TNB Night Owl – Music For Nightmares

Mark Korven in costume during a live performance on the Apprehension Engine.
Mark Korven in costume during a live performance on the Apprehension Engine. Image captured by the News Blender.

Carefully chosen music can create the right mood in any given situation. For a dinner party with sophisticated wealthy blue bloods, you might want classical music playing softly in the background. A romantic candlelight dinner for two with someone special may best be served with torch songs. At the other end of the spectrum, a pre-game pizza party with all your friends from work cries out for classic rock or whatever upbeat sounds they like.

Music works that way for movies, too. Action movies feature fast-paced soundtracks that pull you into the adventure. Tunes for a comedy are lighthearted, maybe even playful. But for horror movies, you need… a certain something else.

That certain something else must evoke the stuff of nightmares. First it elicits apprehension, then an undefined foreboding that slowly builds into an unrelenting sense of dread. It’s a series of chords and percussion sounds which stir and emote the primal instincts, bringing an uneasy disquiet to the scene, yet subtle enough to not be as noticeable as the increase in your heart rate or the hair on the back of your neck standing up.

“Sounds of the Nightmare Machine” (3:07):

Canadian Mark Korven is a composer who scores music for television and film. He has dozens of projects to his credit but he’s known for his work on the horror films Cube (1997), The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019). Prior to his groundbreaking work on The Witch and The Lighthouse, Korven took note of the fact that horror movie soundtracks were becoming generic, repetitive, and too familiar to moviegoers. Part of the problem was the sounds were digitized and sold as convenient packages or kits that were being reused over and over to the point that all horror movies were beginning to sound the same. The packaged sounds were becoming ineffective. Korven wanted a sound that was organic. He envisioned an analog musical instrument that he called the Apprehension Engine.

“Horror Musical Instrument – The Apprehension Engine” (3:50):

Korven asked his friend Tony Duggan-Smith, a professional luthier to build the instrument for him. After the success of the first Apprehension Engine, Duggan-Smith was building a version for the general public, although at this time they appear to be sold out.

“The Apprehension Engine – Horror Suite Part 2” (4:59):

“How composer Mark Korven created the incredibly eerie sound for The Lighthouse” (15:06):

Music for nightmares is a different kind of music, but it is definitely music. Every genre of music draws emotions of one sort or another out of the human soul. It’s fair to say then that any and all sound which results in an emotional response is justly defined as music, and the music for nightmares is the perfect soundtrack to go with screams.

Pass the popcorn, please.

Question of the Night: Are you a fan of scary/horror movies, and if so, which is your favorite?

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
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