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 Posted:   Feb 12, 2024 - 3:58 PM   
 By:   jkruppa   (Member)

I was actually just thinking of starting a thread with the title "There Must Be Something Wrong With Me" about how much I enjoy atonal music, including but not limited to horror film scores. Among my favorites:

The Hellstrom Chronicle - Lalo Schifrin. Aggressively strange music paired with intense insect imagery. I imagine seeing this on the big screen was terrifying.

The Mephisto Waltz and Alien - Jerry Goldsmith

Images - John Williams (a rare modernist score from him)

The Witch - Mark Korven (using a grandiose noise box called The Apprehension Engine)

Wolfen - the rejected score by Craig Safan

Kwaidan - Toru Takemitsu

The Shining: The Complete Score - Wendy Carlos. The more commonly available soundtrack has all the great Bartok, Ligeti and Penderecki pieces, but there's some very effective hybrid orchestral/electronic music in the complete score Carlos composed.

The Exorcist -- like the Shining, this is a compilation of modernist pieces assembled to create a chilling mood. I highly recommend seeking out the full recording of George Crumb's Black Angels, excerpted here, which is transcendently nightmarish.

I think you could even classify parts of 2001 as horror, given the music Kubrick put behind some scenes. The Ligeti pieces in particular feel cosmically and awe-inspiringly unsettling.

If you want to break away from movies altogether, go for Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima. It's hell on earth.

I think one of the things I love about this stuff is that composers could conceive of these sounds and find ways of notating them so that musicians could play them. As someone who dabbles in composition, I find that fascinating and inspiring.

 
 Posted:   Feb 12, 2024 - 4:19 PM   
 By:   DavidCorkum   (Member)

One of the earliest scores, and movies, I ever noticed as a young one was Vic Mizzy's music to The Night Walker (1964). The scene where Barbara Stanwyck is taken to a church service populated by dummies I still think is extremely eerie, Mizzy's music plays a big part in that.



And an even deeper dive is a TV movie from 1971 called Black Noon, with a creepy score by George Duning. That was about witches in the old west. Great little moody theme! But it's not in this clip. The whole movie is on YouTube, though.



Plus it's not a well know movie, but if want a creepy you can't go wrong with The Mephisto Waltz (1971) with Goldsmith's fantastic score. Here's a great take on summoning the Devil. I love the use of wind machines! This music was not on the CD.



Also, it's not a horror movie strictly speaking, but if you ever want to demonstrate what type of music you like to a new friend, don't show them the opening of Seconds (1966), with Goldsmith's stuff. They won't go near you after that!

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 12:21 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

My how we have expanded (heh heh) over the past 15 years from...
HELLRAISER
SPHERE
THE FURY
SLEEPY HOLLOW
SCREAM


Indeed. Those really were my go-to horror scores back in the day, eh? Well remembered. All of them still brilliant, btw. But it's been this weird side effect of listening to so many new scores every year in general; that way, I've also discovered many horror scores that I would otherwise not have known about.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 12:30 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Cheers folk…good to read some points.
I had a discussion with my mate about this on what makes music scary and just wanted to poise an example. A lot of folk thought the music in Kubrick’s The Shining was scary… but a lot of it is avant-garde classical selections. So when these pieces were first played in there original concert performances to an audience, did that audience come out and say the music was scary?
Anyway, i’m falling down a rabbit hole with this as everyone will have a different reaction.. but i do find it an interesting subject as i often can’t really think why I’d want to sit and listen to some of these scores..particularly the atonal, sound design stuff..but i do seem to.


I touched on some of that stuff in my thesis way back in the mid 2000s, especially in my chapter about film music and emotions. In short, there are all kinds of theories as to why we find dissonant music unsettling, and why it's so effective in films.

One theory takes its point of departure in Anzieu's coinage of a "sonorous envelope", meaning our pleasure in "reliving" the sounds we heard in the womb -- rhythms and heartbeats, for example. And then creating displeasure by creating sounds that are alien to them.

Another theory believes more in structure. We have this innate desire for structure and resolution (like the sonata form - home, away, home again); that somehow one must be returned to a tonal centre. When that doesn't come, we feel displeasure.

A third, and related, has to do with our desire for full forms, meaning completed melody lines. When that doesn't appear, when it's "choppy" and based more on building blocks (like in many Herrmann scores), we try to fill out the holes ourselves, like you do when you read a sentence with some letters left out. But it creates an "alert" state.

Many more, of course.

