• René Rank
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
Music has for a long time been an almost obligatory part of television advertising, which hardly comes as a surprise, when taking the importance of all things musical in Western culture into consideration. Even though few people would dispute the emotional, expressive potential of music, there is still a high degree of uncertainty as to exactly how it works, but nevertheless the use of music today is widespread and in a constant state of growth.
The main purpose of this master thesis in the field of communication studies is reaching a better understanding of how music in TV commercials connects with other media in creating a combined message. Methodologically it is a case of analytical extraction of meaning, and the object is a sample of specific TV commercials from the Danish railroad company – DSB. To support this analysis, I sought out to conduct a reception test comprising interviews with five respondents, who all viewed three of the commercials. Thus, the issue of the thesis is divided into two parts:

• How can multimodal analysis with a musical emphasis be approached, and what does this approach bring forth in connection with DSB commercials?
• What does the reception of selected DSB commercials convey about the use of music, when compared with results of multimodal analysis of the very same commercials?

Inspired by musicology, yet remaining grounded in the field of communication, I developed an interdisciplinary model for analysing the use and different functions of music in multimodal settings. This model is formed on the basis of distinction, which consists of three analytical dimensions; text, cotext and context. In addition to these dimensions, I considered the different modes in light of one another to maintain a high degree of focus on their combined expression.
Overall the use of music in the eight chosen DSB commercials does not vary to a great degree, as the music in most cases has roughly the same expressive content as the visual mode (ie. paraphrasing music), which is a relationship comparable to that of conventional motion pictures. Some of these commercials do, however, contain music functioning in a specifiying manner, resulting in the visual side, and ultimately the plot, being interpreted differently than it would have, had the music been different or absent altogether. Not only does the music affect the visual mode significantly in these cases – it works the other way around too. The music is perceived differently, conveying more nuanced emotions, when aligned with the pictures. Thus, the mutual dependence between the modes is quite apparent in the analytical process of subjecting the commercial to reverse reading.

The interviews with the five respondents, who took part in the reception test, showed that their perception of the commercials largely corresponds to my analytical findings in regard to the meaning conveyed. Naturally they did not verbalise the deciphering of the modal correlation, nor were they asked to, but it was rather interesting how they all virtually agreed, as to which commercial was most straightforward and devoid of confusing elements. In my analysis I voiced a small degree of dissatisfaction concerning the other two commercials – a feeling several respondents seemed to share. Here it is necessary to stress that they did not know anything about this analysis before the interview. Two respondents felt a sense of exaggeration in the final sequence of one of these commercials (titled “Oh Freedom”), which was due to the gospel music’s alignment with pictures inside a moving train. These statements correspend well to the analysis, in which I deemed the joyous and uplifting musical expression of the gospel music incompatible with the rather sterile looking train and the motionless passenger, who happens to be one of the main characters. The other commercial with pre-existing music caused confusion for some respondents, and another noted that the lyrics – playing a significant part in making sense of the commercial – could be open to interpretation. The analysis contained the same observation, so it would appear that pre-existing music in commercials should only be used with consideration.
Regrettably the reception test did not yield results to an extent, that does the analytical approach justice. In creation of the questions for the interviews, I was careful not to use technical terms, which may, paradoxically, have had a slight detrimental effect on the final outcome of the reception test.
Publication date2010
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 35095959