Hey music fans! Stereo Mike here, ready to rock you with the first of many blog posts.
So, just to introduce myself,
I’m Mike and I love my audio gear. However, for me, it’s the music that counts! That’s why I wanted to give my input on the iFi blog. So that music lovers, just like myself, can read more of a music related blog post or two … Or ten.
And now I’m here, and it’s a dream come true. My very own blog where I can share my thoughts and feelings about the latest music tech. Until I got a phone call last week from the bods high up:
“Mike, we… er… need you to write a blog post about scary music that ties into Halloween.”
I’ve gotta admit, pumpkins aren’t my thing, but I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. So, I dug deep and have produced a bag full of facts about how music and sound effects are used to scare the … out of us, whether in a film or pumping out of our stereo speakers.
The perfect music for the perfect scare
There are lots of ways music makes the hairs on the back of our necks stand up but let’s start with an absolute stone-cold classic.
Man, what a film, what a musical score but most of all, how scary is Psycho?
The answer is very, not only because of the clever way it’s shot (Hitchcock is a genius after all), but the biggest fright comes through the music.
I don’t wanna ramble on, so we’ll cut to the chase, and the most memorable part of the film – the murder scene.
The high-pitched screech of the violins in this scene is one of the most memorable moments in cinema history, without the music, this scene is nothing. The music makes your teeth stand on edge, makes your breath catch in your throat and is enough to make the most ardent ‘tough guy’ hide behind a cushion.
It’s so simple, yet the music sounds like a scream and sticks with us long after the film is over – and I bet it was the first thing you thought when I mentioned the film title at the start.
Even Hitchcock himself said of Psycho: “33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”
The power and creepiness it adds to the film is spine-tingling. However, we don’t have all day to talk about it (and I could, I really could, but I’ve been told I get no shortbread with my afternoon cuppa if I do).
So, with that in mind, let’s talk about…
Just thinking about it is enough to make your hair stand on end.
As soon as you hear the slow build-up of the infamous ‘duh-duh’ your heart almost stops. The way it builds from a slow start and gradually quickens is intoxicating. For me, it’s not about the climax at the end, it’s all in the anticipation and that’s what the music in Jaws does better than any other.
You know what’s coming, but you can’t escape it – the perfect score for what is about to happen on screen.
They may have needed a bigger boat, but they didn’t need a bigger boatload of suspense.
John Williams, what a genius!
Did you know that when the first cut of Halloween was first shown to a test audience, they hated it?
They didn’t find it terrifying at all.
Because it didn’t include John Carpenters notorious film score.
So, how did he achieve this?
Well, he took a 5/4 rhyme from a bongo drum and transferred it to the piano.
Suddenly the score became scary due to the strange off-beat rhythm. The music appears many times throughout the movie, adding a sense of dread and anticipation that Michael Myers may show up at any time.
He doesn’t, but the music puts you on edge every time you hear it then – BANG!
Without the music, the sense of dread is diminished and the scare falters because it’s just a random guy in a boiler suit.
The perfect score to build dread for the perfect scare.
Friday the 13th
Jason Voorhees, the psycho in the hockey mask, has never felt scary to me. I don’t find his whole look something to be frightened about (Michael Myers’ mask in Halloween is a hell of a lot more effective).
However, the sound effects in Friday the 13th are what work for me.
What am I talking about?
The ‘ch-ch-ch-kah-kah-kah’ sound effects.
This simple piece of music is insanely effective because it sounds like somebody breathing down your neck (well, somebody with breathing difficulties maybe) and when you see what Jason looks like under the mask, you get the sense this is how he breathes.
It helps build up to the scare, which is a million times more effective than how the actual character looks.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller
Okay, moving away from movies, there’s nothing creepier than Michael Jackson’s classic, Thriller.
Yes, the lyrics are creepy and the video – Christ, I shake every time I think about it.
But the sound effects used in this song are eerie and scary as hell.
From the sound of the creaking door, footsteps, howls and maniacal laugh by Vincent Price at the finish, it all fits in perfectly – and with Michael Jackson’s superb musicality, it’s no wonder it’s the most watched music video of all time.
The music, choreography and sound effects come together to make the perfect pop song that’s freakishly frightening.
So, there you have it. A little list of my favourite musical scares and I haven’t even touched on The Exorcist.