The Aspect of Music on the Movies

Film, of which you have probably heard of it before, is a so-called audiovisual medium, which expresses that two senses are addressed: the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. Christian Metz, a French film theorist, distinguished five channels of information in the film: “(1) the visual image; (2) writing and other graphics (3) dialogue (4) music (5) Noise (sound effects).”Is not it really strange that three of these channels affect the sense of hearing, and in the cinema we mostly focus on seeing? How important music and sound effects are, but we notice at the latest when, due to a technical glitch, the sound is suddenly missing: Even if subtitles reflect the dialogue, the mood is gone, the visual effects are no longer working – or just ridiculous.


There you can read about how it was with the difference between ‘ the tables’ and ‘ extra-choir’ film music, what we mean by ‘Mickey-Mousing’ and what is meant by leitmotif technology. Incidentally, these two techniques were an important part of the classical score, which was characterized by a high degree of correspondence between music and film, and the subordination of the music, which are unobtrusive and draw attention from neither the events nor the dialogues should. As you watch free full movies you can listen to the music there.

But two recent developments show that this ‘unobtrusiveness’ is only one option among others: ‘scoring postmodern’ and ‘ pop scoring’ (‘scoring’ derives from the English term for score). “Pop scoring” refers to the use of well-known songs in the film’s extra, diegetic soundtrack, and in this case, too, the film music penetrates the audience’s attention. Aspects like the lyrics or the meaning of the music stars can carry additional meanings in the film. For the two compositional styles described, you would have to come up with several movie examples. For example, where would you classify Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Twilight?

The so-called ‘postmodern scoring’ will probably not be known to you, as it is more likely to be found on particularly demanding films. It refers to a new and conscious use of music, in which this is no longer subordinated to the visual happenings, but different variants of the relationship between music and image are played through. (For example, trying to remember what ‘contrapuntal’ music was what effect could it trigger?). If you are already sixteen, you can look at the film Clockwork Orange as examples – how does the use of music seem unusual to you?

It is not only interesting which types of film music are there, but above all, which features film music can have:

  • “Film music illustrates (synchronously emphasizes movements, stylized musical real sounds or represents spaces).”
  • “Film music expresses psychological experiences of characters (egg sad memories, positive expectations, and hidden fantasies).”
  • “Film music controls the perception of the viewer (egg creates tension, ensures continuity of the action).”
  • “Film music comments on the film action (be it polarizing or contrapuntal).”

Think again of the examples of the already mentioned lecture; for every function you will find a suitable scene.

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