Picture this: You’re sitting in the theater and this happens…go ahead, turn up the speakers, you’ll thank me later.
Of course, that is the timeless and phantasmagorical theme to Star Wars. Now, imagine how disappointed you would be if instead of that theme song and its booming crescendo, the theater was just silent.
It totally changes how exciting that famed opening scrawl is, doesn’t it?
As soon as “Star Wars” lights up the screen in bright yellow accompanied by the main theme, it immediately transports you to another place and time. You get goosebumps, a huge smile emerges, and you sink a little deeper into your seat as you get ready to go on an epic space odyssey.
No matter how many times you’ve seen Star Wars the reaction is visceral, emotional, inevitable…it is the best feeling ever.
The Music Connects Us
From movies like Dirty Dancing where music is an intrinsic part of the story, to movies like The Graduate where one song identifies the film completely, the music creates all the feels. Soundtracks are a critical piece of storytelling–they help us feel what see on screen.
Music is how film creators tell us not only how to feel, but when to feel it.
Each movie soundtrack is comprised of a combination of carefully selected existing songs, a few original songs, and sometimes the film score. With those three elements, the audience has a connection beyond what they’re watching, and an elevated viewing experience happens because of it.
A Perfect Composition
There is a fraternity of composers in Hollywood tasked with creating the underlying scores of film.
These compositions are not merely ‘tracks’ each playing at a specific place. They’re the DNA of a film ebbing and flowing throughout the movie.
Each specific song or score can–and most often does–carries elements from the others. Similarities like these allows us to find patterns in the film itself. That’s the beauty of a film score; it binds the movie together. And that audio glue connects us on a deeper level because of it.
The ‘Endgame’ of Film Scores
To really get a grasp of the importance of a film score: An experiment. Watch this clip in two different ways: First, on mute. Second, turn it up. Again, go ahead…I’ll wait.
Without any sound, this pivotal scene during Endgame is still visually stunning. The emotions on Cap’s face, the determination of the Avengers, the awe it creates in everyone. With the volume up and hearing Alan Silvestri’s Portals, everything changes.
When the portals open, you feel it.
Sam says, “On your left.” Then, it hits you in the pit of your stomach. This scene, as amazing as it is, wouldn’t be half as incredible without that score to ground it and give it depth.
Feel The Rhythm
It’s amazing to think that once upon a time movies were silent.
Imagine watching a film like North by Northwest in complete silence. Sometimes I think about watching a movie on mute with just the subtitles to guide me to see if I would feel or react to a movie the same way.
For me, music is the force that connects me to the film. It’s the heartbeat of a movie, the soul of a film.
Without Shallow from A Star Is Born you may never understand who Ally is as a human, and definitely not at the level as you do when you hear her belt it out on stage (or in an empty parking lot.) With two repeating notes from one of the most iconic film scores of all time, you actually feel the anticipation in your gut, the terror in your bones, and you know…Jaws is about to strike.
It’s music that attaches us to film, connects us to a story, puts us right where the characters are. It’s music that gives us ‘the feels.’