on the Karen name as a pejorative slang term for an obnoxious and angry middle-aged white woman. It is impossible, though, not to feel sorry for the fictitious Karen whose house is haunting the house. She might have been an outsider and on edge with society, but she had her reasons. Life was not kind to her.
There’s also a lovely solo piano version that you should check out.
The impression of the imaginary Karen as a victim of tragic circumstances is the force behind the piece “Karen’s Lament” too. The slow piano melody takes us deep into the darkness that formed Karen’s world. Using the cover artwork as a guide, Karen died – but her woes live on.
There is a Halloweeny quality “Karen’s Lament”, so it is not to be taken too seriously. I love the soundscape’s intricacy and how the piece twists and turns – leading up the finale, ghostly opera singing! In Biehl’s music, there are many classical inspirations, and this brilliant piece is no exception.
The Music Box
Hidden in “The House of Karen: The Attic” is a classical revolving cylinder musical box. Its gentle melody is both soothing, beautiful, and a bit sad too. It might seem unharmful with its dancing ballerina, nothing more than a toy really. But as soon as you wipe the dust off, the imaginary Karen unleashes her fury. “The Music Box” is suddenly a gateway from which ghosts are emerging, ready to take Karen’s revenge!
The organ is incredibly loud and punishing. I have heard the song many times, but still, the organ freaks me out every time. It is high-end sound design.
C’est La Vie (Music Box)
Continuing in the same atmosphere and with the same lovely music box-instrument, “C’est La Vie (Music Box)” is a very nice version of Biehl’s “C’est La Vie” – backed by singing ghosts telling a story about a childhood long ago.
The piece has a nice dusty feel. Luckily, the ghosts seem to be less aggressive now.
Cirque de Folie
It might have been a product of Stephen King’s IT, but clowns and the circus have a certain spooky quality in our age. The clown on the cover artwork has a certain sinister look. The whole circus comes to life before our inner eye, thanks to Biehl’s masterful storytelling in music. “Cirque de Folie” captures the atmosphere of the circus wonderfully.
In true Halloween spirit, we could add that all the circus performers are dead…
In conclusion: Halloween music is not only about creating the right atmosphere; it is about telling a scary story. All of the above pieces by Karen Biehl contain inspired storytelling. The best part is that it is not too serious, and some segments are even a bit quirky. The use of retro instruments is inspired.
Biehl’s Halloween discography is growing each year, and it is a niche where she has total domination in the New Age music scene. If you are looking for background music for your Halloween party, add the above pieces to your playlist. Highly recommended!
For more information and music samples, visit maestramusica.com