MenagerieOf beats, silence, and vision: The importance of musical scoring in films
Of beats, silence, and vision: The importance of musical scoring in films
March 22, 2018
March 22, 2018

You reach into your pocket or bag and pull out that tangled web of white wires. “Not this again,” you sigh as you then start the grueling task of trying to untangle the mess that was previously your set of earphones. Nothing is worse than not being able to listen to your music because your earphones somehow mated in your pocket, other than actually losing or breaking your earphones.

Music is so ingrained in us. Music touches nearly every aspect of our lives from even before we were born, when the first song we knew was our mother’s heartbeat. It is deeply ingrained in our reality, our culture. We use it not just to entertain ourselves but to tell a story. Music can be a medium of communication, our early history as a people used to be passed on to succeeding generations through poetry and songs. Music is something that helps us remember, and it is a poignant medium of communication even in film.

Sound as an aid

Every little detail matters in producing the music and sound effects of a film. From the sound of a roaring car engine to the chirping of the bird, and even the tiny sound of a crackling fire, each sound is important in the making of a movie.

Sound is a vital element of filmmaking. The importance of this element may be shown through this example: Imagine being in a cinema where a visually great movie was being shown, but a messy sound ruins the experience for you. Envision a movie with a scene where a door was obviously shut loudly, but there was no sound; ruining the blurred line that connects real life experiences and movies even through a tiny detail.

Unless the film is a silent film, we now live in an era where sound has been exploited for various usage in different platforms, and film is not exempted from this narrative. Sound effects, to say the least, have become a visual aid together with music, and one cannot go without the other.


Music as storytelling

When we think of storytelling, we imagine someone standing tall with a powerful voice weaving tales that somehow come to life in our minds. But music can also be a form of storytelling, like poetry the lyrics can jar something in us and poignantly encapsulate a thought or feeling even with just a few short lines.

That is not to say that it is only music with lyrics that can effectively communicate something, even without the rhythm of the beat or the lack of shared language. Drums can evoke passion or fear, its similarity to a heartbeat connecting with some primal part of us. Music can set the tone for a scene, creating an ambiance that makes whatever happening on screen all the more powerful and impactful.


Soundtrack aiding the visual

Besides the highly important sound effects in the movie, another sound related aspects can come handy in the production of a film’s official movie soundtracks. At this point in time, most movies come with a loaded soundtrack that enhances the experience.

A lot of people nowadays are guilty of imagining themselves in certain scenarios accompanied by a particular background music, especially the defining moments. Just like in reality, alternate and fictional universes that films produce also play around music in hopes to be more effective in terms of storytelling. Case in point is the Oscar-nominated romantic coming-of-age film Call Me By Your Name and its exploitation of music for effectivity in scenes.

Singer-songwriter Surfjan Stevens had two songs in the highly-praised motion picture soundtrack, both of which were used in memorable scenes that people would usually recall.

The first song, Mystery of Love, aided a visual of the romantic moments where main characters Elio and Oliver were wearing their hearts out on their sleeves on the mountains of Italy, obviously enjoying being free from the rest of the world. Stevens’ song perfectly giving a warm and calm, yet soothingly passionate feeling to the viewers through its relaxed beat during the narrative.

The second song, which was also beautifully sung and penned by Stevens, Visions of Gideon may just be the song that reminds you of that one painful moment. With a beat that can give you the feeling of tension, heartbreak, and love, the song was used during the final scene where Elio was seen quietly crying his heart out in front of a well-lighted fireplace while the credits were subtly rolling—actually daggering to the viewers’ chests with its slow pace.

And like Call Me By Your Name, the Black Panther soundtrack was also released to praise. Produced by rapper Kendrick Lamar, the album differs from previous Marvel films wherein the film’s music doesn’t blend into the background but garners attention for its beautiful execution.

Call Me By Your Name doesn’t have any music other than the songs featured, immersing the viewer into a world that feels as real as their own. So when music does happen, it really brings the viewer to the emotional highs and lows of the characters. Likewise, in Black Panther, the music adds to whatever is happening on screen such as when T’challa, Nakia, and Okoye enter a casino as the song Pray for Me plays. The lyrics give us a deeper insight into the characters’ psyches, especially T’challa’s mindset.


Music’s subtle power

Now, more than ever, sound has become a crucial and highly important element of filmmaking. From the sound effects used to highlight each movement in the film to the music used to highlight a defining moment, the film’s audio scoring is no easy task to take due to its relevance to the movie.

Although crafted with great care by media practitioners, many average consumers don’t recognize the significance of music in the media they consume. The emotional strength of music, however, is capable of anything and everything in between and shouldn’t be disregarded. Mainstream music might be commodified; however, there are still genuine works of art and passion that are crafted by those who elevate the form beyond our expectations into something that connects to a common shared human experience.

From the sound effects and the sound tracks used, sound and music has raised the quality of the stories and movies present in today’s society. Besides, what else do we look forward to during the release of films? A good worth of sound that will make us feel all the emotions that a movie wants us to sense. And through this, a spotlight is now directed towards sounds and music—shining brighter and roaring louder in a medium ruled by visuals.