The Sound of Suspense: What makes the music of horror films so chilling?

Halloween video screen shot of creepy shadow up the stairs

Every Wednesday night this fall, Tyler-Tallman Hall in Sloan Music Building is the scariest place on campus.

There, a clutch of senior music and film & media studies majors frequently gather to watch horror films—and call it homework. The seminar springs from the mind of Neil Lerner, professor and chair of music, and horror-film buff. From the famous “reep, reep” stabs of the “Psycho” shower scene to Kubrick’s chilling use of early 20th century composer Béla Bartók’s work, Lerner’s class, “Music and Sound in Horror Film,” focuses on the interplay of sound and image that gives horror movies the power to shock and terrify viewers.

Horror film buff and music department chair Neil Lerner takes viewers on a tour of the sounds that signal suspense and startle us into dropping our popcorn. Lerner is editor of the essay collection “Music in the Horror Film: Listening to Fear.”


  • October 31, 2019