10 Beautiful and Dark Sound Designs

by Saul Edmonds

This collection of Beautiful and Dark Sound Designs will focus primarily on that genre known as Dark Ambient. Dark Ambient is an emotive composition style used to bring an ‘epic quality’ to cinema and gaming.

“If you want to make someone feel emotion, you have to make them let go.

Listening to something is an act of surrender.” (Brian Eno)

The Darker Side

Brian Eno is commonly hailed as the innovator of the Ambient Music style.

The darkest of Eno’s early works is ‘Ambient 4 : On Land’ (1982). It is a collage of electronic and acoustic sounds that creates a mysterious otherworld landscape.

Where Ambient Music is concerned with background textures and soundscapes (oftentimes experimental in style) - Dark Ambient as a genre is characterized by greater diversity of musical form.

  • Specificity of mood is paramount.
  • That mood is as distinctive as the Night.
  • Foreboding, ominous, disturbing.
  • Both unseen and unknown.
  • Only heard.

Industrial Music, Noise, Ethereal Wave, Black Metal - share a commonality with Dark Ambient which grew out of the heady synthesizer and sampling days of the 1980‘s.

Projects feature an atmospheric use of synthesizers, electric guitar and keyboards. Instrumentation is often loaded with discord, reverb and other effects. Noise, experimental sound, vocals and field recordings provide additional spatial elements.

The Dark Ambient style is featured in many films and games. It is at its best when when portraying post-apocalyptic worlds and puzzling future-scapes.

1. Eraserhead (1977) - Sound Design by Alan Splet

2. Zodiac (2007) - Composed by David Shire

3. Fallout Series - Composed by Inon Zur

4. Oddworld - Strangers Wrath - Composed by Michael Bross

5. Portal - Composed by Kelly Bailey and Mike Morasky

6. Mirror’s Edge - Composed by Magnus Birgersson

7. Doom 3 - Composed by Chris Vrenna of Nine Inch Nails

8. Donnie Darko (2001) - Composed by Michael Andrews

9. Silent Hill - Composed by Akira Yamaoka

10. The Elephant Man (1980) - Main Theme by John Morris

by Saul Edmonds