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The Kid Should See This

Nine “horrifying” musical instruments and their spine-tingling sounds

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How are scary sounds and foreboding music created for movies and television shows? Ask Toronto-based composer Mark Korven. He specializes in producing disturbing, suspenseful, and sometimes horrifying compositions and sounds for horror films.

This article was created thanks to a topic request by a TKSST Member.

In the video above, Korven demonstrates what he calls The Terrible Nine, his collection of unusual musical instruments and sound generators “to keep you up at night.”

The macabre ensemble includes the atmospheric Apprehension Engine, a one-of-a-kind invention created by guitar maker Tony Duggan-Smith.

the apprehension machine
There’s also the brittle creaking tones of the Hurdy Gurdy. The Swedish Nyckelharpa adds a folkloric charm. The frame drum’s beats and the accordion’s bellows-driven harmonies provide contrasting textures.


The croaking of the Balinese Friction Frog and even an everyday item like an ironing board play a role in this spine-tingling orchestra.

Boom whacker tubes can introduce deep haunting tones, and the waterphone makes eerie sounds that echo across the air. Together, these nine elements create a sonic experience like no other.

waterphone and hurdy gurdy
The Great Big Story video below, Sounds of the Nightmare Machine, shares a more conversational introduction to the Apprehension Engine, Korven’s bespoke sound machine.

A few brief and minimal horror film scenes are included to demonstrate his compositions; please review as needed.


apprehension machine
Then watch these related videos next:
β€’Β The Waterphone, an inharmonic, otherworldly instrument
β€’ What sound effects can you make at the hardware store?
β€’ Music in Objects: Bicycles, paper, & oats make new songs
β€’Β The Sea Pig – Songs for Unusual Creatures
β€’Β The Tenant (O Inquilino): The journey of a soap bubble

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