"Danse macabre" (also referred as "Danse macabre, opus 40") is a 1874 tone poem for orchestra by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The tune is inspired in Henri Cazalis' poem Égalité-Fraternité (Equality-Fraternity) based on an old French superstition featuring the Death (represented by a fiddle) raising the dead (portrayed as living skeletons, reason why they are mainly represented by the sound of xylophones) to make them dance until the night ends and the rooster crows at dawn.

The composition was originally conducted by the orchestra director Édouard Colonne.

Other Appearances

  • The composition has been featured in several albums and performed at various concerts and dance performances since it's debut.
  • The piece is played on Henrik Ibsen's 1896 play John Gabriel Borkman.
  • The piece recurrently used in the 1939 French film The Rules of the Game.
  • An adaptation of the piece is used as the theme music for the 1997 BBC mystery series Jonathan Creek.
  • The piece is used as the main theme for the 1978 ride Spookslot (Haunted Castle) on the Dutch theme park Efteling.
  • It can be heard in the 1992 video game Alone in the Dark after turning on the gramophone in the dance hall.
  • The piece briefly appears in the 1993 western film Tombstone.
  • The piece is used for the 1999 Disney's animated short Hansel and Gretel. Which later appeared in 2002 Disney's direct-to-video animated film Mickey's House of Villains.
  • The piece is used in the 2004 British animated television series Modern Toss as the theme for the character Mr. Tourette.
  • A synthesized version appears on the anime series Dimension W.
  • The piece is played between the chapters of the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman's novel The Graveyard Book.
  • The piece is played in the season 4 episode from the supernatural television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Hush" used as a theme for The Gentlemen.
  • The piece is used in the opening of Season 2 Episode 8 of the drama television series Mr. Robot.
  • The piece appears in Dreamworks' 2007 animated film Shrek the Third, during the stage musical scene where Prince Charming intends to finally kill Shrek.
  • The piece was used in a commercial for the whiskey brand Jameson Irish Whiskey.
  • The piece is used in the opening of Season 1 Episode of the television series What We Do in the Shadows.
  • The piece appears in the Napoleonic Wars expansion pack for the 2010 game Mount & Blade: Warband.
  • The piece is used in several instances during the season one episode from the 2011 live-action fantasy television series Grimm episode "Danse Macabre".
  • The piece appears in the 2014 gothic horror film Stonehearst Asylum.
  • The piece appears in multiple levels of the 2017 videogame The End is Nigh.


Due to the absence of an audio of the original composition here are featured some of the many rearrangements of the composition that have been made across time:
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