Is Music the Most Important Component of Film?

For a long time, I have wondered this. As a music performance major, I happen to be naturally drawn to exploration of the soundtrack of any given film as much as I am analysis of individual characters or the plot. In fact, I feel as though music provides the most essential component to the atmosphere of any film. If the Lord of the Rings movies had horrible music, then nobody would have been able to take them as seriously. Also, think about some other great films that have come out during our lifetime, The Batman films all have excellent soundtracks, as do the Star Wars movies and many others.

Music provides a very intense variable to the medium of film. Books cannot possibly provide this in their narratives, and even if they try its difficult to be effective because each individual person has their own preconceived notion of how music should sound. If I were writing a book and tried to describe one of the main musical themes of Lord of the Rings, it would sound very different in people’s heads then it would in an actual movie. However, if I ask everyone to recall the main theme of the movie (heard on the menu screen of the version of the film we’re watching in class) everyone would recall the same exact tune.

What great music does for film is allow the audience to grow closer to characters and situations that they otherwise wouldn’t have felt. Without the epic, flowing themes, audiences would have a much harder time connecting with the complicated plotline and intricate characters in the Lord of the Rings. It helped us have a deeper understanding of the Hobbit’s friendships, the scariness of Mordor, and the Fellowship’s bravery. Because of the music, the movie is more memorable.

-Jeremy Bolin

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2 thoughts on “Is Music the Most Important Component of Film?”

  1. You make a very good point when relating music to movies and books. While I notice the presence of music in movies, I guess until now I never really thought of the absence of music in literature. During a movie the music helps us feel the way the director wants us to feel, whether it be music to induce suspense or excitement, but when reading a book we are left to our own devices to feel the emotions of the scene.

  2. I definitely agree with what both you and Molly say in regard to the music in film; however, I would have to say that – in more abstract sense – the qualities of music that might add to a movie in the ways you’ve described actually do exist in literature and poetry. This might be a bit of a stretch, I know, but in terms of rhythm, tone, and just generally adding to atmosphere, I would argue that novels and poems definitely do this in their own way.

    A huge component of poetry is meter, or a way to sort of measure and calculate the rhythm of language and words. While we might not think about this directly when reading, it controls the pacing and rhythm of the lines and poems, adding to the atmosphere and effect – especially when read aloud. Same goes for tone in novel – you often hear of certain writers being more lyrical in their tone. This is a huge component of literature. When thinking back on books I’ve read in my life, I really don’t remember specific plot points nearly as much as I recall the feel of the author’s voice and the general vibe of the book (like you said about movie theme songs).

    So of course, while literature can’t play you a song directly, I would argue that it definitely has ways to provide some of the same effects that music does for movies, just in a much different way.

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