Culture, Biology Make Scary Music Spooky

Over the centuries, so much concert, opera and film music has been written to depict the dark side.

WABE’s Lois Reitzes sat down with WABE film music contributor and host of “Strike Up the Band” Scott Stewart to talk about what it is that makes scary music so scary.

Stewart brought in examples of music ranging from Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” to the iconic theme from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

“While I would argue that much of what we understand to be ‘scary’ is a result of cultural training,” Stewart says, “there is some research that suggests that some frightening sounds are biological. These outbursts trigger emotional responses in humans.  Hollywood composers have been capitalizing on the combination of these disturbing sounds and the on-screen images of suspense and horror for over 100 years.”