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Fletcher Marchant

WRTG 1010

November 18, 2018

Why Music in Films Matter?

I started listening to soundtracks, film scores, etc. when I was around 12 years old. The film that

drove me—Pacific Rim—had below average story, SFX, and cast, but the soundtrack completely

blew the film out of the water. Ramin Djawadi who composed the score also worked on the

scores for Game of Thrones and Westworld, but Pacific Rim’s use of heavy rock, incredible

orchestration, and sci-fi sounds made me want to more soundtracks than just one. My grandma is

a pianist and she taught me about music theory on the piano so I got a basic understanding

between good scores and bad scores.

What I know is that music has a huge role in cinema for a long time, before films and TV had

actual sounds of dialogue. Motion pictures relied on the music to tell the story because it played

with the diegesis from grand orchestras to the silence of the wind. When motion pictures were

first invented, they needed a way to eliminate the sound of the clanky projector as well as tell the

story. Like shooting fish in a barrel, they added either a piano or a live orchestration. For

example: The Lumiere Brothers’ fantastical stories also have an extra ‘oomph’ when the music

plays along with the films—most famous work being Man on the Moon. From this good

composers have a good grasp on music theory because they never use it at all: Giorgio Mordor—

composer of Flashdance—talks about how he doesn’t follow the rules of music theory because it

acts as a template than something set-in-stone. Another way to tell good composers is they put

themselves in the moment than asking others what it feels like to run, to jump, or go skydiving;
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good composers expose themselves to catharsis. Japanese composer Yuki Hayashi is a perfect

example of a cathartic composer. Training in gymnastics, he didn’t get the feel he needed in

order to be motivated to do the training. So he took it upon himself to start experimenting

composing bits and pieces of motivational demos that improved his performance.

What I don’t know is how the music is composed, but I assume that there is a REALLY simple

structure of the score. For example: the main theme of the PS4 game “Spider-Man (2018)” is a

basic crescendo that contains heroic elements in major keys. Pretty much all trailers have this

simple structure of a crescendo with heavier undertones to emphasizes the suspense of the

anticipating moments that roll in the trailer; it grabs the audience’s attention to watch the film

and it leaves them confused. I can’t honestly say which soundtracks are good or bad because I’m

not a critic nor have I ever really analyzed the composition of good scores and bad scores, but

since my spark to film scores 8 years ago, I have built a habit of looking at numerous composers

and seeing which films I assume are good or bad. In the first article it answers my assumptions

of how film music is made, and how it’s used.

Why I chose this reading is because I wanted to know why and how music plays along with a

film’s narrative. I also want to inform the reader the importance of music and sound because

without it we would be stuck in the silent film era only dealing with our thoughts and the loud

projector. I found the reading through the web, but it is a theory paper written by University of

Minnesota professor, Robert Spande, titled, “The Three Regimes: A Theory of Film Music.”

Spande starts off with why music was introduced. During the era of silent films, films were a

new genre of art that everyone wanted to know, but the sound of clunky projectors running the

film ruined the story of a good film. Film producers then begun to introduce music, either with
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an orchestration or a pianist, but this new idea gave more opportunity to use the music as a

diegetic element. Spande contradicts this paradox with music been considered by the general

audience as the least memorable part of a film. He then further details the use of music into three

regimes: the symbolic helps emphasize the tones and abstracts of the film, the real keeps the

music hidden in the unknown, and the imaginary stimulates the feeling of euphoric neurosis.

I learned from this reading is that music is an important role to the narrative of a story. When the

hero is faced with an obstacle, an eerie fortified castle towering above all else and the music

starts with a minor adagio piano piece complemented with high major keys, the viewer will react

with different ideas, “I like how the film used a piano to contradict the size of the castle.” or “It

doesn’t seem right to play such soft music with something so big.” This open-mindedness of

interpreting different ideas for music strengthens the credibility and reputation of a well-made

film by studying music theory front-to-back and then tossing it in the trash and starting from

scratch. Flashdance composer, Giorgio Moroder, talks about how he was able to fully learn

music theory and disregard it because it’s only a foundation to creating new pieces of music.

Moroder fully knew how to create well-made music without a crutch, because he understood the

art than the structure and that mindset separates the reputable composers from the cookie-cutter


But mostly all composers have their own musical codes. Spande talks about how we learn

musical codes in films, but these codes are random, “Yet these codes are essentially arbitrary, as

the universal disparities between tonal scales and musical motifs show us.” Spande’s defense is

agreeable because the symbolic of music can change the film utterly. The musical codes however

aren’t really necessary to a film’s narrative. The film rather relies more on the broader sense of

music than it does of having rules; if a film’s score was composed because of rules then the score
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loses originality and meaning to the narrative, thus in return Spande’s support of musical codes is

false, but the symbolism does still affect the film.

