The Importance Of Film Score And Game Soundtracks

By Tommy Baid - @kortexiphankid

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Music plays an important part in certain medias, such as original soundtracks; theme tunes; and film scores (this includes films; TV shows; videogames;) Film music and movie soundtracks can be described as being either diegetic or non-diegetic. Sound in film is termed diegetic (termed source music by professionals in the radio, film and television industry) if it is part of the narrative sphere of the film. For instance, if a character in the film is playing a piano, or turns on a CD player, the resulting sound is diegetic. The cantina band sequence in the original Star Wars is an example of diegetic music in film, with the band playing instruments and swaying to the beat, as patrons are heard reacting to the second piece the band plays. If, on the other hand, music plays in the background but cannot be heard by the film’s characters, it is termed non-diegetic or extra-diegetic. Determining whether a piece of music is one or the other comes down to the context in which it is used. Can the characters hear it? Does the audience realize that? Or is the song used to increase emotional resonance? Here, I would like to share my feelings on certain pieces of media that shows just how important the music is.

Originally Alfred Hitchcock intended the (spoiler alert) shower-stabbing scene to be without musical accompaniment, but after he scored the film, Bernard Herrmann impressed Hitchcock so much that he kept the musical cue for that scene in. Herrmann reminded Hitchcock of his instructions not to score this scene, to which Hitchcock replied, “Improper suggestion, my boy, improper suggestion.” The effect was achieved, with violins in a “screeching, stabbing sound-motion of extraordinary viciousness.” And remains to this day to be the one of the most well known and scariest themes of any film. I think this goes to show that even the great Hitchcock was wrong to some degree, not realising how important the score was until he had experienced it for himself.

Horror movies in particular can have very iconic, very memorable scores and soundtracks. Timeless shark shocker ‘Jaws’ has a main title that still makes me think twice before getting in the water, or about the size of the boat to take into said water. ‘First Victim’ Composed by John Williams, is revolved around an ostinato of bass notes. This was said to represent the shark as an “unstoppable force” of “mindless and instinctive attacks”. The score was so well received that it earned him an Academy Award.

Some television series will have a title sequence of no more than a few seconds showing the name of the programme, though many others use sections of songs, or songs in their entirety. “Way down in the hole “is covered five different ways over the five series of ‘The Wire’ Protest song ‘Little Boxes’was used as the opening theme song for the television series ‘Weeds’ The first season used (the original) Reynolds’s version as the theme song. The second, third, and eighth seasons used versions by nearly thirty different musicians, as well as the occasional Reynolds version.
Angelo Badalamenti composed the soundtrack of American television series ‘Twin Peaks.’ It was reviewed as “a model of film music ideally matched to the images and actions it underscores.” Or “the summit of TV soundtracks” in geographical wordplay from that hip newspaper ‘The Guardian”

Portal 2 is a first person puzzle shooter that requires the player to use a little more of their mind then they would to shoot people in the head. A sequel to Portal, where you are ‘tested’ throughout different levels armed with a portal gun, allowing the player to create wormholes which can be used to cheat a pedometer. The soundtrack ‘songs to test by’ is a mix of ambient works which, as the game continues, becomes more heavy and hectic. Kym Dillon of IGN used the soundtrack of Portal 2 as an example how a game can use both source music (i.e. music that is part of the game environment) and underscoring (music that is only for the player) to create atmosphere in games. Reflecting the difference of diegetic or non-diegetic use of music in cinema.

Creating an atmosphere for games is useful defending which type of game you’re playing. Just like film and television, atmosphere is essential. Horror movies use music to create tension, making scary scenes that bit more intense. Romantic scenes will have music building up in the background, using (true love’s) first kiss as the pay off. Without an atmosphere these medias will seem weaker, cheaper and will not be as am enjoyable experience for the viewer/player. Music, Media and Movies go hand in hand together and it’s not just because of alliteration.

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