Essay Example on Music in Films to create a specific mood or feeling.


Music , Movies






Since the beginning of the film, music has been used to emphasize what is happening or to create a specific mood or feeling. This started first with a silent film with a pianist or orchestra which then lead into the soundtracks and scores we have for films today. Do films with specially composed music work better than films with pre-existing music. This can be viewed in many ways. Films with specially composed music may be seen to capture what is happening in the film a lot better, than films with pre-existing music but pre-existing music films may be seen to have a better periodic sense to them. This is something I am going to discuss and look at within my essay. Films started off as being silent which was due to limitations in technology. Usually, a pianist or orchestra in larger city cinemas would play along with the film adding music live. This music would be played from a book under the section which best fits the genre of the film or the scene happening. This music would either be specially composed for the scene genre or would be a pre-existing piece of music, which would fit what was happening on the screen. Mervyn Cooke stated that they believe that film music can be traced back to the early 1890s. in Paris In 1890 Paris Pantomimes Lumineuses by Émile Reynaud said to be the first animated films were shown in 1892 and featured specially composed music by Gaston Paulin Pantomimes Lumineuses features an animation titled Pauvre Pierrot translated as Poor Pierrot.

 Throughout the film, Howard Shore varies and develops the leitmotifs dependant of what is happening in the scene. An example of this is the Fellowship theme. After the theme is heard for the first time in the title sequence in its fullest form, it is then heard when Sam and Frodo are leaving the Shire. This scene is first presented with a snippet of the final variation of the shire theme which isn’t heard again until the end of the film which transitions into a variation of the Fellowship theme. By doing this Howard Shore shows Sam and Frodo’s transition from living in the Shire to leaving and joining the Fellowship on their journey. The Fellowship theme is shown here in its first statement played on a duet of French Horn and Cor Anglais to signify the start of the Fellowship. The use of just two instruments helps to show how these two are starting the Fellowship and as they are very different instruments yet both a form of horn they help perceive how different the two characters are yet being still the same from the beginning of the trilogy to how they are at the end of the trilogy. This is contrasted immediately with a darker variation as Gandalf is riding into Isengard. The theme is varied by using crashing cymbals and by having the theme played off Gandalf riding his horse.

 The music written within Pauvre Pierrot is one of the first to use character themes a very early version of the leitmotif which is an operatic technique that was popularised by Wagner. The character themes link to people's events and places to augment and aid what is happening throughout. In Pauvre Pierrot the music is mainly made up of character themes that coincide with the use of mickey mousing. For example, Arlequin has his own character theme. This also uses mickey mousing which is shown in the trills at the end when Arlequin is jumping. On the one hand, a film can use solely used specially composed music. An example of this is The Lord of the Rings directed by Peter Jackson, which uses only music composed by Howard Shore. Within this film Howard Shore uses several leitmotifs originally developed by Wagner to link to specific places events and people. For example, some of the main leitmotifs used throughout this film are the Lothlorian theme, the Ring theme, the Shire theme, and the Fellowship theme. The film starts with a choir singing in the displeasing Bb harmonic minor key which helps to state the Lothlorian theme. There is then a minor major shift from Eb minor to Eb major which also helps to introduce the Shire theme, as the narration shifts from Galadriel to Bilbo who places us in the Shire finally ending the title sequence with the Fellowship theme in its full form.
This helps to add tension to foreshadow how Saruman will soon betray Gandalf and the Fellowship. The way the second darker variation plays off the first more lighter variation shows how Howard Shore is trying to show the eventual downfall and breakdown of the fellowship throughout the trilogy. Furthermore, as the fellowship grows in size of people the Fellowship Theme grows within its amount of brass playing the melody. For example when the Hobbits welcome Aragon to their group the theme is played on a variation now using 3 French Horns instead of one. In contrast to this as well as building the heroic melodic line with extra brass he also distresses it using a timpani drum beat which signifies a sense of importance that the fellowship is now starting to feel. The music for The Lord of the Rings helps to show how powerful specially composed music can be and how it can link to people places and event and become more a part of the film through the use of leitmotifs in a way in which films which use pre-existing music may not, On the other hand, some films use pre-existing music as well as specially composed music. Some people wonder how can this work. Does it really work at all. Nevertheless, when putting a piece of music that is pre-existing to a film it sticks and becomes a part of that film rather than being associated with its original artist.

