How Music Effects Mood and Perception in Motion Pictures

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Music is a fundamental necessity in the world that we live in today. We all implement music in our everyday lives whether it’s professionally or solely for entertainment purposes. Some people build careers on music as musicians, composers, singers, or teachers while the latter of us just need music to get through the day whether we’re driving or at work or just need to relax. The need for music in our contemporary society affects us in a myriad of different ways--including the undeniable effect on our moods. The sound of just one note, one chord, can send an instantaneous message to the brain that, psychologically, can make us think or act in a certain way. These reactions can positively or negatively our moods depending on the composer’s intentions and our perceptions. Filmmakers implement the same idea using music to evoke a certain feeling or reaction/perception in their audience.
Music in motion pictures is an indispensable tool filmmakers utilize to effect the mood of their audience. It often gets underrated as a predominant psychological force as it is employed subliminally by filmmakers under their narrative so that their audience is unaware of its presence. Nicholas Cook, author of Analyzing Musical Multimedia, states, “words and pictures deal primarily with the specific…while music deals primarily with responses--that is, with values, emotions, and attitudes….”(22). However, there is certain music that is suppose to be heard by the audience as part of the cinematic diegesis. All sounds that are understood by characters in the narrative are referred to as diegetic; however, those sounds that are not part of the diegesis are referred to as nondiegetic. This would suggest that diegetic music is processed on the conscious level while nondiegetic music might remain on the subconscious level (Gorbman, 75). Although many people might be unaware of these two types of sounds while screening a film, it effects their reactions, interpretations, and moods significantly.
The role of music in a motion picture is in direct relation to the level of ambiguity in a particular visual scene. The more ambiguous a scene is, the more filmmakers rely on their composers to develop a musical score that interprets the meaning of the scene for their audience. Therefore, music provides a cue for the listener to tell...

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...t in a film and exactly how they felt in that moment. Most importantly, music sets the pace of a film to play on our emotions. Some films are slow and emotive that allow directors to incorporate music to influence the audience’s emotions; other are fast paced and exciting which can also exuded through the use of music. Where would the art of cinema be without the use of music today? I know for sure that films wouldn’t be as powerful and as captivating to the mind and soul of viewers without the use of this powerful tool.

Works Cited
Boltz, Michael. “Musical Soundtracks as a schematic influence on the cognitive processing of filmed events.” Music Perception. Vol. 18 (4). 2001.
Cook, Nicholas. Analyzing Musical Multimedia. Oxford University Press: New York, 1998.
Gorbman, Claudia. Unheard Melodies: Narrative film music. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, Indiana, 1987.
Langer, Suzanne. Feeling and Form. Prentice Hall: London, 1977.
Whittall, Arnold. “Leitmotif” The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online. 2003. 20 Nov. 2004. .
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