Music Documentaries – The Music Role in a Film

music documentariesMusic Documentaries. Does it Matter Using Soundtrack?

The use of music scores in films has a long history, and there are a lot of reasons to consider that this is a mutually beneficial relationship. On one side, beautiful songs have made history because in the listener’s mind they were tied to a dear movie.

Meanwhile, a lot of memorable films owe at least a part of their success to a catchy and convincing soundtrack. The purpose of this article is to discuss the main advantages of using music scores in films, referring mainly to documentaries.

Aaron Captand, a famous Broadway, and Hollywood composer said the music might play different roles in a film. I’ll mention only a few, of relevance to documentary films.

Music documentaries – Five Important aspect of music in films

  • First, music creates a particular atmosphere, transposing the listener in a certain time of place; here, it doesn’t matter as much whether the music belongs to a certain geographical area or a particular historical era. It matters what the audience thinks about it. For example, if a particular musical theme is bound in the mind of the viewer to the idea of “western music,” then using it in a movie, would enhance the viewer’s experience of being in a “western” time and place.
  • Second, music can be used to reveal some hidden characteristics of the personas (like their unspoken motivations), as well as the potential implications of a situation.
  • Third, music is used to fill some empty moments and to build a sense of continuity.
  • Fourth, but not the least, music not only illustrates the inner feelings of the characters but also arouses emotion.
  • Finally, the fifth and last role of music, related to emotional expression and facilitation it’s worth discussing a little more because it is mentioned by many theorists in the field.

Some specialists consider that the function of music in a film is similar to the role of the Greek chorus, illustrating the drama and enhancing the action.

Actually, as Stuard Fiscoff, a pioneer of media psychology, said, the dramatic effect of a scene is increased when adding music, changing even the viewer’s perceptions on the voices or the faces of the characters.

Psychologists explain this effect through the fact that music signals a particular emotional meaning of a scene, acting therefore like a cue for the emotional signification of an image.

How do all this relate to using music in a documentary?

Well, one might say that, in comparison with a fiction film, a documentary is more informative and therefore has less emotion in it and therefore features less music. This is not true. There are at least two reasons for that.

documentary musicMusic Documentaries VS Fiction Films

  • First, a lot of documentaries touch on a problem that is emotionally relevant, like drug addiction, child abuse or poverty. In this regard, making a stance or aiming some social change, are some legit objectives of a documentary.
  • Second, even documentaries with a less stronger social component- like those related to topics as history, science, culture or geography, a susceptible to emotion, especially in the range of aesthetical feelings.

Because of all this, in a documentary, music could be used in the same way as in a fiction film, boosting the quality of the movie.

As Aaron Captand suggested, music can help with building the atmosphere of a particular time in place. Documentaries producers primarily employ this technique. It is self-explanatory, of course, to use some Asian sounding music in a documentary about an Asian country and a soundtrack embedding natural sounds in a documentary about forests, for example.

Music Documentaries – Amphasing Dramatic Parts

Meanwhile, music can be used in documentaries to unravel some hidden meanings of a situation or some possible outcomes.

For example, in a documentary about drug abuse or global warming, one might choose an “alarming” soundtrack to illustrate the hidden dangers of the situation even when this is not said explicitly on the screen.

Music Documentaries – Amending Silent Parts

Documentary soundtrack

Also, music can fill some empty moments and can help with ensuring continuity in a documentary, too.

For example, when making a documentary, one should consider that the sequences rich in complex information should be interjected with less cognitively demanding shots so that the viewer doesn’t get tired.

The image of a landscape backed up by a calming music, inserted for a few seconds, might work great in this regard. Finally, music can create a mood, even in a documentary film.

 

In a movie about wildlife, music might help the director to turn the fight between the predator and the prey into a real dramatic act, symbolizing at another level the struggles of our lives.

Also, there is a large variety of aesthetic and even spiritual experiences that music can foster in a documentary, as seeing the greatness of nature at work could evoke a feeling of appreciation, awe or transcendence.

In conclusion, a documentary film is not significantly different from a fiction movie as regards for its emotional qualities. Neither is it distinct in the relevance of music for its ability to send a powerful, penetrating message.

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