Why is music used in films and television shows? Would they be better off without music? These questions are what I’ve been pondering about this month.
You’ve seen them in stores and online: The Fantastic Beasts soundtrack, the Moana soundtrack, the Elementary soundtrack. But why do we care about the soundtrack?
When a TV show begins, there is often a lyrical song playing over the title sequence, sometimes there will be another playing over the credits as well. Now, for films, it is often an instrumental piece that plays over the title sequence and a lyrical sequence over the credits. This is often due to a deal being struck between record labels and film producers to get in on the cash cow action, but often those specific tracks, like the others in the film or show, were chosen for a reason, such as mood reflection.
The title sequence will often be used in the trailer for to give the audience a feel for the movie or show. The song tells them the mood, flavour and overall vibe of the piece. Pop song? Probably a family friendly show that’s upbeat and comedic, such as The Tales of Miraculous Ladybug and Chat Noir. Low and slow? Either sad and devastating and sensual and seductive, like (and I hate to mention it) 50 Shades of Grey (depending on the movie).
The same goes for the instrumental pieces in the show. They convey a certain mood to the audience and tells the audience how they should feel about what’s going on in the scene. Take a break up scene. Sure, the words are dramatic and immediately relatable to the audience as most of us have been through a break up before. Put some sad music over it and tears and heartstrings alike will jerk. However, if you pop a bubbly piece of acoustic music over it then suddenly the scene takes on a more positive tone. The music says ‘things are bad right now, but it’s going to get better for our protagonist.’
Music in film can also wordlessly portray how a character is feeling, which in turn connects to what we just discussed. Take, for example, the scene in The Deathly Hallows Part 2 when Harry is going to the Forbidden Forest to die. He doesn’t turn and say ‘This is pretty freaky, I don’t want to die.’ We feel it through the music.
However, sometimes music is just chosen to make a scene feel epic. Take Hiccup’s first flight in How to Train Your Dragon; it swells and builds and falls wonderfully, soaring high and crashing down with the action just to thrill the audience. That scene encapsulates everything I have discussed and Dreamworks and Studio Ghibli in particular are very good at achieving this.
I personally am all about the handcrafted, fresh out of the musical oven soundtrack. Soundtracks of ready-made songs are good, but pieces constructed by a composer specifically for that character or moment in the film or show just makes my little nerd heart sing. An interesting example of this is the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them soundtrack. There are elements of the Harry Potter soundtrack weaved in there to let the reader know that these franchises are related and in the same universe, but then it does its own thing and mixes things up a bit. You hear the iconic running theme that you remember from say Hedwig’s Theme but then some other notes and instruments come in and almost makes things seems a little bit jazzy. They’ve taken something known, but weaved a little bit of magic to communicate things to the audience.
In short, movie and TV show soundtracks are amazing for so many reasons and I absolutely adore them. Do you have a favourite soundtrack? Let us know below!