The Music that Gets Us

Opening today at Seattle’s Experience Music Project is an exhibit called Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film. It promises to be a very interesting look at the role horror plays in our human experience.

Fun stuff to do there:

  • A scream booth, were you scream on cue as you watch horror footage in a soundproof booth.
  • Shadow monsters, where you watch your projected shadow morph into a monster.
  • And (appropriately, given the venue) an exploration of music and scoring techniques used to stir up suspense, dread and terror!

Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about today…the music that gets you.

Music in a horror film can scare the viewer as much as the images that it’s set to.  Don’t believe me? Just ask my mom. I regularly tormented her with Tubular Bells (AKA The Exorcist theme) when I was in Jr. High.  >:)

For her, The Exorcist was the scariest film she’d ever seen. I think partly because when it came out, it was visually and thematically(?) ahead of its time.  I just thought the song was cool. For me, the music didn’t hold the same meaning as it did for her.  At that point in time I had never seen the movie, I’d only read the book, which did not scare me, by the way.

So, what’s the song that does it for me? Mrs. Aylwood’s music box in the movie Watcher in the Woods.

If you know me, you know that I can hardly type the words Watcher in the Woods without having a mini-panic attack. 😉 I *think* it may have been the first scary movie I ever saw as a kid, and it has stuck with me BIG time.

Anyway, that movie kicked off my obsession with music boxes. I began collecting them sometime around my 12th birthday (that’s a few of them above). I think it was part of that push/pull fascination that we have with the things that frighten us.

I have a very vivid memory of trying clothes on in a thrift store once and hearing, from a cross the store, someone open up a music box that I swore played the very song that frightened me so much. Needless to say I fled the dressing room and the store pretty quickly.

However, after that incident,  I started going to thrift stores myself and opening miscellaneous music boxes—you know, sort of daring myself to do it—to see if I’d ever come across *that* song again. But I didn’t. What I did come across, though, was an assortment of other hauntingly beautiful music box songs.

I’d imagine who the previous owners were (little girls mostly, I figured) speculate on who’d given the music boxes to them,  and wonder why they were now on the shelves of dirty thrift stores and not on their dressers or in their keepsake boxes.

At home, I’d break open the ones I bought to see the inner workings, to watch the cogs turn and the music come out. It can be quite mesmerizing. I’d even experiment with putting them on different surfaces, to change the tone and the volume. Sometimes I’d turn them all on and let them play together—a crazy mish-mesh of tinkling.

So, how about you? Any scary songs/music from a movie that  gets you every time?


4 thoughts on “The Music that Gets Us

  1. That exhibition sounds really interesting. Are you gonna go?

    The music from Jaws. It still gets me every time. Even in the pool with the kids all it takes is that duh-nuh…duh-nuh…duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh to get my heart rate up. Yeah, my brats have a blast with it.

  2. Oh, yeah. Jaws is another good one! I know that lots of people feel the same way on that one.

    No, I probably won’t go. No one to go with 😦 No one in my RL shares my passion and my kidlets are too young.

  3. The exibition sounds wonderful! Man, I wish I could go. 😀

    Scary music? Even though Jaws is up there for me, I must say that scary chant from THE OMEN. Wow. :-/

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