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Emotional Context Behind Sound And Music In The Moving Image

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Take the music or sound design away and we immediately sense its absence it has the power to open the frame of reference to a story in a way that could have not have been fully articulated in any other way. It can have a telling effect on how the characters in the story come across, how we perceive what they are feeling or thinking, it can have an enormous impact pacing of events moving things along when needed, dwelling on something that requires attention, accenting this or that instant or event to bring out various connections and divergent points of view.

Music and sound design is deployed when there is a need to bring out or enhance the emotional progression within a sequence. Sequences can have basic feelings to them which require music, and sound that focuses on the meaning to help get the message across to the audience and this implies in both film and video games. There will be times when the music is kept in reserve for the climatic peak of a scene, and the prevailing emotion is picked up on and extended by the music.

Music and sound stimulate one of the five human senses: hearing. Humans are emotional beings and the interaction with the moving image will have some emotional effect during their experience to a greater or lesser extent. Therefore, the ability is there to contribute an emotional response to the audience in order to successfully engage the audience in an immersive experience, the interaction must first be achieved through one of the primary human senses.

Whilst speech is an essential way of communication, it is not the only method of communication we use. Sounds and the tone somebody uses when communicating contributes a lot too. When you hear/sense fear in somebody’s voice whilst they are explaining a situation, your instincts tell you to worry. There are times within a scene when dialogue or an action taken place comes to a climax where a character may be left speechless or absorbing a situation around them. Then holds the shot giving the audience time to absorb the impact of what has taken place. A piece of music is usually called upon to help emphasise the underline of this climatic instance, helping the audience understand the emotions the characters on screen are feeling.


Daniel Hamer


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References and for more information check out:

BURT, G. (1995) The art of film music special emphasis on Hugo Friedhofer, Alex North, David Raksin, Leonard Rosenman. United States: NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS.

Carlsson, S. (n.d.) When picture and sound merge – aspects of synchresis, [online] Available from:

Chion, Michel (1994) Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, 14th edition, New York, Columbia University Press.

Collins, K. (2008) Game sound: an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of video game music and sound design. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

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