Music changes the mood, generates emotions and creates images.
Film music in particular plays an important role when it comes to reaching the desired feelings of its viewers. Stories are told using the power of music.
Body and Emotion
The influence that music has on the human body quickly becomes apparent when you watch a creepy thriller. The scary music causes our hearts to beat faster and our hands to sweat. If there is a loud bang, the extreme sound frequencies stimulate the vegetative nervous system and cause a tremendous shock. Film music has such a big influence on our emotional state that we build up a strong emotional bond to partly fictional stories: we mourn or rejoice without real cause and feel fear without immediate threat.
Function and Effect
Appropriate music is indispensable if you want to add depth and emotion to a film scene. It was even common practice to use music to convey the right mood to the viewer during silent movies.
Music also serves to provide structure. Coherence quickly becomes noticeable when music is added to individual sequences. This is certainly the case with flashbacks and montages. In addition, music can also help to keep different storylines apart.
Above all, film music is used to intensify feelings: we all know that a love scene becomes all the more romantic when the appropriate music is played in the background. Producers use underscoring to dictate the mood the viewer should feel in a certain scene or for a specific character. Film music subliminally influences the scene’s ambiance, clarifies the emotions of the characters and thereby builds tension and creates leitmotifs. This can have such an effect that the viewer immediately knows who will appear on the screen when a certain melody is played. The most famous example of this is probably “Jaws” directed by Steven Spielberg, where the shark’s appearance is always announced by threatening orchestral sounds.
Furthermore, music helps you immerse yourself in the cinematic realities on your screen. It creates a historical context, produces social milieus, clarifies geographical spaces (through typical local music) and influences the perception of time. It is paramount that the music frames a film with recognisable melodies or popular songs so that the attention of viewers is captured throughout.
Thanks to its distinctive characteristics and subliminal influence on the viewer’s perception, music truly manages to create images in the mind that go further than what can be seen.