Season 2 | Episode 1: "Frightening"
Welcome to the second season of Zeugma, the podcast hosted by the Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. In the season's first episode, Frightening, producer Michael Roberts looks at the role of sound in horror films. We start off with live footage from two horror film conventions, where participants describe their favorite horror sounds and the effects these sounds have on them. Next is an interview with Spencer Hickman, founder and head of Death Waltz Records, a label dedicated to pressing old horror movie soundtracks to vinyl. We conclude the episode with a review and discussion of the film Berberian Sound Studio, in which a sound engineer loses his mind over a horror film production. All of these segments engage the question what it is about certain sounds that at once chills our bones and at the same time draws us to them.
Image credit: Monday Morning Defragmentation by Petras Gagilas
Episode Producer: Michael Roberts
Halloween is just around the corner. This makes a perfect opportunity for Michael Roberts to delve into some issues of personal as well as academic interest: screams and howls, breaking bones and ominous low chords. In short, the sounds of horror. Michael notes the special role sound plays in horror movies and considers the way films draw on and audiences relate to them.
To get an overview of the topic, Michael interviews fans at Housecore Horror Film Festival as well as Fantastic Fest, two Austin-based film festivals. In addition to sending chills down your spine, the responses open up the complex ways in which sound in horror movies relates to the audience's sense of embodiment.
Next, we were able to get Spencer Hickman, the head behind Death Waltz Records, on the phone for an interview about his record label, his investment in horror movie soundtracks and the kind of people that buy the scores to these films on vinyl. Hickman gives an overview of the kinds of score his company publishes, their place as cultural artifacts and their relationships to the movies they were created for.
Finally, Jake Cowan and Michael Roberts discuss the film Berberian Sound System. This production consciously foregrounds the connection of sound, fear, and violence by presenting a sound engineer as its protagonist. After being hired to do sound effects for an Italian horror film, the engineer slowly descends into madness. Michael and Jake read Berberian Sound System as a meta-commentary on the way movies alter the viewer's perception of reality and the immediacy with which sound (or the absence of sound) can achieve this.