How does film and video game music affect us?

Film and Video Game Music – How Does It Affect Us?

Have you ever sat in a theatre, waiting for a movie to start, and suddenly you hear a familiar musical cue?  The opening crawl of the Star Wars films tied with the famous theme that anyone on this planet can recognize, hum and appreciate. Howard Shore’s grand scores for The Lord of the Rings films transform the movies they were composed for. Perhaps you were sneaking, escaping, fighting or just waiting at the main menu of a video game, and felt your heart race a little. The latest Doom is a fine example of heart-pumping music, though there are countless more, going back decades.

The question is: how does film and video game music have such a profound effect on viewers? A film or video game score can be the ultimate way of communicating tone and direction. It can create emotion where there is only action and help set the twists and turns of a game or film. There are also moments in film and video games where licensed music sets the stage. In terms of film trailers, ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Rush created a sense of mayhem for the first Ready Player One teaser, especially when tied in with the sound effects of exploding cars and revving motorcycles. Brilliant.

Not every great soundtrack comes from a blockbuster game or movie. The Shape of Water, with a score composed by Alexandre Desplat, is haunting yet beautiful. It’s also nominated for Best Original Score at the 90th Academy Awards. Cuphead, a particularly difficult indie game, has a three-hour long jazz soundtrack composed by Kristofer Maddigan. You’ll hear his 1930’s-era sound repeated countless times as you lose over and over again.

The next time you watch a film, or play a game, notice how music (or silence) are part of the experience. After all, would Pennywise from It be as frightening without the sound of singing children announcing his arrival?

-Sean Daniel