Ave Satani: diabolic essence of The Omen theme song
The Omen film poster
Ave Satani is a choral work written by the prolific American composer Jerry Goldsmith for the 1976 supernatural horror film The Omen directed by Richard Donner. The film score was warmly received by critics and earned Goldsmith his only Academy Award for the Best Original Score, as well as a nomination for the Best Original Song for Ave Satani.
The main storyline of The Omen revolves around the accession of the Antichrist in the form of a little boy who was illegally adopted by a married couple in exchange for their baby who died in childbirth. As the child grows up, the father, played by Gregory Peck, receives ominous messages about the true purpose of his foster son Damien and tries to investigate the secret of his birth. However, the chain of horrifying events leads to the death of both adoptive parents and unleashes Damien's power, who is revealed to be the son of Satan.
To reflect the Mephistophelian themes of the film, Goldsmith conceived his Ave Satani in the form of a Gregorian-chant-like Black Mass where the lyrics of the essential Latin Mass are inverted—the name of Christ is replaced with that of the Antichrist. The harmony of Ave Satani (meaning Hail Satan) is filled with irresolvable musical dissonances that give the listener goosebumps and conjure emotional distress. Here, the musical interval tritone is heavily used—a strong dissonance that musical literature often characterizes with the epithet diabolic, referring to it as "the devil's interval" or diabolus in musica.
Listen to Jerry Goldsmith's Ave Satani performed by Lionel Newman with National Philharmonic Orchestra:
Goldsmith wrote Ave Satani lyrics in collaboration with his friend, who was a London choir-master and knew Latin well. At the same time, the Latin text ended up containing a number of errors, including the title—the correct Latin form for Hail Satan would be Avē Satana.