Why can violins sound so scary

Horror in the cinemaThe Sound the anxiety

Sometimes just a single sound is enough - and we nervously nibble on fingernails, tremble with fear and want to crawl deep under the covers. Horror movies play with it. The makers know exactly which sound they have to hit in order for us to break out in a sweat.

Worst of all are the marmots. But also foxes, certain bird species and even meerkats are animal diseases. Yes, when one of these cute animals squeaks in fear and gives shrill screams, it's pure horror for us. The US biologist Daniel Blumstein found this out when he held a cute baby marmot in his hands for a research project.

"I held it carefully, but then the groundhog screamed and I almost dropped it. Normally, animal noises don't touch me that much, so why was I so scared? It was the scream."
Daniel Blumstein, biologist, on his marmot experience

The cries of the animals, these sound patterns, are what Daniel Blumstein calls non-linear noises. These are overdriven or distorted tones, often with high frequencies, that appear unexpectedly and suddenly - a bit like the screams of animal or human babies. Babies in danger - this triggers pure fear reflexes in us. Hollywood knows that.

From "Psycho" to "Jurassic World"

Favorite example: The old horror master Alfred Hitchcock had violins played in his "Psycho" for the murder scene in the shower. In high notes, without harmony, dissonant. The instruments sounded almost like screams. This is music inspired by marmots, says biologist Blumstein. That this also works with other animal noises has only just been proven again by "Jurassic World" with a distorted lion roar as a T-Rex battle cry.

"Why shouldn't what we find in so many species of animals also work for humans? Anyway, there are people in the film industry who make a lot more money than I do and who capitalize on it."
Daniel Blumstein, biologist, on the sound of fear

We don't just get extreme horror from the sounds of animals. Really scary: infrasound. This bass is so deep that we can no longer hear it. We only feel vibrations in our rib cage when it is particularly loud.

No music for the faint of heart

British researchers conducted an experiment in 2003: people who like certain music like it even more with infrasound. If you don't like it, you even hate it. And every fifth person even experiences anxiety, discomfort or nausea. Let the horror begin.

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