Have you ever watched seen a love scene or a thriller sequence done without music hovering in the background? Do you ever associate certain movies with certain songs (Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” with The Parent Trap)? As music plays in the background, audiences are suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling which they believe is their own. Often the tempo, lyrics, and style of song choices add significantly to the mood of a sequence. Imagine this: you are watching a action film, say The Dark Night, and an epic battle scene begins but you hear soothing, classical music in the background. Confusing, right? Such music will dilute the intensity of the movie, whereas the traditionally fast-paced fight music will only lead audience members to feel more potently the ferocity of the portrayed event.
The background music in movies and TV shows is very effective in how people perceive the emotions in a specific scene. In the very first sequence of Juno, the song “All I Want Is You” by Barry Louis Polisar begins to play as the film transforms into a sketchbook type of animation. The folk/indie song sets the movie up to be romantic, but not in the typical Ciinderella-esque sense. The off-the-beaten-path song alongside the uncommon animation parallels the atypical romantic comedy. Additionally, the two most famous notes in film history add significance to the horror of sharks in the infamous 1975 movie, Jaws. The two haunting notes, “duh dum, duh dum, duh dum,” echo as the terror of a shark attack is personified.
Jaws may be a predictable example of how influential music can be in film; however, both Juno and Jaws reveal the capacity music has to sway or intensify one’s emotions when watching a specific scene. Although some may say they are immune to the power songs have on their feelings, just like a laugh track, music is bound to influence one’s emotions in one way or another. Whether it is the emotion the director intended, music still has an impact on the viewing experience.
Without muting the sound on a television or movie screen, audience members cannot escape background music and the emotions it brings forth. With other forms of media, such as paper advertisements, music has little to none influence, forcing advertisers to think of new ways to emotionally influence their audience. Personally, when I watch a movie, television show, or listen to the radio, I hardly ever notice the significant impact songs have on my emotions and tendencies as they creep up into the background.
Unlike Chuck Klosterman’s feelings toward laugh tracks, I enjoy the influence music has within the media. Similarly to a laugh track, background music is formulated to subconsciously shape the way people should feel. Nonetheless, background music is often a more enjoyable way to seek control of an audience’s emotions and pull them deeper into the story. Silent movies have music because without it, the audience would feel emotionally detached and bored. Music adds emotion, it’s undebatable.