I've always been very fascinated by how horror scores work in context, although I rarely like to listen to them on album (with some exceptions, like mentioned above, and those exceptions take the music away from the usual gimmicks).

 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 3:50 AM   
 By:   Grimsdyke   (Member)

Guys, is this song creepy on its own or do we feel unease because we know it from THE SHINING ?

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 4:25 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

Arthur (if I may call you Arthur, Grimsdyke), I think that old crackly songs can create a sense of unease because they help recall distant times and memories almost faded. Of course, most of us aren't old enough to have actually experienced our grandparents playing those records, but it's been picked up on in many films (eg THE SHINING) to evoke that feeling of times past, of a tenuous connection to our earliest memories, and thus to our childhood fears. I wonder how many times the Bing Crosby song "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" has been used in horror films for that same goal.

Tangentially related might be why things which should be comforting, or even funny (or at least fun), such as lullabies, clowns, fairgrounds, dolls etc, are often quite terrifying.

There's a lot to be explored from Thor's post. I thought we had had a thread called something like "Why is Atonal Music Frightening?", but it may have been an article I read in print, or elsewhere online.

 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 4:53 AM   
 By:   spook   (Member)

Cheers folk…good to read some points.
I had a discussion with my mate about this on what makes music scary and just wanted to poise an example. A lot of folk thought the music in Kubrick’s The Shining was scary… but a lot of it is avant-garde classical selections. So when these pieces were first played in there original concert performances to an audience, did that audience come out and say the music was scary?
Anyway, i’m falling down a rabbit hole with this as everyone will have a different reaction.. but i do find it an interesting subject as i often can’t really think why I’d want to sit and listen to some of these scores..particularly the atonal, sound design stuff..but i do seem to.


I touched on some of that stuff in my thesis way back in the mid 2000s, especially in my chapter about film music and emotions. In short, there are all kinds of theories as to why we find dissonant music unsettling, and why it's so effective in films.

One theory takes its point of departure in Anzieu's coinage of a "sonorous envelope", meaning our pleasure in "reliving" the sounds we heard in the womb -- rhythms and heartbeats, for example. And then creating displeasure by creating sounds that are alien to them.

Another theory believes more in structure. We have this innate desire for structure and resolution (like the sonata form - home, away, home again); that somehow one must be returned to a tonal centre. When that doesn't come, we feel displeasure.

A third, and related, has to do with our desire for full forms, meaning completed melody lines. When that doesn't appear, when it's "choppy" and based more on building blocks (like in many Herrmann scores), we try to fill out the holes ourselves, like you do when you read a sentence with some letters left out. But it creates an "alert" state.

Many more, of course.

I've always been very fascinated by how horror scores work in context, although I rarely like to listen to them on album (with some exceptions, like mentioned above, and those exceptions take the music away from the usual gimmicks).


Terrific stuff Thor. Some really fascinating points about our emotional connection to sounds and what we look for. That last point you make about you finding it fascinating but rarely listening to it on its own though is always the bit i find intriguing.
I do listen to A LOT of this stuff and wonder what my attraction to it is. Is it just an interesting listen as you're looking for patterns and something to get a hook into so you're maybe more involved with the music rather than a forgettable theme on in the background?
I was listening to CANDYMAN (Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe) the other day on a set of headphones, a score i never really gave much thought to before, and i really connected with it through the whole running time. I regularly go back to SESSION 9 (Climax Golden Twins) for all its weird 'sound-design' style. God knows what I'm looking for in these things though as you wouldn't describe the listening experience as pleasant or relaxing.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 5:45 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

There's a lot to be explored from Thor's post. I thought we had had a thread called something like "Why is Atonal Music Frightening?", but it may have been an article I read in print, or elsewhere online.

Oh gosh, yes, Graham, good memory! That was one of mine, originally posted on moviemusic.com on August 30th, 2000 (25 years ago!). Then copy/pasted into FSM on October 4th the same year, when FSM went back up. Here it is:

https://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=1124&forumID=1&archive=1

Of course, that was before I studied the subject more seriously at uni, so it's all very disparate.

And spook, you have an interesting argument there, about many people finding listening pleasure in dissonant and atonal music. That's something I didn't really study, but for me, personally, it depends on what type of dissonance. Some I quite like to be absorbed in, some I can't stand at all. I love to be in Goldenthal's dissonant landscapes forever (mostly), but can't stand more than a minute in Morricone's. Go figure.

 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 6:01 AM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

Not a score per se but it has been used in various films:

Ligeti's Requiem. The scariest music I have heard, aside from maybe Crumb's Black Angels which was used in The Exorcist.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 13, 2024 - 7:20 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Ligeti's Requiem.

