For a long time I have been fascinated by Psychological horror and how it manages to unnerve me. Going by a philosophy that "The purpose of art is to crete an emotion inside the viewer", I decided that I should try to make music sound scary or at least a bit unseteling/unnerving (these all can be considered scary in my oppinion) I read quite a bit on this subject and I'm still searching. There could be a few core things to make music "scary" that I'm considering (but honestly a lot more things probably come into play). Here's a few I'm going to be adressing.
- The sound design.
- The musical arrangement.
- The story.
So lets Tackle the first issue, the sound design, in theory we are we humans as a species are afraid of numerous things, but its all rather subjective (it alwas is). What seems scary to one may be only laughable to another. But that doesn't mean we don't have any fears that we share in common. We are probably afraid of demise... simply put things that put an end to something we cherish, it doesn't always have to be life (but in media especially movies thats almost always the case, and its someting we all grieve about), we are afraid of some parts of reality, loud thunder still sends chills down on quite a lot of peoples spines (its not fear per-say but oftenly its an unsettling emotion), gunshots and screams alarm us... But why? Well because it makes us aware of a possible danger, or an unseteling outcome. So irregular patterns in sound as in screams, sirens, gunshots, static force us to listen because those sounds are oftenly associated with bad outcomes. In one article there was a statement saying that animal oftenly use irregular shrieks/sygnals as warnings. So in theory sounds that try to warn us of a bad outcome tend to make us alarmed, and thats only natural. How does that translate into Sound design of our trusty Caustic synthesizers? Well it doesn't do the job well on its own, but it should, right? Yes but only once they are used in a correct manner. The repeating sounds of sirens that graduily get louder will probably add more of a warning sign, then ones that come and go in an unreglar pattern (but that can also work of handled properly). Don't rely on these sounds to make your song scary, sometimes less is more, right? Well yes and also no. "without darkness there is no light" (and vise-versa), I mentioned before that we are afraid of things that put an end to something we cherish, so in music that something can be a beutyful piano melody, or a synthy lead that makes you smile, with those getting interrupted or put to dissaray by allarming sounds will provide a much bigger effect, the tricky part will be going foreward to when "that" goes off, you can try continuing the melody before, or maybe completely putting up a new one surprising the listener and probably shking their expectations. Aaah So Its a Jumpscare but only In music! Well... Jumpscares are iconic by putting suspense at the beggining by making everything qiuet (I'll provide information on why that works also) but having jumpscares in music is like a cheap excuse to not dive deeper into the abyss of horror (as I mentioned there are multiple things that go into this). Its a good tool but you don't need to rely on only that to get the job done, theres a lot more that good pacing coupled with that little subtle stutter of the melody can do. Atmosphere can be a hell your listener won't leave for a full 3 minutes, don't throw that possibility for a minute of a surpise factor. Another point I would like to adress is unfamiliar sounds, so far I was talikng about alarms and how those work, but unfamilar sounds like reversed ones, or glitched and bitcrushed up noise can work just as fine, its sounds we don't normally experience.
*Why does no sound is an equivalent to suspense? Because naturally in our enviroments theres tons of sound, and we oftenly don't experience pure silence, theres always something: the wind that rustles the leaves, our humming fridge, birds, traffic, sound of rain hitting the window. So in return pure silence is sadly kind of a rarety nowadays, knowing that everything has stopped kinda endangers our normal everyday life... That kind of translates to suspense in a way, that we are put in an unfamilar enviroment. Try to leave a listener with abrupt silences after cutting of in a midle of a melody.
Now go ahead Take a sip of coffe or some tea. ^^ Maybe You'll notice some sounds that alarm you.