I chose this reading because it ties with the aesthetics of film scores along with Spande’s theory

of three regimes. I also wanted to dig deeper into the underappreciation of film music and why

people choose to ignore it, but they would pay attention to theme scores and musicals. I found

this reading from the book, “Film Music: A Neglected Art” by Roy M. Prendergast at New York


Prendergast talks about how music can set the atmosphere with “musical color”; He says musical

color is associative, immediate, and easily achieved. Producers mostly make the composer create

music that is meant only for the sake of musical color than it is to experiment and have free-

range. This free-range can make music create connections with either characters or a situation;

this music can alter naturalism to a “supra-reality.” Producers often don’t take advantage of this

idea because they fear that the music will not fit with the film and it would challenge a

producer’s ideas. Prendergast in fact argues that the naturalism of music eliminates the gaps of

silence and emphasizes the fluidity of a film’s diegesis. The music is meant to make the audience

have natural gut-reactions from a strong piece with a strong scene so they can connect to the real;

producers neglect this and the composers are left high-and-dry for the critics to bash on to them.

I found Prendergast’s statement of composers being in charge of the story’s convection to being

true, and somewhat false. Yes music plays an important role to the story, but it is incorrect for

the composer to take responsibility for a weak scene to make it stronger through music; it is the

producer’s job, not the composer’s, and this act of “laziness” is frequently giving to the

composer for their lack of understanding of music. It is not important for the music to be real,
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because there would be no possible way to explain how the music got there in the first place; it’s

imaginary for a reason. Fiction is not truth: it is having the imagination to create fantastic and

whimsical stories and also to subtly add interpretative meaning to music pieces so the audience

can have some sort of connection with a certain scene, a certain score, or a certain story.

Prendergast contradicts my opinion by arguing it is the composer’s job to say what everyone in

the film’s production is trying to dramatically say, “Since the composer is usually called in on

the project after the film is complete, he must know what the director, cinematographer, actors,

and editor are all trying to say dramatically. Without this dramatic sense for film, the composer is

lost and his contribution to the film will be negligible.” His argument is somewhat fair, but it is

also the production team’s job to pull their weight to build the drama. Yes composers can either

lose an audience, and yes music can be inappropriate such as in Sunset Boulevard where one

critic commented on the completion of script, narration and dialogue, and camera leaves the

music not really doing anything for the film. Still it is not all the composer’s job, but it is one

small piece of his/her job to convey that dramatic sense so that the film cannot come off with the

wrong ideas, in return leaving the audience in confusion.

I chose this reading is because I wanted to know more about the composition of Star Wars and

John Williams’ three most notable pieces. I also am writing this for the sake of giving the reader

a better understanding of what it means to compose film scores and what it takes to really make a

good score. I found this piece of reading from the book “Settling the Score: Music & the

Classical Hollywood Film” by Kathryn Kalinak. Kalinak is an English and music professor at the

Rhode Island College and she has published many articles on film sound as well as several books

on film sound.
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In the reading Kalinak explains about the timeline of classical film scores. She explains how

different musical elements such as jazz, theme scores, pop scores, and synth scores were

innovated into many successful films. But one composer wanted classical to be more

contemporary, John Williams, redefined classical music by characterizing his works with late-

romantic idioms. Kalinak further details Williams’ focus on composing the scores was tying the

film and the music with unity; having ebb and flow so that the audience may react a certain way

to a certain scene that the producer intended it to be. She connects the audience’s expected

reactions with substituting different tracks called “temp-tracking”; these temp-tracks help

composers have an idea on what music should be playing when the scene is shown. Williams

built new original pieces from the similar idea of the temp-track; this tactic is very dangerous

since it can be abused to the point of not even being original. She explains also Williams’ is very

careful about sketching his pieces and spends about one week or two on a singular piece.

I learned from the reading that even contemporary scores such as Star Wars: The Phantom

Menace still play an important role to film. I have always enjoyed and always learned new scores

from different films, TV shows, etc. all have their ups and downs, but Star Wars has a special

significance to the birth of contemporary music. I find Kalinak’s defenses to be too arbitrary

since I consider Star Wars’ score being overrated, compared to Superman, but it still a well

praised score through the generations of cinematography. I agree with Kalinak that theme scores

and pop scores are another way for big producers to get a quick buck and have no meaning to the

film’s convection, but there are some scores, like Purple Rain, that have a deep meaning to both

the audience and the producer.

Kalinak states how title songs where an essential necessity into the success of the film, “Like

jazz-oriented scores, theme scores became so institutionalized that composing a hit-song as part
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of a film score became virtually compulsory, a phenomenon composer Irwin Bazelon described

as “title-song mania.” This trend mainly started off with famous late 60’s western film The Good,

The Bad, and The Ugly, where the title track exudes this idea of the lone ranger, Clint Eastwood,

facing all foes as the quickest gunslinger in the West; often playing with the reprised track “The

Ecstasy of Gold.” John Williams’ most well-recognized pieces: Star Wars Main Title, the

Imperial March, and the Force Theme have unintentionally become title songs. Williams’ has

taken advantage of finding what songs will get more attention and in return defeats his whole

philosophy of exploring the unknown by creating reprises and changing the rules of music theory.

