Music in Film
*Final Exam Paper = 30 points (2000 words. Choose one complete film of your choice either current or older and write about its music. Taking into account many of the items in Unit One as a template for analyses. Write about specific scenes of your choosing and discuss the musical content and why the composer made this particular musical choice. Also, what influenced this composer in his approach to composing that may have been important in his scoring decisions; characters, script, editing and the overall impact of style and image. Also, feel free to discuss any musical items in the score that may have not worked as well as it could have and tell why. Please cite all references used in your research. * SUBMIT AS WORD DOC ONLY
**Smooth out transition shots (fade in, fade out, dissolves, scene changes.) Cutting from one scene to another is what film editing is all about. Not always, but often these cuts can feel abrupt and music can help to smooth out the bump.
Heighten the emotional level in a scene and to reflect emotion. Music adds depth and insight in what we see and feel in film.
To bring out the unspoken or unseen. This is at the heart of film scoring mostly because it introduces another level of emotional reality – one that may not be apparent visually. It may suggest some underlying thoughts or the not too apparent motivation of a character.
Relax or heighten tension and control the pace and tempo of the scene. Music can create a rhythm pace that can sometime alter our perceived awareness of time and conversely slow it down or speed it up. It can also create a sense of apprehension, as in horror movies before something terrible happens. It can also increase our awareness as to what is coming or what has previously happened.
Parallel or underscore the action. This is music that coincides with what we see on screen. Composing music for battle scenes, action, dramatic, romantic, and adventure music all fit this category of scoring. The question that arises today: Why duplicate in music what we already are seeing? A good question, and solved by film composers in many different ways. Regardless, composing music that follows exactly what we see on screen is a viable scoring technique.
Create atmosphere. Among the many insights music can present to the viewer the obvious ones would be: what time period does this film take place (1600, 1900, 2016), or the geographical locations of the movie (USA, India, Russia, Ireland). It also may tip us off as to the type of film (horror, science fiction, romantic comedy, action or adventure.)
Create a unity and coherence in film by the recurrence of musical themes. We can mentally revisit a past association or reference particular characters through music and in our mind we can connect with or without the visual. In the movie Jaws, we don’t need to see the shark to know its near because of the John Williams two-note musical motif. With this musical idea or motif. Williamss creates continuity, not only musically but also dramatically.
Use of the leitmotif short themes that represent and depict various characters and situations. The above reference to the film Jaws is a perfect example of a leitmotif. The term is derived from the Germanic late romantic period in music and was developed to the highest degree in the opera and tone poem. Basically – opera and tone poem’s are stories told through music where the characters, events and ideologies are represented by the presence of these short leitmotifs, which occur throughout the entire composition.
Create continuity in the montage by uniting the variety of visual elements into a cohesive whole. The technique of the montage basically introduces a complex series of edits depicting the passage of time as shown through a quick succession of scenes. Music can tie these various edits together giving the viewer a clearer understanding of the montage and what it suggests.
Source music: Music emanating from a source in the scene; radio, TV, club music, musicians performing or any identifiable music belonging to the situation in a scene.
Music that plays against the action for extreme contrast. This is a potentially powerful approach to scoring a scene providing insight that there may be more going on underneath than what is apparent. There’s the element of playing with opposites in this type of scoring. Like in the philosophy we often hear about, how tragedy and comedy are related – music can walk this fine line in the same way. Music can provide a deeper level of contrast to the reality of what we are viewing or what seems to be obvious at first.
Neutral background music. Used as filler in the early days of film (1927 -1933) when music had less importance in film. With the introduction of sound in 1927 and hence dialogue, adding music was approached with caution, not only because its use was not yet totally understood, but also the fear that it may somehow distract the viewer from the dialogue and other aspects of the film. This kind of attitude concerning music may have been connected to the silent movie days, before 1927 when pianists provided live background music in the theater. In those early days music was not only used to fill the space but to also cover the noise of the projector.
There is also a way to draw attention to a particulate event on screen by using no music at all or to suddenly stop the music abruptly. An important decision made by composers and directors is the fact that music may not really bring the most out of a scene and that ultimately the scene plays better with no music. Composers and directors are also aware of how and where music enters and where it stops in a scene. Its entrance can alter or affect the viewer in many ways, but so can the place in a scene where music comes to an end.
Music in the opening credits, if any can set the mood and feel of the film; time, place and atmosphere are sometimes conveyed in the first music we hear.
Film is a kind of discourse among its various parts; each at its best when doing something that none of the other parts can do as well. Film and movie making is a collaborative art, where all the various elements must coexist in perfect unison each complementing the other.
Music defines the meaning of the film by stimulating and guiding emotional response to the visuals. This is at the center of what film music is all about, but most importantly a good score can give a scene continuity by connecting the visuals. (Thomas, Tony, Music for the Movies, Los Angeles, Silman-James Press, 1917, page 4)