Part of Lesson Plan: Soundtrack Analysis
Activity Overview / Details
A well developed film score should involve the viewer on many levels. The following activity will help identify several types of score techniques:
- Establish the basic mood
- Enhance the drama
- Establish the character of a person place or thing
- Give psychological insight
- Create continuity
1. One of the first things music must do in a film is establish the basic mood.
This example gives the viewer their first impression and should be consistent with the overall mood of the movie.
Play audio of intro (Basic Mood Audio) and ask students to write their impression of the mood of the music. Ask students to share their responses with the class.
Play the intro movie to reveal the scene and compare your responses. (Basic Mood Movie)
2. The most obvious use of music in a film score is to “enhance the drama” of a scene like a chase or fight scene. The following example enhances drama in a scene that otherwise might be slow and uninteresting to watch. Listen to and describe the emotional affect and the musical method used to create it:
Play pyramid effect audio.
Discuss the dramatic action that might be taking place.
Play pyramid effect movie to reveal the scene and compare your responses.
3. A “leitmotif” is a recurring short melodic phrase or theme used, especially in Wagnerian music dramas, to suggest a character, place, thing, etc.
Composer John Williams has masterfully weaved the following leitmotifs into the fabric of the score throughout the movie to help establish the character of the person place or thing the are watching as the music accompanies the scene.
Three distinct musical themes or leitmotifs are used in the “Raiders” soundtrack.
- The Hero Theme
- The Love Theme
- The Ark Theme
Fragments of these themes appear during the scene as the person, place or thing is involved in the scene.
Play the following movie files and discuss how the character of the music matches the character of the person or object in the scene. Ask students to describe in writing the type of character these themes evoke.
Indiana Jones (The Hero, successful. powerful, adventurous, etc)
Marion (The love theme, soft, gentle, romantic, etc.)
Ark (mysterious, eerie, scary, etc.)
Allow students to discuss the qualities of character the music attaches to the person or thing in the scene.
Play the following examples to demonstrate how John Williams weaves fragments of themes in and out of the score.
Indiana Jones hero leitmotif
Jones, Marion and Ark motifs
4. Music can create psychological insight, which is a look into the thoughts and feelings of a person on screen. The viewer gains insight into the feelings of the actor without verbal or non-verbal communication. Play the audio files and discuss the emotional content of each
Play the movie files to reveal the scene and compare your responses.
5. Music can help create continuity from scene to scene and for the overall feel of the movie especially during a change of location or time. The following example helps tie the characters using leitmotifs and changing musical style to fit the new location. (play Jones, Marion, Cairo, Continuity Movie)
Why were two different leitmotifs used in this example? (Answer: The two characters are together during the transition)
What type of transition effect has been created? (Answer: We feel as though we have arrived in a different country).
In the following scene, discuss why no music was used. What was the reason the director and composer chose to not score the scene?
Play No Music clip file
Possible answer: The dialogue was important exposition. It was important information that advanced the plot and explained the central points of the script. Music may have been a distraction.
Materials / Resource
- Basic Mood audio [ Download ] Basic Mood music from the intro
- Basic Mood.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] Basic Mood movie from the movie intro
- Pyramid Effect Audio.aif [ Download ] The pyramid effect is a way of describing the building of musical intensity.
- Pyramid effect.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] The scene is slow moving, but the music creates intensity.
- Indiana Jones.aif [ Download ] This is the first time the ?Hero theme is use in the score.
- Jones theme.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] Jones has been identified as the good guy with the addition of his leitmotif.
- Love Theme.aif [ Download ] Marion?s theme
- Love Theme.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] This is the first time the couple gets together as a "couple" in the film.
- The Ark.aif [ Download ] The character and quality this music is very appropriate for the Ark.
- Ark Theme.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] This is another slow moving scene, but the music holds our attention through the use of tension and building intensity.
- Indiana Jones Hero Theme [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] The appearance of Jones? theme foreshadows his heroic action.
- Jones, Marion, Ark.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] All three leitmotivs are present back to back in the same scene. The dialogue, action and music are married together.
- Antagonist Insight.aif [ Download ] Antagonist Insight Audio
- Psychological Insight.aif [ Download ] The quality of music is revealing information.
- Psychological Insight.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ]
- Antagonist Insight.mov [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] The music adds a layer of additional information about the person without any other input.
- Jones, Marion, Cairo, Continuity [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] Jones, Marion, Cairo, Continuity Movie
- Scene with no music [ Watch Video ] [ Download Original Video ] Exposition without music score