The film's score is the instrumental music created by the composer specifically for the film's scenes and includes the film's theme tune. Great theme tunes can elevate a movie from good to epic, while bad ones can drag a movie into the depths of mediocrity. The Magnificent Seven, Rocky, The Godfather, Gladiator, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman, Beverly Hills Cop and ET are examples of films with great, instantly recognisable theme tunes that are no longer harmonious compliments but integral and inseparable parts of the film.
As the music is so important to the success of the film these days, the selection of the appropriate music to accompany a film requires a lot care and attention. It has become a collaborative effort between the director, producer(s) and a host of musical professionals which can include composers, an orchestras or bands, instrumental soloists, choirs, vocalists and sound engineers. The film's director ultimately decides with the composer on the function of any particular score music in the film. Whether it's a bombastic action scene, a sultry romantic scene, a melancholic sad scene, an upbeat cheerful scene, a beautiful location scene or a gruesome death scene, the composer's music must match the mood of each scene and use it as a tool to guide the viewer's emotional state. The horror film genre would be nowhere without the suspense music to heighten the viewer's state of alert. A brilliant example of the power of the music can be found in the Jaws films where the simple two-note alternating shark theme was used as an effective tool of terror in alerting the viewers to the shark's ominous presence. The sensing of the shark's presence through the music, combined with people's natural fear of the unknown, made this more terrifying than actually seeing the shark. This genre, more than others, relies heavily on the appropriate suspense music to give viewers the emotional roller-coaster ride they expect.
Film makers have also realised that music also functions as a powerful marketing tool, and a good soundtrack can turn a movie into a box office hit. Some soundtracks are just themed vocal tracks by various artists, while others are a combination of vocal tracks and the film's score music, and some may be just score music. All soundtracks will also include the main theme track as well as the opening and closing credit tracks, however some may not feature all the music scores in the movie. Some films have also successfully used single artists to create the whole soundtrack album for their film, with notable examples being The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston), Batman (Prince) and Saturday Night Fever (Bee Gees).
A Few Notable Film Music Composers
There have been many film music composers that have given us moments of musical genius in film, and a few are mentioned here.
Harold Faltemeyer was prolific in the 80s and his breakdance influenced Axel F theme tune for Beverly Hills Cop, and his signature Top Gun theme tune, contributed to the box office success of both films.
Another notable composer is the award-winning Hans Zimmer with hit films such as The Lion King, Crimson Tide, The Last Samurai, and Rain Man under his belt.His use of haunting vocals in films like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Tears of The Sun to capture the eerie mood of death and sorrow demonstrated his pioneering style.
And finally, the multi-award winning Ennio Morricone. His film music scores single-handedly defined the Spaghetti Western genre with his work in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, A Fistful Of Dollars and A Few Dollars More. Other film score work on films like The Mission, Once Upon A Time In America, The Untouchables and Bugsy, together with his other body of work spanning over half a century, have forever cemented his position as one of the most memorable and iconic film composers of our time.
In conclusion, music is an integral part of the film-making process, and without it there would be no suspense, no horror, no excitement and no entertainment period. Music in film can move us to tears or make us laugh, cheer us up, petrify us, embolden us, entertain us, fill us with a sense of wonder or any other desired emotion. It is what makes the movies what they are. So thanks for the music.