Scary music

Emily Siff, Staff Writer

How do you know music is scary?

When the lights on the screen dim, the low bass music starts up at an irregular pace, and Hollywood’s newest monster suddenly appears, it’s pretty obvious to you that scary music is playing. But do you know this just based on visual association? Was there a point in your life when you didn’t know which music counted as ‘scary’ and which was joyful or relaxing?

The short answer is probably no. Even when there’s no image to accompany it, we naturally know which music falls under the category of ‘terrifying.’ No one teaches us We can easily glean this at any age and in any situation, even if what we’re seeing tells us otherwise. And so we roll back the title of article: How do we intrinsically know which music is scary?

The recurring factor is that scary music is based on irregularities; we naturally don’t like it when things aren’t quite right. You instinctively know that a heartbeat should have an even pace; so when you hear music that sounds similar to an evenly paced heartbeat and then slowly speeds up, the sudden increase in tempo sounds like an adrenaline spike. Your brain therefore automatically classifies that music as scary. If music goes from quieter to louder and louder and LOUDER, you know something’s coming closer. If music is constant and joyful and suddenly, there’s a pause, you suspect something is wrong. If the subsequent music that starts up is disjointed and random, you know something bad is occurring. Irregularities in tone, volume, pace, and many other aspects of music indicate to us that something’s off.

Although there are many theories, people still aren’t sure of all the reasons behind our natural association with scary music. However, the only consistent regular in scary music that we can safely point to right now and say ‘that’s the cause’ is, ironically enough, the inconsistent irregularities.


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Categories: Arts & Culture, Features, Music


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