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Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-3275
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3283



If you have ever experienced the cold chill of fear when watching a film or playing a video or computer game, it is highly probable that your responses have been manipulated by composers exploiting the musical resources of modernism, experimental music and the avant-garde. Depictions of fear, horror, amorality, evil and so on, have come to be associated with these sound worlds, particularly within the realm of popular culture. A number of game titles and franchises have emerged in recent years, which exploit these musical associations, exploring their creative potential as vehicles of fear and horror within the context of interactive game-play. Two composers associated with this approach are Jason Graves (Dead Space franchise) and Garry Schyman (Bioshock franchise, Dante’s Inferno). This article explores perceived links between avant-garde music (as defined in ‘populist’ rather than musicological or historical terms, as a ‘catch-all’ phrase for twentieth-century music exploiting experimental techniques, modernism and atonality) and depictions of horror and fear through interviews with Graves and Schyman. Further questions are posed to Paul Gorman (audio director – Dante’s Inferno) and Michael Kamper (audio director – Bioshock 2) to contextualize the discussion by demonstrating the significant creative influence of audio directors in guiding the musical approach taken by game composers. The article would be of potential interest to anyone with an interest in game audio, commercial composition/composers, game development, creative collaboration, audio direction and the power of music to manipulate the emotions in association with visual media.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): avant-garde music; fear; film; game; horror; interview
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