Behind the Monster Music: Why Some Tunes Scare Us

17:05 minutes

The scariest parts of a horror film aren’t always the slashers or blood-sucking vampires—the shrieking violins and rumbling basslines of the music can be enough to get our pulses racing. Why do our brains perceive a certain combination of notes as spooky? Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin and Jim DeRogatis, music critic and co-host of Sound Opinions, spin their spookiest song selections and discuss the neuroscience behind these terrifying tunes.

We asked DeRogatis and our social media followers to name songs that give them the creeps. Here’s what they shared:

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Segment Guests

Daniel Levitin

Daniel Levitin is author of This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of Human Obsession (Plume, 2006) and the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Jim DeRogatis

Jim DeRogatis is co-host of Sound Opinions and music blogger at WBEZ in Chicago, Illinois.

Meet the Producer

About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim was a senior producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

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