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Symphonic Superstorms: A Puzzler

A satellite's view of Hurricane Sandy as it moves inland, Oct. 30, 2012.
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A satellite's view of Hurricane Sandy as it moves inland, Oct. 30, 2012.

Call it what you want — superstorm, Frankenstorm, post-tropical cyclone — Mother Nature dished out something freakishly fearsome with Hurricane Sandy. It claimed more than 100 lives throughout the Northeast and the Caribbean, while causing what will surely be billions of dollars of damage in the form of washed-out businesses and flood-ravaged homes. It's a history-making hurricane that, alas, will not be soon forgotten.

The overwhelming, sometimes deadly force of storms has made a big impression on composers, who have imitated Mother Nature with one of the most powerful human creations, the symphony orchestra. Over the centuries, tempests of all shapes and sizes have been depicted in music — precipitation pictured as pizzicato. Bass drums and thunder sheets (thin sheets of metal either shaken or struck with a mallet) are particularly good for stormy booms and rumbles, while sliding strings and cymbals offer effective lightning bolts.

Below are six examples of impressively vivid symphonic storms. Click on each musical maelstrom to listen, then drag it to the image of the composer who was able to do something about the weather.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.