Happy Halloween! For the rest of today we'll be celebrating one of our favorite holidays by posting the sorts of things that make sense for this gloriously spook-ified day. Some new, some old, but all of it worth checking out.
PBS Digital Studio’s It’s Okay to Be Smart series recently asked the question: “Why are sounds scary?” For science n00bs like us, this is a great video, because it delves into the nitty gritty of our grey matter in a way that’s totally understandable. There are certain sounds and responses to sound that are essentially hardwired into our brain — like our “startle reflex.” Another example would be animal noises or what are called “nonlinear” sounds. These noise frequencies, which include animal calls, trigger danger signals inside our brains. We instinctually react to the distressing tones, which is why horror cinema has utilized these noises for decades.
Using Hitchcock’s The Birds as an example, which you can listen to in the below clip, our PBS narrator explains that sound department production and composition artist Oskar Sala used an instrument called a trautonium to re-create nonlinear/bird noises in Hitch’s film. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this little clip we spotted on Filmmaker IQ, so go forth, cover your ears (just a little), and learn about the science of fear.
Be sure to visit the actual YouTube page for more links and examples of frightening sounds.
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