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- "What we want is to create a powerful sense of dread."

- *DUUUUUURRRRRRRRRN*

- "See? The longer the note, the more dread."

Note: this is a Music trope. If you were looking for bees, check out Gosh Hornet, Everything's Worse with Bees and Bee-Bee Gun.

In music, a drone is a sustained, continuous sound, note or tone-cluster. Music based around drones will emphasize minimalism and texture, timbre, eventually harmony, with less concern over rhythm and melody.

Because the atmosphere created by this kind of music tends to be extremely creepy and unsettling, it is a close cousin of the Psycho Strings, and the two often overlaps, but are just as often very distinct: the original psycho strings, for instance, are not drony at all, and many drones do not use strings, rather relying on low played brass instruments, or weird apparatuses and machines to produce their sounds.

Drone based music can delve into Nightmare Fuel particularly efficiently if it uses what is called "infrasound," which simply put, is sound pitched so low that it's just barely above the human threshold of hearing it as an individual tone. Studies have been conducted showing that this ultra low pitched sound, while almost undetectable to people, has a strange ability to cause nervousness, and even physical discomfort, despite the listener not even being aware of hearing it. there's even some speculation that local harmonic resonance in certain areas is responsible for people perceiving those locations as being haunted.

Frequently used in Horror stories (particularly Psychological Horror ones), but can show up in other genres as well (generally as a way to highligh that, whatever the appearances are, something very wrong/unusual is going on under the fragile surface of reality).

Not to be confused with the similarly named part of a bagpipe (which however does produce a droning sound), an Attack Drone, or a male honey bee (even though the musical element, the instrument part and the robot are all named after the animal, which in turn is named after the onomatopoeia for the sound it makes). Note that old-fashioned bagpipes and the like do rely heavily on the more contemplative drone in place of a bass section. Also compare with Hell Is That Noise, which is usually even more atonal.

Examples of Drone of Dread include:


Advertising

  • The Worldwide Reveal Trailer for Modern Warfare 3 overlaid scenes of Monumental Damage with a chilling, rhythmic, atonal blast reminiscent of a siren, only a couple registers lower and slower. As the film progressed, it was combined in chorus with the tone used for the Emergency Alert System in the United States.

Anime and Manga

  • Mononoke: When the Kabuki Sounds are replaced by low droning brass instruments, you know something creepy is about to happen.

Film

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: Whenever the Monolith is involved, drony contemporary classical music composed by György Ligeti (see below) is heard.
  • Alien
  • Antichrist: With the exception of Händel's "Lascia ch'io pianga", used in the prologue and conclusion, the soundtrack consists entirely of drones.
  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker's Leitmotif is a dissonant droning sound.
  • The Shining
  • The use of a crescendo-going ominous drone in the very first seconds of There Will Be Blood quickly established the strange nature of the movie.
  • The ominous drones denoting the presence of evil spirits in the first Evil Dead film.
  • The theme for the Emperor becomes very creepy due to the droning chorus.
  • Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for "The Last Temptation Of Christ" had a lot of this. Peter even Lampshaded it in an interview at the time, saying that his rule of thumb while composing the soundtrack was "When in doubt, Drone."
  • Repeated drones were used in the trailer for Revenge of The Fallen.
  • Used very effectively throughout Inception to solidify the "wrongness" of the dream worlds.
  • Used repeatedly in the German film Das Experiment (The Experiment).
  • This short film.

Live Action TV

  • For some reason, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has seen fit to accompany the rating cards before each movie they show with one. The effect is unintentionally unnerving.
  • The end music of each episode of The Shadow Line is the siren drone of doom, but high pitched instead of low. It's singularly disturbing.

Music

  • György Ligeti's compositions spanned a large array of different styles, but some of them featured really prominent drones, notably the pieces Requiem and Atmospheres (both heard in 2001: A Space Odyssey). The former combines drones with Ominous Latin Chanting, and the latter features the largest cluster chord ever written, with every note in the chromatic scale over a range of five octaves being played at once — that's 60 different notes.
  • L'Étoile du Matin Noir, an EP of dark ambient and noise music featuring many drones, released for free under Creative Commons.
  • Most of Sixteen Horsepower's output is ominous to begin with, but when David Eugene Edwards breaks out his Chemnitzer concertina or hurdy-gurdy, the ominousness gets cranked up to 11.
    • Ditto Woven Hand, Edwards' followup music project. He frequently plays drones underneath the main melody, to make these already-menacing songs even more so.
  • Calibretto's "American Psycho" uses a sustained organ drone for an effective Last-Note Nightmare.
  • The entirety of drone metal.
    • Especially Sunn O))), the trope codifiers of drone doom, whose music is horror incarnate. link.
  • John Cale tends to carry this with him wherever he goes.
  • Some ambient music is based around sounds like this.
    • In particular the dark ambient artist Lustmord, who uses the aforementioned infrasound in his music to incredibly unsettling degree.
  • "You Can't Cool Off In The Mill Pond You Can Only Die" by John Fahey (not Blind Joe Death) adds throat singing for more drone.
  • Xera's "Inda" starts off with a rather creepy, minute-long drone performed on a rabel.
  • Norwegian duo Röyksopp have this hidden track on their album 'Senior': [1]
  • Klaus Schulze - Wahnfried 1883.
  • Bull of Heaven.
  • Some of Autechre's ambient works, such as "Paralel Suns", which sounds like Silent Hill ambience, "Perlence Suns", and "Perlence Subrange 6-36".
  • Robert Fripp and Jeff Fayman's 2000 collaboration A Temple in the Clouds uses "Frippertronic" guitar drones. link
  • Both albums by Dilate.
  • "Modern Ruin Part 2", the Hidden Track on Covenant's Modern Ruin album (only on the CD, not the digital release). Reminiscent of the forementioned Quake soundtrack, as well as the nightmare hospital ambience in Silent Hill. Likewise for "Cryotank Expansion" from their first album.
  • Juno Reactor's one-track album Luciana, and to some extent "Solaris" from Shango.
  • Jack Dangers' album Music for Planetarium.
  • Some Throbbing Gristle material, such as "Slug Bait" and the legendary "Hamburger Lady".
  • Most ambient pieces by Greg Davis.

Theatre

  • The last of the six Sea Interludes in Britten's opera Peter Grimes (and the only one not available in a concert version), "Fog", sustains one fifthless dominant seventh chord quietly for several minutes under various orchestral laments and outbursts.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • This trope is part of the appeal of The Hypnotoad from Futurama. Interestingly, it was originally just a placeholder sound until they found something better, but they decided it was just so wrong sounding that they had to keep it. According to David Cohen, the name for that particular sound effect in the editing machine is "Angry Machine."
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