Scary movie scores mimic sounds that naturally set people on edge

November 27th, 2010 - 5:38 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Nov 27 (ANI): A new research has found that the musical scores accompanying classic Hollywood horror and drama films tend to imitate sounds that naturally set people on edge.

Such music cues may resemble fuzzy static noise or even screams, said Daniel Blumstein, of the University of California.

Blumstein had a hunch about non-linear sounds, which can occur when a sound system pushes its limit and the sounds begin to break down - similar to when a stereo is turned up too loud or a singer pushes beyond his or her vocal range, reports Live Science.

Animals such as marmots (groundhogs) will use nonlinear sounds to grab attention, such as making fearful alarm calls that warn about possible predators.

“I don’t think any composers were saying, ‘Let’s put nonlinearities in.’ But they were tapping into people’s inner marmot,” said Blumstein.

Composers have a lot of musical instruments at their disposal to imitate nonlinear vocals, Blumstein and colleagues pointed out.

Besides the strained strings, there are also overblown brass or wind instruments and inharmonic, noisy sounds created by percussion such as gongs and cymbals.

Blumstein and his colleagues focused on 30-second iconographic scenes from 102 films that covered genres such as horror, drama, war and adventure.

They used computer programs to analyze the spectrograms of the film soundtracks showing frequencies of sounds over time and create a visual tapestry of the sounds. That allowed them to pick out the distinct patterns of nonlinear sounds whenever they appeared.

“For horror films, there were more screams and noise.

“For sad, dramatic scenes in dramas, there were more above-frequency transitions such as violin notes changing very quickly,” he said.

Dramas also used more music in the foreground that often included many instruments playing slightly different notes - a way of imitating subharmonic sounds that fit the nonlinear pattern. (ANI)

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