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Joshua Composer Nico Muhly Is Still Petrified by The Exorcist

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Composer Nico Muhly’s score to last year’s Joshua was as galvanizing and unpredictable as the the film’s creepy little nine-year-old himself. “I watched a whole bunch of old movies with Bernard Hermann scores, then some obvious newer ones, like The Omen, but I tried to avoid giving the filmmakers anything that sounded like other movies,” he says, “I think horror music now has lost its intrigue and is just a bunch of bowed cymbals and synthesizers. Bring back the pitch!” Music that still get under his skin? “Stravinski’s The Rite of Spring,” he says. “The Arvo Pärt Miserere… and the theme from Rosemary’s Baby is scary and simple.”

Muhly’s otherworldly new album Mothertongue (released digitally today; look for the actual album in July) offers three very different treatments of the human voice, each steeped in its own drama and dread. In the meantime, horror movies will continue to be a pleasure and an inspiration.  “They remain viscerally scary even in this very plugged-in and otherwise rational age,” he says, “All those Japanese ‘ghost in the machine’ films opened up whole new realms of things to be scared by, too. When that girl came through the TV in Ringu — that was major. Unlike, say, science fiction, which I feel like has run its course a bit, good horror can still be a punch to the gut.”

Nico Muhly’s Top 10 Horror Movies

10. It
9. The Peanut Butter Solution
8. The Thing
7. Nosferatu
6. Alien
5. Dracula (with Philip Glass’s score)
4. Candyman
3. Rosemary’s Baby
2. The Omen
1. The Exorcist

“I cannot even remember the score it was so terrifying,” Muhly
admits. “I have seen this many, many times and am still petrified of
the devil. Plus, in that remake where she comes down the stairs
backwards? I saw it in a theater and nearly lost control of my bladder.”

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