Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On : Deceptive Cadence After an earthquake rattles the East Coast, we take a lighthearted look at some famous — and not so well-known — sonic shudders.
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Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

This little girl in Washington, DC survived the August 23, 2011 earthquake just fine. Greg Fiume/Getty Images hide caption

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Greg Fiume/Getty Images

This little girl in Washington, DC survived the August 23, 2011 earthquake just fine.

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Rumble, rumble, rumble: We East Coasters were slightly rattled yesterday by the earthquake. Very thankfully, there is little reported damage and no news of injuries — and so, on a lighthearted note, we offer you a short tour of musical tremblings.

Any other sonic seismicity we're missing? Share your favorites in the comments section below.

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

  • Earthquake Quartet No. 1

    Andrew Michael's Earthquake Quartet No. 1 Sara Boore/USGS hide caption

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    Sara Boore/USGS

    There's actually a section on the US Geological Survey's website dedicated to earthquake music. A USGS scientist, Andrew Michael, wrote a piece for himself and some fellow musician/geophysicists: the Earthquake Quartet No. 1 for soprano, cello, trombone and seismograms.

  • Ballet Mori

    There's even been an earthquake ballet – premiered, naturally enough, in northern California, by the San Francisco Ballet. Conceived by Ken Goldberg, an artist and a UC Berkeley professor of industrial engineering, computer science and robotics, the 1996 Ballet Mori utilized real-time sounds triggered by seismic movement in the Hayward Fault.

    'Ballet Mori' at the San Francisco Ballet.

    Randall Packer YouTube
  • John Adams, 'Ceiling/Sky'

    John Adams' 1995 venture into musical theater, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, was written with librettist June Jordan in the wake of the 1994 Northridge earthquake that devastated parts of Los Angeles.

    John Adams' 1995 musical theater show, 'I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky.'

    Barbican Centre, London YouTube
  • Rameau, 'Les Indes Galantes'

    One of the highlights of Rameau's 1736 opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes is a marvelous musical depiction of an earthquake that leads to a volcanic eruption. The love story in this act is a rather addled bit of exotica that takes place in Peru, in which an Incan named Huascar and a Spaniard, Don Carlos, both vie for Princess Phani.

    Rameau's opera 'Les Indes Galantes' at the Paris Opera, 2004.

    Bejun YouTube
  • Bernstein, 'Candide'

    In Bernstein's glittering operetta, Candide barely escapes the earthquake that kills Dr. Pangloss — and sets out for Paris.

    Leonard Bernstein leads the London Symphony Orchestra in the overture to his 'Candide' in 1989.

    nickbigd YouTube
  • Brumel, 'Earthquake' Mass

    Many composers have been inspired by a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: "And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it" (Matthew 28:2). Franco-Flemish composer Antoine Brumel (c. 1460 – c. 1512) wrote a marvelous 12-part Mass titled Missa Et ecce terrae motus – the "Earthquake" Mass – inspired by that verse.

    A March 2011 performance of the Gloria from Brumel's "Earthquake" Mass conducted by Felix van den Hombergh in Overveen, the Netherlands.

    antjeeh YouTube
  • Bach, St. Matthew Passion

    Brumel wasn't the only one to utilize that passage from the Gospel of Matthew. In his St. Matthew Passion, Bach dispatches it rather speedily in a recitative sung by the Evangelist; here, it's tenor Christoph Prégardien in a performance led by Philippe Herreweghe with the Collegium Vocale Gent.

    Philippe Herreweghe leads this performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with Christoph Prégardien as the Evangelist.

    OedipusTyrannus YouTube
  • Haydn, Seven Last Words of Christ

    On the other hand, Haydn delighted in some real firepower in his musical detailing of that same moment in Matthew, which inspired the last movement of his Seven Last Words of Christ. Titled "Il Terremoto" — The Earthquake — it's full of vigorous, urgently repeated motifs and fiery cross-rhythms.

    Riccardo Muti leads the Filarmonica della Scala in the last movement of Haydn's 'Seven Last Words of Christ.'

    domenicolatella YouTube
  • Philip Glass, Symphony No. 5

    Taking his cue from another religious inspiration, Glass takes a text for his Symphony No. 5 in part from Sura 99 of the Qur'an, the chapter titled 'The Earthquake'.

    An excerpt from Philip Glass' Symphony No. 5.

    MrRobertOrozco YouTube