• Leslie Rasmussen
4. semester, Musik (cand.mag.), Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
At least since antiquity music has been known to have an emotional effect on human beings (Have, 2008: 151). As early as in the Age of Enlightenment we see systematic attempts to find a connection between human emotions and certain musical structures – the so-called Doctrine of the Affect (Kassabian, 2001: 15).
Although music in a film context was initially used solely to drown the noise of the film projector the makers of silent films quickly became aware of music’s emotional qualities (Davis, 1999: 16f). In this context music has often been said to be capable of adding an extra meaning to the film.
But how does music create this extra meaning?
Film music is part of a larger aesthetic work (the film itself) and therefore I find it naturally to include general film theories in the search to find out how music functions in mainstream films. It is my opinion that we experience the film as a whole and that we are mostly unaware of the different artistic effects used in films. I have explained this through various theories based on cognitive studies that offer an explanation as to how we perceive the film media in general and through the psychological aspect of gestalt.
Film theorist Murray Smith calls film characters the “‘entry into’ narrative structure” (Smith, 1995: 18). It is through the characters we experience the narrative and it is our engagement with the characters that makes the film’s diegesis interesting for us as audience. Therefore I have used Murray Smith’s theory about character engagement featured in his book Engaging Characters (1995) as my main approach to the discussion of the influence of music in film. I have placed film music in a continuation of this theory and found out possible ways film music contributes to the audience’s engagement in characters.
If music is able to influence our engagement in characters (or just have any influence on our perception of film in general) it will somehow have to possess a meaning that can be communicated to us as listeners. In continuation of cognitive theories I believe that this meaning is mainly generated in the combination of musical contours (or structures) and socio-cultural aspects. That means that the way we experience certain (sounding) musical structures is mainly a result of our socio-cultural background. In other words, the meaning we experiences in film music stems from other experiences, for instance certain rituals which include musical accompaniment, other film music, and the specific filmic context in which the music is used. Music is just one of many artistic effects in the film media that exert an influence on our engagement in characters (and in general on the film’s narrative) and therefore it can be difficult to pin point exactly how the film music affects us. For that reason, I have played certain music examples for a group of people (respondents) that wrote down whatever meaning they experience the different music examples contains. Secondly, I have used the music examples in different short film examples that became test material for new groups of respondents. These new respondent groups have been asked about how they engage with the characters in the film examples. Some respondent groups have seen film examples without music, others have seen the examples with one kind of music, others have seen the examples with another kind of music, and lastly some have seen the examples with one kind of music in different narrative contexts.
Based on my test results and the cognitive theories, I have been able to shed some light on how film music has an effect on the audience’s engagement in film characters. Furthermore, my test results have allowed me to show not only how the music can affect the perception of visuals but also how the general filmic context can affect the perception of film music.
For that reason I conclude that our building of character engagement is always based on our perception of the film as a whole, even though film music can have an important role in our engagement in film characters.

Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2010
Antal sider110
Udgivende institutionMusikstudiet, Institut for Sprog og Kultur, Aalborg Universitet
ID: 32247096