The 5 Functions of Film Music • Source music (diegetic music). • Sense of time or place. • Paralleling the action (“Mickey-Mousing”). • Emphasising the emotion. • Themes for characters / places (leitmotif).
Source Music (Diegetic) • This is music that is created within the scene that characters would be able to hear. • It might come, for example, from a radio in the corner of a room, a band playing at a gig, somebody playing a piano. • Example 1 – School of Rock (the band are playing so that all characters can hear) • Example 2 – The Matrix (Neo & Trinity are in a club so they can hear the music playing in the background.)
Music to give a sense of Time or Place • This is music that is written to give a sense of authenticity to a scene either for its location and country, or its place in time. It is achieved by: • using traditional instruments (e.g. bagpipes for Scotland, Sitar for India). • Using traditional musical forms (e.g. a waltz for Vienna in the 17th Century). • Example 1 – Braveheart (Uilleann pipes being a traditional instrument) • Example 2 – Hero (traditional Chinese instruments) • Example 3 – Titanic (The Hills of Connemara – traditional Irish folk tune).
Paralleling the action (‘Mickey-Mousing’) • This is where musical events are synchronised so that they carefully match any physical actions that happen on screen. • Whilst originally a comedic device used in numerous cartoons (hence the name), it is also a technique used in action films to make the scene more exciting. • Example 1 – The Picnic (a 1930 Mickey Mouse cartoon) • Example 2 – King Kong (the music matches Kong’s actions) • Example 3 – Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (video analysis of the scene)
Emphasising the Emotion • This is where the music in the scene is written to have an emotional effect on the audience. • It could be used to: • Create tension in a horror film or a thriller. • Emphasise the romantic or love aspect to a scene. • Accompany an action scene to make it more exciting. • Example 1 – Psycho (dissonant strings used to create tension) • Example 2 – Gone With The Wind (music swells with character’s emotions) • Example 3 – Rocky (triumphant music to accompany training montage) • Example 4 – Titanic (string trio playing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as they face certain death)
Themes for character or places (Leitmotif) • This is where the composer will create a melodic musical theme for a particular character or place in the film. • Example 1 – Doctor No (leitmotif for James Bond) • Example 2 – Superman The Movie (leitmotif for Superman’s heroism) • Example 3 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (leitmotif for the Galactic Empire)