I chose this final article because I wanted to know more about one of my top favorite composers,

Yuki Hayashi whom has made some tracks that have been influenced by John Williams. I found

this article from a website, the interview was conducted by Nick Valdez, but the interview is held

at the San Diego Comic Con. This article is somewhat insightful but it helps me find the

similarities between Hayashi-san’s work and Williams’ work as well.

It starts with Valdez recognizing and praising Hayashi-san’s most famous works, Haikyuu!!,

Triangle, Zettai Reido, Asa ga Kita, and My Hero Academia. Hayashi-san explains how he

creates the music by first talking with the producers and plan what the music for scenes that

haven’t even been produced yet will sound like, but the producers do use “temp-tracking” for

Hayashi-san to get an idea on what to make. One track that stood out to Hayashi-san was in the

show My Hero Academia, the main antagonist All For One, is given a strong female voice along

with a strong string cord and delayed pitch towards the end of the track to convey eeriness of All

For One’s character. Hayashi-san also talks about one the main heroes, All Might, and how his

theme is based on the 1998 film Superman: the Movie, composed by John Williams because he

enjoys the melody of the Main Title March that most recent superhero movies don’t have. His
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music career began when he was first doing gymnastics and the music his coach played didn’t

give him the motivation he needed to train more, so he took it upon himself to compose demo

tracks that were energetic and built crescendos. From these demos, Hayashi-san sent out the

tracks to friends, peers, and eventually to record labels. He then was picked up by famous

composer Hiroyuki Sawano to work under his wing alongside with composer Asami Tachibana

on the TV drama Triangle.

I haven’t learned that much since I have mostly known about these facts from reading about

Hayashi-san, but one little piece I don’t know was the Superman influence. I knew that All

Might’s theme has some sort of American superhero influence, but I couldn’t pinpoint which

superhero yet I had suspicions that it was Superman. In the show My Hero Academia, All Might

is depicted as being the hero who saves everyone with a smile, roughly based around Superman

except both Superman and All Might have different physical features but same attitudes.

Hayashi-san’s understanding of characters and story help strengthen his skills as a composer to

convey meaning with characters, “I do understand how music affects people’s feelings and

motivation. So, when I get the order from the director and music directors to create music that is

very motivational and up tempo, I try to take that on and use my full ability to make that type of

music.” I found it interesting of how he is able to understand energetic music because he knows

what it means to build energy. It sort of connects with how people don’t know something is good

because they have never done it but they state the possibilities than the facts; these are people-

pleasers. I found Hayashi-san’s understanding of energy and movement to be an important part

of his style of music; it is an original idea of “What would it be like if I put myself in this

situation?” for example: A famous Australian composer named Mick Gordon composed a piece

of music for a fighter video game called Killer Instinct where one of the characters is a
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monstrous werewolf named “Saberwulf.” Gordon made Saberwulf’s stage theme by imaging he

put the beast with the orchestration and seeing the werewolf destroy the instruments and the

remaining players trying to play the music. This method of ‘putting on someone else’s shoes’

helps build a sense of realism and help figure out how can the composer build genuine reactions.

While all four sources have similar ideas on what it means to make film music, they all have a

different approach. Spande and Prendergast both agree that realism is important to the film score

and it’s convection, but Spande defends that the real should be in the unknown so the audience

can have a general interpretation of the meaning behind certain pieces, while Prendergast argues

that it is important to know where the music is coming from; ambiguous and weak music

impinges the “real.” Both Kalinak and Hayashi-san care about the unity and fluidity of the music,

but Kalinak talks about how “title scores” are almost institutionalized just to make a film

successful, while Hayashi-san argues that themes help convey different characters such as All

For One and All Might. Spande, Prendergast, and Hayashi agree that it is important for the

composer to have an understanding of emotion when composing the film score, than Kalinak’s

defense of film music having unity during shots of Star Wars.

However Kalinak does criticize the contrarianism of title scores for only eyeing the younger

generation just to make a quick buck. She indicates how title scores were being described as a

“mania” during the late 60’s emerging from famous films such as Three Coins in the Fountain,

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, and Around the World in Eighty Days accrued revenue from

record sales of songs composed specifically for them. She also defends the importance of music

through themes act as leitmotifs in classical scores; both are extractable, but in the context of the

film the theme is treated as a leitmotif: reprised and repeated in response to the dramatic needs of

the film.
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Works Cited

Kalinak, Kathryn “Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film” Web Archive,




Prendergast, Roy “Film Music: A Neglected Art” Web Archive, 1992.


e/readings/prenderg.html7 November 2018>

Spande, Robert “The Three Regimes: A Theory of Film Music” Web Archive, 1996.



Valdez, Nick “My Hero Academia” Composer Talks Superman Influences, Favorite Tracks”

Comic Book, 2018. <