Ryan M. Todd (aka Darklord Disco) records his Il Suono Scuro mixes using snippets of synthesizer-based soundtracks from as wide a range of films as Halloween, Suspiria, A Clockwork Orange and Crocodile Dundee. On October 29, 2014, he’ll lead a live podcast as part of Universal Cave’s ongoing “Cave Cast” series, seasonally sited at the Hamilton Mansion at Woodlands Cemetery. This Cave Cast will cover the rapid evolution of electronic music in film of the late 20th century, with a focus on horror soundtracks.
JLM: In terms of tone and mood, what are the sonic advantages of using synthesizer music? In your opinion, do these instruments offer something unique (or even better) than traditional soundtrack instrumentation for horror and suspense films?
RMT: The biggest advantage is that composers were able to write, perform, and record the music themselves. Instead of having to conduct hired musicians, the composers could just plop in front of an ARP Omni or a Roland RS-09 and do it on their own. John Carpenter, who directed Halloween (1978) and Christine (1983), among other films, also composed many of his soundtracks. He and engineer and programmer Alan Howarth could crank out exactly what kind of music he had in mind for a particular scene. The score for Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) was completed in just three days this way. In terms of tone or mood, the synthesizers’ limitations were both their biggest advantage and their biggest drawback.
JLM: What are some of their limitations?
RMT: The synthesizers of that era could not accurately replicate real-life acoustic instruments. The sounds were a cold, harsh, and distant simulacrum. So there was a quality to the music, a certain rawness that made it stand out in stark contrast against traditional film scores that featured philharmonic orchestras.
Full interview at Title Magazine, an online publication promoting discussion and critical analysis of the arts in Philadelphia.