The sound of fear: Movie music for a scarifying Halloween – Chicago Tribune
Second year of college, I shared a mouse-ridden rental house way, way off campus with a rotating cast of drama department undergraduates interested in film music and, I suppose, in getting freaked out in a relatively safe environment.
Late one night, somebody turned the living room lights off and turned on the motion picture soundtrack album of â2001: A Space Odyssey.â This was around Halloween. The music cued up was Gyorgy Ligeti’s âRequiem,â first heard in the film when the astronauts on the moon approach the baffling obelisk.
Itâs the most intense and disturbing stuff. How long could we actually stand it? All those intense, bizarre choral passages, all that unsettling grief evoking the worst of 20th century humanity. At some point somebody screamed in a mock-theatrical way (mock theatrics: hallmark of the undergraduate theater major), turned the record player off and went to bed. We all did. I donât think I slept very well. The sounds of fear floated through my subconscious, and who knows what dreams were dreamt that night.
Monday at 10 p.m. on WFMT-FM (98.7), Iâm hosting âThe Film Score: Music for Halloween.â If you canât wait, hereâs the entire program in advance. Putting the program together with associate producer Michael San Gabino, it became clear that finding the right, varied hourâs worth of tension-inducing movie music composed for an array of horror, thriller, science-fiction and supernatural tales meant, in effect, freaking out, over and over, in the safe but claustrophobic confines of a recording studio. It was like college all over again.
We learned a lot. Too much of the same style of sonic fear, offering too many aural jump scares, grows tedious in a hurry. So we went for intimations of dread instead â music written to spellbind, subtly, as much as terrorize. âThe Film Score: Music for Halloweenâ offers fresh material composed for a heartening number of contemporary thrillers and ghost stories: âGet Out,â âThe Witchâ and âA Ghost Story.â
Other composers, other films, you may know already. The roster includes Bernard Herrmannâs âPsycho,â Jerry Goldsmithâs âAlienâ (weâre featuring both the release and rescored alternate versions of the main title theme), Danny Elfmanâs âBeetlejuice,â a death waltz from the band Goblin for âSuspiria,â a little mountainside driving music from âThe Shiningâ by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, Philip Glassâ âCandyman,â John Williamsâ quietest, eeriest passage from “Jaws,â the âPassacaglia for Orchestraâ from Franz Waxmanâs âSorry, Wrong Number.â Plus youâll hear a berserk fragment of Lalo Schifrin unused score for âThe Exorcist.â Sixty-four seconds of that will curl everything youâve got.
Whatâs your favorite scary movie music? Iâd love to hear it. Let me know. Iâm a tough guy. I mean, I almost got through the âRequiemâ heard in â2001â that Halloween night back in 1979, before I turned it off and fled.
âThe Film Score: Music for Halloweenâ airs at 10 p.m. Monday on WFMT-FM (98.7).
Michael Phillips is the Chicago Tribuneâs film critic.