A Primer on Horror and Sci-Fi Sound Design


Did Walter Murch have the coolest job ever?

Boston’s WZBC graced us with an incredible run-down of the history of sound design in horror and sci-fi films last Friday — in the spooky spirit of this wicked weekend, I’m linking to the whole thing at the station’s online archive. “Film sound has surpassed the innovations of picture,” says guru Brian Carpenter, veteran Boston composer and bandleader of the sprawling group Beat Circus.

He spends the next three hours with friends Mike Frengel (a PhD in electroacoustic music composition, faculty member at Northeastern University and the Boston Conservatory) and local filmmaker Michael Neel (“I’m working on a web series — it’s Santa Claus fighting mutants in the year 8000”). We check out not just soundtracks by well-known composers (Morricone, Hermann, etc..,), but also get a careful tour of creepy sound effects and foley work by go-to sound designers of great directors. You get lots of uncomfortable clips from the likes of The Exorcist, Blue Velvet, Alien, Psycho, and lots more.

Carpenter also peppers in clips from interviews with classic sound guys like Walter Murch (THX-1000, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation) and NYU professor Steven Jay Schneider (author of Dark Thoughts: Philosophic Reflections on Cinematic Horror).

The Sound Of Horror: Sound Design in Horror and Science Fiction Films on WZBC
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Get this — stream it, download it, put it on an iPod for a long drive down a dark, stormy road. Great conversation.

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