The Importance Of Music In Films
Updated: May 1, 2021
Imagine watching Avengers or any superhero-action movie without rousing music or score. How uncomfortable would that make you feel! Or think about this, what are the few things that come to your mind when you think about Star wars? Laser Blasters, lightsabers, maybe some silly cross-screen wipes to transition from scene to scene, or possibly a theatrical score by John Williams? George Lucas, the director of Star Wars (1977) once said that “the sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie” prompting that music plays an inevitable part of the cinematic experience and essential to the storytelling process.
“Where words fail, music speaks.”
- Hans Christian Andersen
So what does music do in a film?
Have you ever turned down the volume of the television while watching a horror movie? If yes, you must have realized the fear factor almost knocks out. The music impacts the audience and evokes some kind of emotion in its listeners. The music in a film creates emotions, creates a rhythm to scenes and segments, it makes you cheer for the hero and cry at the drama. Sound and music in a film influence our perception of the film just like visuals elevates the video directly. Music supports the overall mood and narrative of the film and adds depth to the visuals.
Music has several purposes when it comes to portraying the emotions related to visuals. And enhance storytelling. Music makes movies. Among all of the art tools, music is the most vital and most powerful tool that can help tell a story and strike an emotional chord with your audience and let the audience connect with the character and their situations. Music usually offers an element of nostalgia to the audience and that is why the audience can emotionally connect to it. It’s somewhat very impossible to find music that doesn’t tell a story or supports the visuals in the film. When the music is mixed with moving visuals, it tells us about what we are seeing. Music is the medium that directs our feelings while watching something. However, the music and the visuals should relate to one another to affect the audience. Music helps in setting the mood and the scene in the film. It can set the tone of the movie.
Music has a language of its own. It can put a perception on the certain sequence, it can show the dialogue is sad, the character is happy or the fight sequence is heroic or the particular dialogue is funny, etc. It can be used to push the audience in the right direction. Music also helps create a plot relationship throughout the movie. For example, giving certain thematic music to certain characters in the film can help with the storytelling. For example, when a specific theme is associated with the antihero or the villain of the film and later we hear the same theme in another sequence in the movie, we might get a hint of who that character or stranger might be. Music also helps the audience to understand characters or develop characters. For example, through listening to the song “When She Loved Me,” in Toy Story 2, the audience learns the sad story of the character “Jesse".
“Music Is Half The Film”
Music connects sequences. A harsh scene can be softened by adding a soft theme or music to it. For example, in montage sequences where there are many jumps in time/places or even periods or multiple shots are sequenced to condense space information or time, covering them under one music will connect all the sequences and be understood as a whole by the audience.
To understand it well, here’s an example of the same from the movie- The Martian.
Music at times also creates contradictions. For example, putting a piece of heartfelt music in a scene where that kind of music is not expected in a certain sense, will put the audience in a contradictory position, questioning ‘something is wrong here. In the same way, it can also manipulate the audience. For example, associating a soft theme to a character in the film can make the audience think of him as a ‘good character’ even though towards the end he is revealed as a villain. The music can trap the audience and manipulate them. The film’s music and the score contribute to the quality of the film. Composers such as Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar), Craig Armstrong (The Great Gatsby), John Williams (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter) have added so much energy to the films by introducing such strong music. Take any Superhero movie or films like Jaws (1975), The Godfather (1972), which have such iconic music and scores that make them instantly recognizable to the audience. For example, if you’re a star wars movie series nerd, you could probably hear “Battles of the heroes”- composed by John Williams and could think of the visuals in your mind, without the movie even needing to be present. A Star Wars film simply wouldn’t be what it is without its memorable score. This is what a strong and compelling thematic score and music do to its audience.
“Music or sound in a film is a character as important as another character”
- Melvin Van Peebles
Music and scores are an integral part that ‘makes’ or ‘breaks’ a film. It adds life to the story and fuels the action in the film. At times the choice of music used in the film can persuade you to watch a film. The music should clearly express the right emotions and should connect with the visuals.
Whether you realize it or not, music plays an important part in the films we watch. If you haven’t realized it yet, watch this sequence clip from the movie- Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park - without music
Combining the magic of cinema alongside the great capabilities of music can only give you greater results. Let us know your thoughts on how important music is in movies in the comment section below!