For example, the song Jump in line shakes señora by Harry Belafonte released in 1961 was used in the film Beetlejuice 1988 and is now commonly associated with that film rather than the original artist. One director who uses pre-existing music within their films is Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino’s first two films Reservoir Dogs 1992 and Pulp Fiction 1994, both have soundtracks which consist of completely pre-existing music within them with no use of specially composed music. Pulp Fiction uses a soundtrack with the use of surf rock and 60s pop music feel. The sound of this film is said to mirror or be in counterpoint to what is happening on the screen. This is shown through how the soundtrack takes on the function of a classical score but is also diegetic. For example, the scene after Mia and Vincent leave the restaurant and go back to Mias she puts on Girl you’ll be a woman soon recorded here by Urge Overkill. This song is about a man who is misunderstood who is not meant to be with a younger woman. This song is played as Vincent is trying to convince himself not to sleep with Mia. This is a cleverly constructed way of building in a song to show the feelings of the character and what is going through their mind by bringing the song in as diegetic instead of non-diegetic. As well as showing Vincent’s predicament the song helps show how Mia is naïve and childlike. This helps show how the use of pre-existing music can be used in a similar way to that of a classic film score which has been composed for the film. This is done by the fact that Pulp Fiction’s soundtrack uses song which can be used to show mickey mousing between the music and the film as the meaning of the song here as Girl you ll be a woman soon matches what is happening on the screen and therefore fits with the film as a whole rather than being associated as a separate song to the film.

Likewise, Reservoir Dogs also uses a diegetic soundtrack-like Pulp Fiction. This is used mainly through the radio program within the film which has a very important role throughout the film. Most of the film abstains from music to help focus on the dialogue however, the music becomes more prominent when a character turns on the radio. This soundtrack is occasionally used ironically. For example later on in the film they hold a police officer hostage. While this is happening the radio is on and the song Stuck in the middle with you by the Stealers Wheel is playing. This creates a sense of irony as there is a graphic scene happening with a police officer who is being tortured, which is then put against a catchy upbeat pop song. Along with this, the song also has relevance as it helps tell the story of what is currently happening.

 Sarah Harford states that this happens using the line well I don’t know why I came here tonight I got a feeling that something ain’t right. The film then continues to move hand in hand with the music as when the song progresses so does the amount of violence that is inflicted on the police officer. The end of the song is signified with the end of the pain the police officer is experiencing as when he yells STOP the music comes to the end. Quentin Tarantino’s film soundtracks help show that there are many positives of using pre-existing music in film. One is the way of creating irony is a lot easier when the song is pre-existing as it can become a lot funnier as the audience already know the song and there, for it creates a difference with what is happening on screen, this is shown in the example of Stuck in the middle with you used in Reservoir Dogs.

His films also show how pre-existing music can be used to mickey mouse what is happening in the film just in a way specially composed music can through the example of Girl you’ll be a woman soon in Pulp Fiction. By comparing the two types of music within the film we can see how both specially composed music and pre-existing music can both work but also fail in a film environment. An example of how pre-existing music can be not as effective as to what is happening on screen or to the film is from Spring Breakers which was released in 2013. Within this, there is a scene that consists of a fight. This scene has been slowed down and therefore appears in slow motion. Over the top of this the song, every time by Britney Spears released in 2003 to go along with the scene as it plays out. The contrast between this scene even though in slow motion and the morbid feel of the Britney Spears song is so great the song doesn’t seem to fit with the film and therefore doesn’t feel as though it works. However, an example of pre-existing music in film working is the classical pre-existing music used by Stanley Kubrick. He has been said to use pre-existing music in newly provocative ways. For example the use of the 2nd movement from Beethoven’s Ninth in A Clockwork Orange 1971. This piece seems inescapable in use within the film and feels attached and emotionally appropriate for the film.

Write and Proofread Your Essay
With Noplag Writing Assistance App

Plagiarism Checker

Spell Checker

Virtual Writing Assistant

Grammar Checker

Citation Assistance

Smart Online Editor

Start Writing Now

Start Writing like a PRO