Part 1: Celebrating Music in the Movies

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
– Plato

Plato’s description is certainly romanticised, but I do agree with it, particularly in relation to film scores. The right music can enhance a scene, adding another level of emotion – be it love, anger or sadness – that might otherwise have been difficult for the actors alone to portray. Equally, the wrong music can detract from a scene, becoming a distraction and taking the focus away from the acting.

Birdman’s score fits into both of categories, in my opinion, with its clever use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Thinking about it now, while at the time I didn’t enjoy the sound of the (at times) intense drumming and found that it made it difficult to understand the actors, I do realise that it was an effective way to reflect the mental state of the central character.

Diegetic sound: Sound whose source is visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film. It can be either on screen or off screen depending on whatever its source is within the frame or outside the frame.

Non-diegetic sound: Sound whose source is neither visible on the screen nor has been implied to be present in the action. It is represented as coming from a source outside story space.

Part 1: Invoking emotion

For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend bought me a copy of Classic FM’s ‘Movies: The Ultimate Collection’, an excellent gift that has me fired up ready to go watch the CBSO play Friday Night Classics: 21st Century Blockbusters in a few weeks’ time.

Playing the album last night, CD3 proved to be the most popular. My dad favoured such songs as Barry’s ‘Zulu’ and Bernstein’s ‘The Great Escape’ while I was wholeheartedly humming along to Williams’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

Listening to a compilation album instead of a film’s OST made me realise my above point of music stirring up a variety of emotions. Three songs in particular really demonstrated this, conjuring up very different feelings and images.

  • Williams, ‘Jaws’ – A sense of foreboding, uncertainty, danger
  • Jones, ‘Last of the Mohicans’ – Stoicism, strength, hope
  • Moross, ‘The Big Country’ – Excitement, travelling at speed, the outdoors

I’ve seen Jaws and The Last of the Mohicans and know the setting of The Big Country so may have been influenced by this prior knowledge. If you have time to listen to the songs, please leave a comment. Music, like film, is subjective so I’d be interested to read your thoughts.

Next time:

Part 2 – Industry greats
Looking at such legendary composers as John Williams plus upcoming composers

Part 3 – Enduring classics
What is the most recognisable piece of film music? Would you say it is Barry’s ‘James Bond’, Williams’ ‘Star Wars’ or something else?

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