Scary Reading Music

Do you listen to music while you read? I asked that question on my Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/paperbacksandpugs) a while back, and was surprised to learn that most people don’t. Generally, it was agreed that complete silence was the best condition to enjoy a book.

I agree up to a point, but I also think that music can enhance your reading enjoyment, particularly horror.

I started listening to music whilst reading when I was a teenager. Inexplicably, my soundtrack of choice for reading my sleazy little Shaun Hutson books was James Horner’s Braveheart soundtrack. I kid you not! I used to program the cd (yup, this was the 90s) to skip the songs from the battle sequences, and found that the rather melancholy music actually added to the thoroughly downbeat atmosphere that Hutson was so adept at creating.

Don’t believe me? That’s understandable, but check it out and see what I mean.

Wow, just listening to that gives me great pangs of nostalgia, of sitting in my bedroom reading scary books, that soundtrack on an endless loop.

What I look for in reading music is probably a consistency of mood. You don’t want anything that’s going to surprise you too much. It should be background music that occasionally nudges itself into the foreground at just the right moment. It’s surprising how often you’ll find the words and the music perfectly sync up, and when it does, it can be magical. It can also go horribly wrong, but that’s just life, y’know?

So here’s a few suggestions from me for good music to listen to next time you’re reading something spooky. Give it a try, or don’t, I guess I’ll never know if you do or not. But I hope some of you do.

The soundtracks to both of the modern day Fly movies are terrific, some of the best modern horror scores. They are both fairly dramatic in parts, and I find they work best with a book that has quite a lot going on. I read a lot of Stephen King’s IT to these soundtracks and found it fit well, with the mix of melancholy, drama and chills perfectly suiting a book that is thematically all over the place.

Colin Towns’ soundtrack for the rare tv movie Full Circle is a masterclass of sustained dread, with it’s gently burbling synths and sinister piano motifs. I find it works very well with a good old fashioned ghost story, perhaps some MR James.

Goblin, Dario Argento’s house band, are the perfect band to listen to while reading a real nasty old paperback. Authors like James Herbert, Shaun Hutson and Nick Sharman were releasing some pretty depraved stuff in the early 80s, around the time that horror videos were being banned by the UK government. As Goblin soundtracked several of these films, their brand of powerful synth-heavy prog goes just nicely with the graphic carnage of true pulp horror.

One final one for now, and it’s the legendary John Carpenter. Nah, not the Halloween soundtrack, that’s simply too iconic and difficult to divorce from the movie. Instead, try out his score for The Fog next time you’re reading some HP Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith. There’s a real feeling of mystery and dread about the score that creates the perfect background for the unknowable, indescribable cosmic horror of these two authors.

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2 Responses to Scary Reading Music

  1. lysette says:

    At home my partner is often playing piano -modern classical so it’s actually the same music used in movies like Shostakovitch or Ligotti and he’ll occasionally riff on some Goblin- but when I try to read as he plays my mind trips like a record, repeating sentences. I’ve never considered intentionally listening to music while I read which is also funny cause I find radio plays and theatre are so much better with underscoring too. I’m totally going to try this! Great suggestions, though I might take a pass on the Braveheart soundtrack, the bagpipes probably resonate with the Scot in you more than me 😉

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  2. Yeah, Braveheart is a real wild card here. I tried reading to Ligotti, Penderecki and things like that, but it’s TOO much, overpowers the words, if that makes any sense. Droning electro is where it’s at! At the moment, I’m listening to Umberto’s new album and this guy –

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