October is the time for scary music. This year I decided to pass up the standard classical titles (Danse Macabre, Night on Bald Mountain, Bach's Toccata, or even In the Hall of the Mountain King). I skipped over the classic TV themes (Addams Family, Munsters, Twilight Zone, X Files Theme, and Dr. Who). I didn't check on the musicals (Rocky Horror, Sweeney Todd, or Little Shop of Horrors). I started looking for something different and ended up in film music. Not recent flicks, but titles from when film music was a special effect and horror films didn't have to show everything on the screen. And I discovered some great scary music.
Back in the early 1940s, Hans J. Salter wrote scores for several scary films, including Man Made Monster (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), and Son of Dracula (1943), while Frank Skinner wrote the score for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942). All of these were from the Universal Studio.
The mid-1940s was a wonderful time for film noir and psychological thrillers. 1945 saw the release of Spellbound, a classic Hitchcock thriller with music by Miklos Rozsa, and a sheet music piano version that many pianists played in the 40s and 50s. The film noir Hangover Square was also released in 1945, with a score by Bernard Hermann. 1947 brought the film noir Possessed, with a score by Franz Waxman. These are legendary film composers who were legitimate classical composers in their own right.
I don't want to forget the other wonderful scores to Hitchcock films, many by Bernard Hermann: Vertigo, Marnie, North by Northwest, The Trouble with Harry, Psycho...
And I discovered Richard Addinsell's Gaslight -- from a British thriller released in 1940, not the better-known Hollywood flick from 1944.
For something different in scary music, try the film music section at the library.