Synopsis of a Soundtrack
Watching a movie or video is more than just a visual experience. In the majority of cases, the needed message is communicated by including another important track – audio. Music changes the way people perceive visual materials in general and particular scenes as a whole. Besides, a soundtrack may help to create the needed mood and change the understanding of the whole story. All in all, it fills in any emotional, as well as psychological gaps, not only those in portraying main heroes but also in apprehending the movie by triggering viewers’ imagination and making them emotionally engaged with the plot and interested in the further development of events.
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To prove that the statements mentioned above are true, recall, for instance, the scene depicting the prison escape in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The length of the scene is 3 minutes 51 seconds. It is the culmination of the movie, as it sets the foundation for further developments and the conflict resolution between the antagonist and protagonist. This particular scene depicts the attempts of Bruce Wayne – Batman – to escape from the prison where he was thrown into by his enemy – Bane. The motivation for becoming free again is the desire to avenge himself as well as save Gotham from a bomb detonation that would destroy the whole city and kill all of its citizens. Except for the first failed try to get out of the prison, the scene portrays a successful one. The second attempt is accompanied by the prisoners’ support – prayers and exclamations.
Still, regardless of including dialogues and extensive support of prisoners, these details do not trigger necessary emotional uplift and the interest in the further plot development. This significant gap is filled with an appropriate music choice. During the scene, there are two-time frames accompanied by the soundtrack under consideration – 00:17-00:50 and 02:28-03:51 (“The Dark Knight Rises”). This song is revolutionary and contributes to the emotional rise. Keeping in mind the overall revolutionary background of the story, this choice is relevant because it helps to make the plot comprehensive and well-developed and eliminate any existing gaps. Also, the song is written in a way to motivate to action. Its motive is driving so that showing the new attempts to escape from the prison and overcome the enemy would be incomplete and imperfect without this tune.
Speaking in terms of soundtrack types, this song is perceived as parallel music. It can be explained by the fact that it is appropriate in the scene and fits it perfectly. In other words, it is the choice that nearly every viewer is expecting to hear in such a scene. Besides, filmmakers choose a trick referred to as audio dissolve – the combination of silence and soundtrack. The first part of the soundtrack ends in silence that is logical because the first attempt to escape from the prison was a failure. In this way, the mentioned trick helps to create an association between this song and revolution. At the same time, there are minimal elements of transition because this music is used in two subscales of the major escape scene. It means that including no music between two attempts to get out of the prison can be viewed not as audio dissolve but the transition to foster emotional uplift and trigger one’s imagination. Nevertheless, regardless of the controversies between terms, the music choice is still appropriate because it helps create the needed mood and feel the interest in Batman’s future adventures.
Different Types of Music in Films
Except for creating the needed mood, soundtracks commonly change the perception of time and space in a movie. However, to achieve this objective, it is essential to blend different types of music. In general, there are three kinds of music used in movies – parallel, contrapuntal, and associative – and all of them are used to communicate the desired message to a viewer.
Parallel music refers to soundtracks that match the scenes. For instance, think of the scene showing Snow’s execution and Coin’s death in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015). The scene opens with Katniss Everdeen entering the arena where Snow is tied and waiting for the death penalty. The coin is giving her speech, introducing the events. The scene is developed in a way to point to the major confrontation between Katniss and Coin that is known from the earlier developments in the movie. Moreover, it shows Snow, who is as well Katniss’ enemy. Also, the sights of the district, numerous people, and the winners of the previous hunger games, including Peeta and Haymitch, hint that the scene will include solving the conflict between the system and people. However, this mood is created by an appropriate soundtrack. The drumbeat changes the perception of the scene adding to the feeling of anticipation combined with disturbance. It heats the viewer and contributes to the emotional uplift. This example is chosen as a parallel because this very moment in the movie is stressful, and music intensifies this feeling. I believe that strengthening the feeling of unease was selected as a trick to describe Katniss’s inner state, even though she remained silent. The time frame of the scene is 0:00-01:11 (“Mockingjay Part 2”).
Unlike parallel, contrapuntal music does not seem appropriate in a scene. For instance, recall one of the fight scenes in Watchmen (2009). It portrays an assassin and Comedian. While Comedian is at home spending another lazy evening, assassin steals into his house to kill him. The scene shows their fight, but the overall mood is romantic rather than alarming. The choice of music can be motivated by the background in the Comedian’s house. He is old and helpless. He spends an evening watching TV in his robe. The years of fame are in the past. That is why this music points to irony. At the same time, it hints that the end of life can be comic regardless of one’s life accomplishments. In this way, even though the Comedian is a superhero, his death is not heroic at all and resembles a joke. The time frame of the scene is 01:09-03:11 (“Watchmen”).
In some cases, the role of music is to be associative – point to particular events or country. Think, for instance, of the ending scene of Braveheart (1995). It depicts the commemoration of a national hero of Scotland – William Wallace who was executed in the Anglo-Scottish War – before the onslaught of the Scottish army. The mood of disparity and grief is created by an appropriate choice of music. Due to the domination of bagpipe over other instruments, the association with Scottish history is strong. I believe that this music was selected to enhance the emotional involvement of a viewer in the scene and experience powerful feelings. The time frame of the scene is 00:00-02:08 (“Braveheart Ending Scene”).
“Braveheart Ending Scene.” YouTube, uploaded by Annihilate_Denmark, Web.
“The Dark Knight Rises – Prison Escape.” YouTube, uploaded by Kenan Tahirovich, Web.
“Mockingjay Part 2: “Snow’s Execution / Coin’s Death” Scene [HD].” YouTube, uploaded by Sobre Jogos Vorazes, Web.
“Watchmen – Opening Fight Scene.” YouTube, uploaded by TheAmericanJDM, Web.