THX's 'Deep Note' - 35 Years Later We Get to See the Score
It's the most awesome, powerful, and terrifying audio trademark in the film industry, and now we get to see how it was written.
Back in 1982, Dr. James "Andy" Moorer wrote a little diddy for Lucasfilm that would join the ranks of the Wilhelm Scream as one of the most iconic sounds in movie history. "Deep Note" served as the audio trademark for THX-certified movie theaters, as well as home video and video games, but you most likely know it as that frightening and uncomfortably powerful sound that played over a simple metallic THX logo before movies.
And now, to celebrate its 35th anniversary, THX has finally made its score public, you know, so we can all know the musical language that scared the bejeezus out of us as kids innocently sitting down to watch our favorite movie.
Just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about, listen to "Deep Note" below.
Later versions of the sound cut several seconds off of the front end, and then, in 2016, THX came out with a completely new logo, as well as a regenerated audio trademark, entitled "THX Eclipse."
And of course, who could forget this version?
"Deep Note" made its debut at the premiere of Return of the Jedi on May 25th, 1983 and soon became a sound that almost every moviegoer could recognize due to the intense synthesized crescendos and glissandos that seem to be louder than they actually are, a phenomenon that sound designer Gary Rydstrom explains in more detail: "From a technical standpoint, 'Deep Note' just feels loud because it has a spectrum of frequencies that grows from small to large."
Here's a description of the first version of the sound from its U.S. trademark registration:
The THX logo theme consists of 30 voices over seven measures, starting in a narrow range, 200 to 400 Hz, and slowly diverting to preselected pitches encompassing three octaves. The 30 voices begin at pitches between 200 Hz and 400 Hz and arrive at pre-selected pitches spanning three octaves by the fourth measure. The highest pitch is slightly detuned while there are double the number of voices of the lowest two pitches.
THX made a short behind-the-scenes video back in 2015 all about the history of how "Deep Note" came to be. Check it out below:
"Deep Note" has become a staple of pop culture, in part due to how friggin' loud it seems to be. What is your favorite reference? Let us know down in the comments below.