The Value of Filmmusic

One of the world’s biggest and most successful filmcomposers has announced a European tour! I’m talking about the brilliant Hans Zimmer, who’s known from his scores of the films Chappie, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, The Dark Knight trilogy and the upcoming superhero film Batman Versus Superman, among many others. When Zimmer announced this amazing news on his Twitter page, I couldn’t be more happy. However, there were at first no shows planned in my city, The Netherlands. After a few days it turned out the shows in London were very popular, since a lot of tickets were already sold. In London a second show is planned and in early December a show in The Netherlands was announced! When I thought about film music I was wondering about the value of it. Does a good soundtrack influence te success of its film?

As a huge fan of film music, I have a few filmcomposers on my list of favourites. The first time I realised how important a soundtrack can be, was when I saw the film Titanic. The score, composed by the late James Horner, is one of my favourite soundtracks ever. In 1998 Horner won two Oscars for his work: for best soundtrack and the famous lovesong, sang by Celine Dion. Because of the soundtrack, the film had so much more feeling. It was more dramatic and sad, and therefore the score is inextricably linked to the film. When I heard about James Horner’s death, I was in shock. Besides his death is extremely sad for his family and friends, I couldn’t help but thinking he could never made more amazing soundtracks. Besides Titanic, Horner was also known for his work for the films Avatar, Troy, The Mask of Zorro and Legends of the Fall. The soundtrack of the latter even encouraged me to watch the film. Mostly because I just loved the song ‘The Ludlow’. James Horner and James Cameron Titanic Live

Also nostalgic feelings a score evokes, might help when you want to make a film successful. Think of John Williams for example, who composed the soundtrack for the films Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Both films got a remake and were released in cinemas in 2015, along with the famous soundtrack the fans are used to. To hear these old and remarkable tunes while watching a complete new film, brings back memories. For some it’s even a magical moment with goosebumps as well! It applies to both films that the soundtrack and the story is one. Imagine the latest films, Jurassic World and The Force Awakens, without Williams’ famous soundtracks: Impossible! John Williams is also know for his tune that indicates danger is coming. I’m talking about Jaws. Whenever the murderous shark is nearby, the famous and ominous tune starts. The tune draws you to the screen, hoping to find the big bad shark. The film also shows the effect the absence of music has. You’re in for a surprise when the shark pops up after all!

The music in horror films is in my opinion sometimes a bit exaggerated. Meaning that because of the music, the story gets predictable since you know what will happen because of the ominous music. The tension of both the story and the music is build up to a moment of shock and fear: Loud music and a creepy monster. Because of this I’m very curious to see a horror film without these ominous tunes, what is the effect going to be without the familiar threatening music? More or less jump scares? During the 20s, when there was no sound in films yet – the so called silent movies – music was very important. The actors didn’t speak in the film itself, but the film was accompanied by a live orchestra. Fortunately, otherwise it was a very quiet and boring experience. A relatively new silent film was The Artist from 2011, whereof the music was composed by Ludovic Bource, who also won an Oscar for his work. Alexandre Desplat

I previously said a good soundtrack may be a motive to watch that particularly film, like my experience with Legends of the Fall. But what if a soundtrack is even better than the film? Not everyone will agree with me, but I thought that’s the case with the Twilight franchise. Composers Alexandre Desplat and Carter Burwell managed to create a soundtrack which gave the films a positive boost. I’m not a fan of these vampire films, but the music does have a place in my film music list. However, the music does fit the story perfectly, the mystery about supernatural beings, but the story itself is less well developed than the soundtrack.

For me it’s clear a good soundtrack can make a difference and a film more successful. However, a film stands or falls with the quality of the story and acting, but a good soundtrack can make the difference between a sufficient and an insufficient. A good soundtrack can also be a motive to watch a film in the first place. I’ve never heard of Legends of the Fall and had no idea what the story was about, but the soundtrack of James Horner made me want to watch the film. Music also gives the story more depth and feeling, let alone when there is nostalgia involved. My favorite film composers are James Horner, John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Who is your number one?


4 thoughts on “The Value of Filmmusic

  1. I’m also a huge fan of filmmusic and I often listen to soundtracks on Spotify. My favourites Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight and of course Pirates of the Caribbean), Cliff Martinez (Drive), Clint Mansell (Black Swan) and John Williams (Of course :)). And the music from the Tarantino movies… Awesome!

  2. I’m writing my dissertation on film music and it’s awesome to read posts like this 🙂 Film Music is so important to me, I can barely describe it (but I do my best)

    1. I agree that filmmusic is most of the times underrated 😦 It is what makes the film more personal and emotional

      1. exactly! I like to tell my students (during the brief time I get to talk about film music) to try watching a movie on mute, you can’t do it, cause the music completes the film! (I couldn’t imagine Star Wars without a John Williams score)

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