Everyone has heard of suspense. It’s a film genre in its own right and has a very distinctive sound. You can hear it in the cue below called Halls of Regret, a slow meandering cue with a dark foreboding sound. That distinctive sound is created by writing not just in a minor key, but usually going that little bit further. For example in this cue I used an octatonic scale, a scale which fits 8 notes into an octave rather than the usual 7. It’s still tonal, but the intervals are very different to traditional major and minor scales, which creates that unsettling feeling.
The next two pieces, The Highwayman and Thunder on the Horizon fit into a lesser known but extremely common film music style “moderate action”. As a style it’s perhaps best described by what it isn’t, the cues sit over scenes that have more action and activity than a suspense scene but aren’t wild and frenetic like a battle or a chase scene. Typically you’d find these pieces on the eve of the battle, or while flying over a city in a helicopter. Think of any piece you can remember from the Batman movies, and you’re probably right on the money.
Surprisingly, moderate action cues are actually very similar to a classic suspense cue like Halls of Regret, the only real difference is that addition of the rhythmic strings, which suddenly transforms the energy level.
The Thunder on the Horizon cue has two versions, one with a substantial percussion line and one without. I’ve included both because it’s interesting to hear just how much of an effect it has just to add or remove a single element like that.