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Sounds Like Halloween


Family "Listening" Fun

What does Halloween sound like? Ask your kids, and they'll probably come up with a rapid list of eerie sounds they associate with Halloween. You can explore principles of the Movie Music science project with students of all ages. If you want to separate the music from the movie, you might gather instrumental music samples that each have a different "feeling" (e.g., happy, scary, hopeful). Listening to these kinds of tracks and categorizing them by sound can help all of you "tune in" to what you're hearing! Need some "scary" scores? Get your glow sticks ready, huddle under the blankets, and sample a few from the list at left. (Note: It may be best to do this during daylight hours with younger students! You can also try the same listening experiment with other, non-scary types of music.)


From public haunted houses to dark and spooky neighborhood garages opened up for a ghoulish Halloween walkthrough, a big part of the "scare" factor involves your ears. What you hear may be as important in creating a scary experience as what might jump out at you or tickle your neck. Indeed, part of what makes a haunted house perfectly eerie is the soundtrack that goes along with it—all the noises orchestrated to raise the hair on your arms, make you shiver, and leave you with little doubt that there are things unknown lurking around you.


The same is true at the movies! The music that goes along with high and low points in a movie differs based on the genre or kind of movie and on the emotion or context of the scene. Put the music from the opening of an animated film in place of the music for an intense moment in a thriller, and the effect of the scene might be totally different.


Put It to the Test

Whether you are gathering sounds for your own haunted walkthrough or hoping to keep the season alive after the jack-o-lanterns have all been tossed, the Movie Music project can turn a fascination with eerie sounds into a science exploration—one that could carry you right into the next season! What goes into the composition of a perfect thriller soundtrack? Is there a formula? What instruments are common to music used with different kinds of scenes or movies? What key? What tempo? Do the scales rise or fall?

Gather some samples from various genres of movies, and see what you can find out about the importance of the backtrack in the success of various types of films. When you tune in and really "listen" to what you are seeing on the screen, you might be surprised at how important the music is!

The following list contains links to a number of creepy, classical and movie tracks to help get you started thinking about the similarities of "scary" music, the kind of music you might hear in a suspense or mystery movie:

Happy listening!

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Your Science!
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