If music be the food of love
We’ve explained the art of video narration, but the art of working in great music is another key aspect. Music is one of the most important parts of creating a film, as having the wrong piece of music in a certain scene can turn an otherwise well-structured film into a laughing stock.
Music is key to building a film's quality, a component that heightens an emotion, touches the soul and, tugs at the heart strings. Like a good movie, a good piece of music has myriad layers to it, comprising a wealth of components, from rich musicality to an understanding of the human psyche. When combined, music and film are the perfect marriage.
Think of music in a film as the underline that secures a moment; writing in No Film School, V Renee says of underlining a psychological moment, “Whether it's something a character isn't saying or danger lurking just beyond the frame, music can alert the audience to something unseen. A great example is the opening scene from Jaws. When "Chrissy" and her male companion are stripping down and running toward the beach, there isn't a soundtrack playing. All is well -- or so we think. It isn't until we see a worm's eye view (fish's eye view?) of Chrissy swimming that we begin to hear some eerie music, which causes us to feel a little uneasy. Now we know something is wrong. We don't see anything that looks dangerous, but the music tells us that, yep, this girl is in trouble.”
Music’s function in the world of film is very broad indeed, aside from helping construct an emotional tone, music can be used to indicate the social, cultural, and geographic aspects of a film or scene. Wes Anderson, who is famed for his one-point perspective, is also the master of sourcing pieces of music that fit beautifully with the cultural and geographic elements within his films, for ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ (2007), which was set in India, Anderson used a wealth of music, from Classical Indian to Bollywood, many of which had nods to the films of Merchant Ivory and Satyajit Ray.
Musician Robin Hoffman explains further, “Music can work very well to make clear the heritage of a character/group of characters or the geographic setting of the movie or a scene. Often so called pseudo authenticity is used that uses music that feels like a certain location to western ears as opposed to actual music that can be heard at that location (which differs quite heavily sometimes). If for example Irish sounding music can be heard during a certain scene etc. we can easily spot where it’s taking place without the need of visually establishing the location too much.”
Continuity and providing some depth to moments of silence are other important functions. Finding the right music is purely down to creative expression, it’s a personal choice of what you think will work well. Being able to use the music you really want is another matter, with most big budget films either composing a soundtrack specifically, or getting permission from their chosen artists and record labels.
Many of us out there, who film on budget, will have to use ‘library music’ that is free to the public, but often involves a license of use. ThinkSync Music discusses the use of ‘library Music’,“It is usually classified by genres and theoretically can supply the right background music for everything from, ‘Joan was walking down the street minding her own business when a rattlesnake suddenly emerged from dustbin,’ to, ‘the heavy traffic was suddenly halted by the fire engine pursuing the out of control chieftain tank down the steep San Francisco street.” You try and find it though. Library Music is free or available for a nominal fee providing you credit the rights owners. Producers of library music make their money when their music is broadcast. Broadcasters, (not filmmakers), pay the local collection society every time a piece of music is played on radio, TV etc.”