Have you ever tried watching a horror movie with the sound turned down? It is not nearly as scary. What curdles your blood is the combination of the video with the music. Specific intervals combined with sudden loud or quiet sound effects somehow get us emotionally involved at a totally different level.
You can try comparing this trailer to The Witch with and without the sound.
Imagine two video clips with the same footage but with different music in the background. The video could be of a woman sitting in a room and a man entering. One video will have string instruments playing a tune with long melodic phrases and soft, rich chords, creating a romantic atmosphere while the other would use specific sound effects to turn it into an eerie scene. Music goes straight to our emotions. If applied skillfully, it can bypass our logical, analytical level and dive deep down to where we have no control.
I had some fascinating conversations on these topics with Meitar Gelman, who is currently studying film music composition. Meitar kindly agreed to an interview here that will be published shortly.
Meanwhile however, it got me thinking about the general use of music as a manipulation tool beyond film music. If there are such clear techniques for creating desired emotional effects, as we’ll see in the interview, we are extremely vulnerable and can be subjected to attempts to be subconsciously steered by adds, documentary films and even news cover stories. If you think about it, we are constantly fooled and mislead. We have relaxing music in supermarkets to keep us there longer, soothing music at the dentist’s so we can endure the pain more easily, elevator or hotel lobby music intended to create a “feel good” mood, invigorating music at an adventure park to prompt us into taking a more daring ride, fast music at a crowded restaurant to get us to eat quickly and vacate the table, etc.
And it’s not just music, it’s sound in general.
Manufacturers of a new car model that has a silent ignition system will hire top class sound designers to compose the desired sound for their luxury car. Vacuum- Cleaner producers pay sound designers to get the exact nuance that will give users the satisfying feeling they are cleaning efficiently, although the engine could be significantly quieter, etc.
When is this maneuvering legitimate and when does it become deception? Probably when it is done with our consent. If we choose to watch a film, we want to step into the world of illusion and are even disappointed if we are aware of the applied techniques and means. Which brings me back to the interview.
I found the interview with Meitar about film music production a real “ear opener” and pretty mind blowing.
You’ll find it in the next Pianoways blogpost.
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- Film Music Composition, Interview with Meitar Gelman
- Movie Themes at the Piano
- Interview with Carol Matz, Composer and Arranger
- Wladyslaw Szpilman: "The Pianist"
- Interview with Dr. Andrzej Szpilman