Sunday, July 22, 2012

Uses of Music

In my last post I put up a clip of Australian hurdler Michelle Janneke running a race in Barcelona. This has become a YouTube sensation, more for the warm-up routine than the race itself. I had the choice of using the longer sports channel version with voice-over commentary, or the edited one with, as some mentioned, "cheesy 80s music". I chose the one with the music because, whether or not it was exactly the right song, it did transform the clip from an athletic experience to more of an aesthetic one. So the music performed a certain function.

Music is often used in this way, to underline or highlight the mood of a visual narrative. Here is a famous and very original use of a Viennese waltz in an unusual environment:

The director Stanley Kubrick was a genius at choosing the right music for a scene. Here is a duel from Barry Lyndon that uses a Sarabande by Handel, first just the bass line, then later with harpsichord:

Another famous use of music was Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" to accompany this scene from Apocalypse Now:

Director Peter Weir can be rather more subtle. Here he is using some music by Boccherini to end the film Master and Commander. The captain has discovered that the ship they have just sent off with a skeleton or 'prize' crew has a large contingent of the enemy hidden below, so he gives the order for a pursuit. Then he and his friend, the ship's surgeon, sit down and play to while away the hour until interception. This, by the way, is a diagetic use of music, i.e. music that is performed by people who are part of the narrative, as opposed to non-diagetic music that is part of the soundtrack, played by invisible performers not part of the narrative. All the above examples are non-diagetic.

Last year I put up a whole post on music and narrative.

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