It is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful and influential creative forces in the world. Music can move people to bloodshed, or move them to tears; brighten the darkest mood in a room, or bring the stillest calm to a soul. Music can make or break an atmosphere. It can also make or break a story.
If implemented poorly or inappropriately, music can be the bane of a great story adaption (whether on the silver screen, through a televised series, or as an audio book).
A good example of this is the 1985 fantasy movie Ladyhawke.
The story is a wonderful one, filled with adventure, humour, magic, and above all, a tragic but unbreakable love between two of the story’s protagonists. And then … there’s the music. At times, there’s a nice orchestral influence, but then along comes an awful jarring of the early 80’s keyboard and guitar – invading the marvellously captured cinematic scenes like a swarm of synth-armed cicadas. To put it plainly, the music for the most part was entirely inappropriate for the genre of the movie, and ended up being an annoying distraction.
Did the music ruin the movie? In my opinion, not quite, but it certainly stripped an amazing classic fantasy tale of its right to shine with a golden glow. I enjoyed the movie too much to cast it aside, but there is no mistaking that a part of it is forever tainted by the poor choice and execution of the musical score (although remember, this is just my personal opinion, and I have no qualms with those who feel differently).
Now, a good example of how music can transform a movie from a visual inspiration, to a visual inspiration of deeply empowered emotion and soul, is James Horner’s score for Titanic.
Watching, captivated, we were taken on a journey of love and tragedy, but oh how much more enriched and connected we became when the music filled our ears and swept us away; immersing us into a strange, surreal vividness of every emotion the story embodied.
But tragedy or longing are not the only emotions music has the power to bring to life. Just listen to the musical scores of movies like Inception, Dark Knight Rises, Jaws, The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, Gladiator, 3:10 to Yuma, or Black Hawke Down and the pallet of all your emotions will be touched and stirred.
There is little doubt over the importance music has over the connection between a story and its audience, but that source of creative invigoration and soulful inspiring is not limited to movies.
Those who allow themselves the pleasure of immersing into video games know that the musical scores are treated with an equal amount of passion and involvement – particularly in certain genres. And, just as with movies, the musical score in a game can make or break its atmospheric presence. If done fittingly to the game’s style, and done well, the music can become the wind beneath its wings, and take the gaming experience to a whole new and essentially unforgettable level.
A prominent example of incredible musical achievement in a game, are the scores for the Mass Effect Trilogy; arguably one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed gaming experiences of its calibre.
There is so much more that could be said about music and its integral part as the soul of visual/ audio story-telling, but I shall leave you with a link to one of the musical scores from Mass Effect 3, performed by the highly talented London Philharmonic Orchestra. So listen, and enjoy!