by Rebecka Landowski
Music in movies has come an extremely long way since the beginning of the moving picture. Movies started as moving pictures only. Black and white film and no sound. After the 1930s, when sound and music were introduced to film, music evolved through symphonic, jazz, rock, and synthesized music. Modern day scores accent each specific scene of the movie. Composers create songs that build as drama in the scene of the movie builds; they create slow, emotional songs for scenes that are quiet and series; they create intense, loud songs for action scenes; they draw out music softly and slowly in order to add to suspenseful scenes, making sure to add loud, alarming sounds that frighten audiences.
In the beginning, music in movies did not fit into scenes like it does now. Before, music was simply there to fill the scene, make it more exciting, and give the audience something to enjoy other than the acting. Now, music continues throughout the entire film, often times without the audience fully realizing there is music being played. During dialogue scenes there is often very quiet music being played to help the audience capture the feeling the actors are trying to get across. People who do not pay close attention to the scores of movies do not realize the great importance of music in movies. The music adds extra emotion to every scene, giving the watcher a feeling of happiness, sadness, excitement, anticipation, etc. Without music, movies would not flow as well as they do or relay the deep emotions we feel when music is partnered with acting.
Modern day composer Hans Zimmer has written musical scores for many popular movies including The Lion King, The Gladiator, The Pirates of the Caribbean series, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Inception, Man of Steel, and many more. Zimmer’s scores are a wonderful example of the psychological influence of movie scores. The opening song of the Lion King is recognizable to almost anyone in our society. The song allows the audience to feel both the foreign aspect of the movie (it being placed in Africa) and the intensity and importance of the scene where Simba, the future king, is revealed to the population. This video gives a behind the scene look on how Zimmer and the others working on the movie went through the process and how it affected them:
Another example, is the following scene from Inception. The track starts out very loud and full of energy to match the action scene that is occurring. Next, is an emotional scene between a son and father in which Zimmer’s score starts very quiet and slowly builds. At the climax of the conversation the music rises drastically to add to the emotion of the scene and helps transfer from the quiet dialogue back to the action.
Zimmer has created many movie scores that are very recognizable to people. Like I said, the opening of the Lion King is recognized by almost anyone. The scores of Inception, the Batman Trilogy, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series are all very easily recognized by anyone who has seen the movies. If heard out of context of the movie, people are able to remember the emotions they (or the characters of the movie) were feeling at a certain point in the movie. It shows the power that the music of movies has upon the changes in the audience’s emotions. Psychologically, the music has the ability to control how the audience feels. Imagine watching an action scene without music! The sound of people fighting does not get adrenaline pumping in the audience nearly as much as it does when partnered with exciting music.
Here I have a video that shows very well how important music can be to a scene. This is the iconic shower scene from the 1960 film, Psycho. It plays the scene first with the music, then without. While the second still gives a feeling of terror, the music of the scene is what enhances that feeling and causes the audience more excitement and anxiety.
All in all, I think the evolution of movie soundtracks has helped better the quality and shape of movies. The representation of the movie is changed easily with the type of music played throughout. Consumers are affected psychologically, changing their emotions and changing messages they receive from films. The change of music in movies seems to be a Consumer-Centric evolution to me. Composers create the music for the movie so that audiences will enjoy themselves more fully, with heightened emotions.