Danse Macabre Writing Ideas

by | Mar 24, 2020

How honing your listening skills can benefit your writing.

Danse Macabre Writing Ideas - Storymakers

Writing is more than just what we see, but we often ignore our other senses because we default to our most dominant sense.

Now, that’s not true for everyone, but it includes the majority of us.

At Storymakers, we’ve done exercises that hone in on the other senses and today, I’m bringing to you a listening task.

Danse Macabre is an orchestral piece composed by Camille Saint-Saens in 1874. Translated, it means ‘Dance of Death’ and it tells the story of the night of Halloween, when skeletons come out from their graves and spend the night dancing around the graveyard until the cock crows and it’s time to return once more to their beds.

When you listen to this piece, you can hear the different instruments depicting sounds, such as the bones of the skeletons as they dance, the clock chiming midnight to signal the start of the evening’s festivities, the cock crowing.

How you turn this into a writing exercise.

1. There is a free resource based around Danse Macabre on Tes at the moment. Download that first and read the poem that describes the story the music is depciting.

2. You can find this piece of music by searching online and I suggest once you’ve read the poem, next step is to simply listen to the music in its entirety.

3. There are questions on the Tes download, which you can answer if you wish to. These help you understand which instruments are used to depict the different sounds and tell the story.

4. For younger children, or if you’re struggling to understand the music, there is a brilliant visual tutorial on YouTube. This goes through the music, showing you what is happening and which instrument is being used.

Now for the writing element.

Can you write your own story or poem to describe this ghostly gathering? Include onomatopoeia words (that describe sound).

Write a ghostly story of your own.

The skeletons have a leader who comes out and signals for the rest to join him. Write from his point of view – why does he want to get the skeletons out dancing? What does he enjoy about this particular night?

For another idea for how you can use music as a writing prompt, please see this blog.


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