A little history of film music. First the movie was silent, then the sound came. Today, film music plays a very important role, because it makes the movie only alive. Here you will find an overview of the genesis of film music, from the origin to the Hollywood soundtrack of modern times.
What would a movie without film music be? The film music is the film’s acoustic figurehead and gives it an identity. She makes sure that we have to remember Darth Vader on Darth Vader for tunes like the “Imperial March”. Film music makes us laugh, cry or just pulls us along.
Definition of film music
What is film music? Film music is the musical accompaniment of films. She builds the bridge between image and sound and is supposed to support the plot of the film on an emotional level. Not only classical, but also pop or experimental music elements are included. In the best case, the film music and the film form a symbiosis and thus create a unique Gesamtkunstwerk.
Creation of film music
The film music has a long development process behind it. From creation to modern times, she has reinvented herself several times, but her task has remained the same – to create the link between the visual and the acoustic, thus reinforcing the film’s message on an emotional level.
Origins of film music
With music, people have been telling stories for a long time before the movie. Many folk songs are about war, political changes or fairy tales. With the emergence of the film, these stories could now be visualized, so it was natural to use music as a proven tool.
The silent movie
The early beginnings of the film were also called the silent movie era. However, these were not dumb in practice, as often piano music was played as a background during the performances. The first movie with film music was performed by the Lumière brothers in France in 1895 and was a collection of short films.
The use of film music was born out of necessity, because disturbing noises had to be drowned out quite simply. Therefore, silent films were usually accompanied live by a pianist. Only very slowly the actual function of the film music developed and filmmakers became aware that music can be very helpful for dramaturgical support.
The sound film
The demands on the medium of film rose and led to a further development towards sound film. It was begun to compose original music and to vote on the respective film scenes. As a result, the dramaturgy of the film could be better highlighted.
The first original film music was composed by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns in 1908 for the film “L’assassinat du duc de Guise”. But as original film music was very costly and time-consuming, the conventional use of film music only began in the 20s and 30s.
The 20s and 30s
The first long sound film was called “The Jazz Singer” and was performed in 1927 by the film studio Warner Bros. From that point on, the film music shifted from the live performance to the recording studio. This made it possible to use music more targeted for the accompaniment of the film scenes. The musical style was particularly influenced by the orchestral music of the 19th century and especially by European composers such as Max Steiner and Bernhard Kaun.
As a result of the new technology, new production processes emerged. At that time music and language were recorded on large records and then synchronized with the action on the screen. Later, the Nadeltonverfahren developed. From the 1930s, the sound was recorded directly on the filmstrip on its own track next to the image.
The orchestral score track
In the late 30s and early 40s of the 20th century orchestral film music became established in Hollywood. It was oriented mainly to the romantic style of the 19th century. From the 1950s, film music changed and influences from jazz, pop and rock music were added.
In the mid-1950s, movie producers relied on additional revenue streams. These were generated by commissioning theme tunes for their films. That should increase the recognition value and thereby market the soundtrack. From the 60s, pop music was increasingly used to appeal to a young audience – example here is the movie “The Reifeprüfung”.
From the 70s, orchestra music was increasingly used again. At the same time, the leitmotiv technique that was used in big blockbuster films such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones became established.
Film music today
Even the film music today consists mainly of orchestral music. Since the 80s and 90s electronic influences have been added, composers like Vangelis and Hans Zimmer were responsible for it. Nevertheless, a direction is slowly developing that, in addition to the use of original music, also uses existing pop pieces. Examples include the films “Guardians of Galaxy” with the song “Hooked On A Feeling” or the movie Baby Driver with the song “Baby Driver” of the band “Simon & Garfunkel”.
Forms of film music
The techniques of film music have developed over a long history. There are four composition styles have emerged.
1-The leitmotif technique – the assignment a title tune of a person or situation
2-The underscoring – the syncrone rendition of actions, persons and places
3-The Micky Mousing – the pinpoint characterization of movements
4-The Mood Technique – The music represents the mood and atmosphere of a scene
Film music and its effect
The effect of film music on humans is versatile. It can trigger emotions like joy, fear and grief. Film scenes that are accompanied by music are taken very intense by the audience. In addition, film music makes it easier to identify with the plot or the protagonist. As a result, viewers can more easily remember specific events or situations. More information can be found in my article “Effect of Music in Film”.
Conclusion: history of film music
The soundtrack has gone through many developments in your story. She took her first steps during the silent film era. With the beginning of the first sound films, the production of film music was professionalized in style and quality. In the mid-twentieth century, film music was an important part of the film and still contributes to its identification and marketing today.