You start to hear a suspenseful sound. As the music rises, your heart starts to beat faster. You know you are about seconds away from the climax. The music continues to give you a trembling effect, and in a split second, you let out a scream. There it is, the movie experience you are expecting to get—the worth of your money.
Sound is 50% of the movie. Emotions are enhanced with the help of a well-placed, well thought of, and perfectly arranged soundtrack and musical scoring. It brings out the best in any scene by ultimately contributing to the overall viewing experience. Without the appropriate score to accompany a scene, a movie could automatically lose the opportunity to correctly send the message across and solicit the audience reaction it wishes to achieve. Would you get scared if a ghost or an axe murderer pops out of nowhere during a scene if there is no accompanying music in the background?
Before we move along, let us briefly differentiate a score and a soundtrack. A score is a piece of incidental original music accompanying a scene. Often instrumental, the main goal of a score is to assist in the delivery of dialogue. However, a score can also be used to replace it. In many thought-provoking movies, mostly independent films, notice how the score shifts during a scene that has no dialogue. The score often expresses the emotion being conveyed during a scene. You could hear a suspenseful sound when a bad thing is about to happen or when a villain is about to strike. You could hear a dejecting sound fading as the character slowly loses his breath—creating a perfect depiction of slow death as the music fades.
MOVIE SCORE AND SOUNDTRACK
On the other hand, memorable movies are usually accompanied by a notable (often chart-hitting) song which is then compiled along with the rest of the music in the entire film called the soundtrack. Technically, a film score may also be called a soundtrack. The main difference is a film score is always instrumental, while a soundtrack can be existing licensed music or a song specifically composed for the movie; hence the term OST or original soundtrack.
The biggest and most memorable movies of the 21st century are often associated with excellent scores and a soundtrack—case in point, James Horner’s 1997 Titanic. Going back to our definition of a score earlier, I dare say this is the movie that proves that definition. In fact, Titanic is a megamovie of musical scoring, and scoring is everything this film is. Watch the flick again and pay attention to how the film score replaces the dialogues, and you will get what we’re saying. You can hear what big is. What crashes, and what freezing to death sounds like. And yes, let us not forget to mention the haunting music masterpiece called My Heart Will Go On.
Honestly, I’m not that much of a Titanic fan. But the honor must be given to the two James (Horner and Cameron) for creating a motion picture that perfectly proves what a great musical scoring can do. After all, Horner did not win the Oscar’s Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for nothing.
NOTABLE MOVIES WITH GREAT SCORING
There is a long list of films with great musical scoring and soundtrack. 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, 1942’s Gone with the Wind, and 2001’s The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of The Ring are just some of our time’s movies with great scoring. But, the scoring in the 1977s Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope will remain the best moment in film scoring history. John William’s epic revival of grand symphonic scores is still being used and felt today. Okay, perhaps if you have not seen and heard the film, I’d give 2010’s The Social Network as a closer reference for a motion picture with the best scoring—The Academy agreed, too.
So, on your next movie night, try to observe and pay more attention to the film’s score and soundtrack. More than being half of the movie experience, film scoring and soundtrack carry the language that words cannot fully express. They hit you right in the spot where your heart melts and where pain is felt. This is what having a great movie experience looks and sounds like. The best scenes are made best only with great music.