Document Type

Capstone Project (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


Music & Performing Arts


Music and Recording Technology

First Advisor

Jeffrey A. Jones

Second Advisor

Lanier Sammons


Horror films often rely heavily on their music to create a tense and frightening experience for their audience, and it is the composer's job to write a score that satisfies that requirement. Throughout film history, the methods composers utilize to achieve that goal differ across time due to various factors including available technology, allotted budget, and the norms and expectations of films at the time. This capstone paper explores the different approaches composers employed in writing horror soundtracks from the early 20th century to the modern-day, noting any significant shifts and common themes found in the music of popular horror themes. By examining several notable films in the horror genre, it can ultimately be seen that composers of horror films often emulate successes of the past, creating a number of tropes common in horror cinema. It is the way these musical tropes are utilized and subverted that establishes a sense of fear in the audience.