What is the function of film music?
Music can serve several purposes that are either important on the emotional side of the movie or help/enhance the storytelling. It is not only helpful but essential for any director/producer to keep the music in mind when planning/shooting the movie. For example collages that practically don’t work at all without film music can have a fantastic effect later with the appropriate music.
You can extend every function below by clicking on the arrow in order to read a description of this function.
The following list tries to be a comprehensive overview about possible functions of film music in a movie. Some functions overlap sometimes or some music serves several functions at other times.
In this clip the music creates a certain heroism for rather neutral images:
2. Illustrating Movement
In the following clip the music syncs up with motion in several occasions:
3. Creating Plot Relationships
4. Create Atmosphere
The intro of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS already sets the atmosphere for the entire movie in site of the visuals being rather neutral.
5. Portray Emotions
Here’s the legendary ending sequence of ET without music:
And the same scene WITH music:
6. Social/Cultural/Geographic References
The opening sequence of this series pretty specifically sets the location of it musically:
7. Time/Period References
8. Connect Scenes/Montages
Here’s an example of a montage being glued together by music:
10. Alternate the Perception of Time
In this scene, the slow motion shots are being scored very excitingly giving this sequence the emotional importance:
11. Imply a Sense of Space
In this dialogue scene, the music opens up the size of the underwater world by having a lonely flute line on top of rumbling basses/celli.
12. Create Unreal Situations
This excerpt shows how music pushes the situation into a surreal atmosphere right from the beginning.
13. Create Contradictions
This well known sequence from SCHINDLER’S LIST overlays the gruesome liquidation of the ghetto with a classical piano piece, creating the strongest musical contradicition possible.
In this scene, the music sets some comedic parody moments:
15. Physiological Conditioning
This scene from INTERSTELLAR and its music create a strong sense of urgency, pushing the adrenaline:
16. Implying Size Relations
17. Psychologically Uniting the Audience
In this scene the music unites the characters in the movie as well as the audience:
18. Character Development