That IS creepy. But I have to say that the creepiest music I know of -- film music, classical and everything else combined -- is Goldenthal's PET SEMATARY. I think I've listened to it three times over 30 years, because it freaks me out too much every time. It's one of my exceptions to what I said above.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2024 - 3:52 AM   
 By:   Hurdy Gurdy   (Member)

Do you mean the lullaby melody Thor, or the riffing on the modern classical sound/style?

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2024 - 5:30 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

I mean all the bizarre instrumental effects, creepy glissando things and whatnot.

 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2024 - 1:08 PM   
 By:   spook   (Member)

I know its not your thing Thor but the Pet Semetary score was never one i appreciated on its initial release UNTIL the expansion that LLL released a while back. Its was a totally different musical listening experience for me and i loved it.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2024 - 1:13 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Well, I should specify that I think it's an AMAZING score, one of the best horror scores ever written. It's just so physically uncomfortable in the way it's conceptualized that I'm afraid of the damn thing.

 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2024 - 1:52 PM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

Ligeti's Requiem.

That IS creepy. But I have to say that the creepiest music I know of -- film music, classical and everything else combined -- is Goldenthal's PET SEMATARY. I think I've listened to it three times over 30 years, because it freaks me out too much every time. It's one of my exceptions to what I said above.


I love Goldenthal but Pet Cemetery is too derivative of Schifrin's Amityville for my taste.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2024 - 4:59 PM   
 By:   Hurdy Gurdy   (Member)

Yeah, I struggle to get past the Schifrin rip off too.
It's so on the nose.
And to think Goldenthal had the cheek to kick up a stink about Tyler Bates using 300.
Lalo could have take Goldy to the cleaners.
But he's classier than that.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2024 - 12:35 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

I've tried AMITYVILLE a few times. For me, that just results in emotionless alienation, as opposed to the total freak-out involvement I get in PET SEMATARY. So whatever simillarities there are, something else must be going on to cause this difference in reaction.

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2024 - 1:14 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

I would say The Omen and Poltergeist scores by Jerry Goldsmith are about as good as music for horror films get. Also WARLOCK and THE MEPHISTO WALTZ... just about everything he did in the genre. Morricone also did some terrific scores for horror movies, I am especially fond of EXORCIST II.
In my view the opening credits for CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) are by far the best and creepiest scene of the entire movie, in no small part because of Jonathan Elias's excellent music score.
Carpenter's HALLOWEEN III - SEASON OF THE WITCH may be my favorite Carpenter score. Along with THE FOG. And yes, Wendy Carlos' creepy electronic "Dies Irae" opening for THE SHINING.

Another of my all time favorites would be Leonard Rosenman's THE CAR.

There are some obvious "horror classics", of course, such as Waxman's BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN or Bernard Herrmann's PSYCHO, and some of the scores Donaggio wrote for De Palma are great horror scores as well. And it depends on how you define "horror movies", of course... (For example, I tend to exclude "science fiction" movies such as ALIEN or THE THING or THE FLY from "horror movies", though of course you can make a perfectly fine case for including rather than excluding them.)
One of my all time favorites I just listened to a few days ago for the first time in a while (since 2017) is DON'T LOOK NOW by Pino Donaggio. It's also one of the best horror films I've seen.
Christopher Young is also someone who reliably delivers great scores for horror movies, and sure, the two WOLFEN scores by James Horner and Craig Safan are terrific as well. And Williams' JAWS, of course, if you consider it a "horror" movie (it is listed in several "horror film encyclopedias" I have, so... it is in a wider sense)
While I can think of lots of good music for horror movies, and depending on how you define horror really a lot of scores (like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS... if you wan't to include it.)
From more recent days, I remember that I loved the score for THE WITCH by Mark Korven from the movie, though I don't actually have it in my collection. I just added it to my Qobuz favorites to remember listening to it some time on its own.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2024 - 1:31 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

I know its not your thing Thor but the Pet Semetary score was never one i appreciated on its initial release UNTIL the expansion that LLL released a while back. Its was a totally different musical listening experience for me and i loved it.

Seems to me you are talking about the soundtrack. How was the score in the film?

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2024 - 1:48 PM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Seems to me you are talking about the soundtrack. How was the score in the film?

The film is very uneven (although a lot better than the recent remake) -- 90% of its effect comes from Goldenthal's score alone, treating the proceeedings with far more menace than it deserves.

 
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