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Film Music

Since the epoque of The Lumiere Brothers cinematography has changed greatly and today we do not watch silent films any more, trying to guess the emotions of the characters by their mimicry and separate words. Nowadays music is an essential part of any film, TV program or commercial. Music is everywhere around us – we listen to it in case we want to relax, to raise the spirits or to feel nostalgic for some moments in the past. We surround us by music and sometimes feel lonely and uncomfortable if it does not accompany our activity. Such human dependency on music cannot be left behind by those who produce films, TV commercials and any programs aimed at the audience.
The influence of music at people becomes a powerful tool in the sphere of advertising and in cinematography, thus embracing both commercial and cultural spheres of our life. Thoroughly chosen music for a commercial or a film guarantees its success and the achievement of the final aim. The interaction of audio and visual material indeed can have an immense impact on people’s behavior, mood and opinion.
The degree of sound influence on people has been a research issue for many scientists since 1980s and till our days. The scope of researches comprised experiments on physiological, psychological and intellectual reaction of people on different types of music and different variants of their combination with graphic images. In 1980s, Thayer and Levenson (45) carried out an experiment on the reaction of cardiovascular system on different genres of music. The participants watched a depressing film about accidents at work, accompanied by calm and stirring music, which respectively decreased and increased the participants’ pulse. In 1990s, a series of experiments aimed at the ascertainment of dependency of movies perception and soundtrack was conducted. Lipscomb and Kendall (78) chose five different movie episodes with soundtracks, intended for them by the composer. Then they combined every piece of music with every scene and asked the participants to watch all the combinations and to choose the best combination of music and episode. The experiment showed that people mostly chose the combination originally made by the composer.
The most remarkable research, showing the influence of soundtrack on the perception of the picture, was made by Bullerjam and Guldenring (105). They created a film that could be interpreted differently by people and three different types of soundtracks for it. After watching different versions of the film the participants were asked to answer several questions on the probable end of the film. The experiment showed that the opinion of people was greatly influenced by the music used in the film.
Relying on all these experiments, we see that the interaction of music and movie plays a significant role in the perception of the film by audience. True professionals are able to make such a combination of audio and visual material that it can provoke any desirable emotions in people. However, among sound men there exist such a term as “Mickey Mousing” – “the exact, and by implication, simplistic synchronization of visual and sonic events” (Cohen 25). This term is usually used when the synchronization of the sound and the movie does not carry an important meaning. They just imitate each other, which does not fulfill the main function of the interaction of music and movie - the attraction of human attention. When the soundtrack is skillfully combined with the whole movie or just a scene from it, they together evoke a number of associations in the audience. Once heard and having evoked some particular thoughts and feelings about the scene in the film, this piece of music will evoke the same feelings again and again as well as the scene, even separated from each other.
Certainly, the process of selecting a corresponding soundtrack for a movie takes much time and needs hard work. It should match the scene and convey the mood of the episode or the whole film, which the author intended for it. In my opinion, one of the most successful soundtracks for a film is presented in Roger Michell’s movie “Notting Hill” with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant starring there. The leitmotif of the film is the song “She” performed by Elvis Costello. The main characters of the film are a popular movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) and an owner of a tiny bookshop in London William Thacker (Hugh Grant). William is a thirty-year-old common man who lives with an odd friend of him in a flat and runs slowly his business, which just lets him keep body and soul together. He is modest and vulnerable. He is unlucky in love and suffers long afterwards his disillusionments in love. Anna is an actress at the height of her fame. She stars in a succession of films, earns millions of dollars and has a very rigid schedule of her day. She is admired and desired by thousands of people; however she remains a secret for all of them. Anna and William’s meeting becomes crucial for both of them. Their love changes them and helps them to get over all the difficulties in their way. They are from absolutely different worlds, which have their own rules and limits. Though the film shows the love and emotions of both Anna and William, it still focuses more on the William’s story and his sufferings. His love to Anna becomes a trial for him. He falls in love with her and though he understands the impossibility of being with Anna, he still can’t help loving her. Nothing is easy in their love story, especially for William, and we also feel his heartache owing to the music successfully chosen for the film.
The soundtrack “She” sets off the whole film, playing in the beginning of the film and in the end. This device foregrounds the message of the movie and makes an emphasis on Willaim’s love story, as it was intended by the director. In fact, the song briefly tells us all that can be read between the lines in the film. Accompanying the very first and the very last scenes of the film, the song is perceived differently. When we hear it for the first time, it is just a story of a popular actress, who is an idol for millions of people.
She
May be the beauty or the beast
May be the famine or the feast
May turn each day into a heaven or a hell
At the end of the film, it is no more Anna’s story, but the story of Willaim’s love to Anna. The whole scope of William’s sufferings, his disappointments and his happiness, his pain and his joy, his sacrifices and his love – all is heard in the song.
She
May be the face I can't forget
The trace of pleasure or regret
May be my treasure or the price I have to pay
Me
I'll take her laughter and her tears
And make them all my souvenirs
For where she goes I've got to be
The meaning of my life is
She
William becomes that very person who gets to know her inner world and her true nature, the person to whom she opens her heart and casts off her image of a glamorous haughty star. “She may not be what she may seem inside her shell”.
Another soundtrack in the film is the song “Ain’t No Sunshine” performed by Lighthouse Family. While “She” is the major theme song, this soundtrack fits a particular scene in the film. It accompanies an episode of William’s loneliness after parting with Anna. What is special about this combination of music and movie is that the director manages to show a whole year of William’s waiting and suffering in a three-minute scene, which would not make such an impression on the audience without the song fitting it perfectly well.
The example of the film Notting Hill shows how important the soundtrack is for a movie. It reflects all the emotions of the characters, it might either a background for all the vents happening in the film or might be placed in the forefront – anyway it supplements the story and makes it fascinating for people. If to put aside the psychological aspect of the role of soundtrack in the film, certainly music in a film contributes much to the promotion of the movie and its box office success. People may not watch the film several times but they will listen to their favorite song again and again, buying disks and downloading it in the Internet.
To make a conclusion, numerous researches of scientists and simple worldly observations show that music is an essential part of any film or TV program, which makes it a finished work of art. The dependence of a person’s mood and opinion on music is proved by various experiments, which show both physiological and psychological reactions of a person to different genres of music. Therefore, the right choice of a soundtrack for a movie or a particular scene is a crucial point in the work over a film. It may either reduce to nothing all the previous work or to make the film a masterpiece. by the example of “Notting Hill” and its major soundtrack “She” we see how important to make music fit the picture in order to create the utmost impression on the audience. The film “Notting Hill” won several awards in Britain, including a Brit Award for the soundtrack, a British Comedy Award and the award of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Works Cited
Bullerjam, C., G?ldenring, M. “An empirical investigation of effects of film music using qualitative content analysis”. Psychomusicology. 13 (1994): 99-118.
Cohen, A.J. “Understanding musical soundtracks”. Empirical Studies of the Arts. 8 (2) (1990): 111-124
de Villalvilla C. “The princess and the book worm”. Triviana reviews. 2 June 2008
<http://triviana.com/film/nfilm/notting.htm>
Lipscomb, S.D., Kendall, R.A. “Perceptual judgment of the relationship between musical and visual components in film”. Psychomusicology. 13 (1994): 60-98.
Notting Hill. Dir. Roger Michell. Universal Studios. DVD, 2001.
Thayer, J.F., Levenson, R.W. “Effects of music on psychophysiological responses to a stressful film”. Psychomusicology. 3(1) (1983): 44-52.


 

 
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