Music – The Real Storyteller in Movies

Picture for a minute the movie, Jaws – but without the music. That view of the water? Nice. Oh – a swimmer. And another swimmer. How fun! No music? No tension. With music – almost unbearable tension.

Music takes us by the hand, evoking real feelings as the story unfolds. Although we are always aware that we are watching a fictional story, those feelings are real. Our hearts beat faster. We feel true fear or true sadness. And those feelings connect us to the characters and to all the other people in the movie theater. It is kind of amazing.

We are musical creatures by nature. When we hear it, there is almost no barrier or speedbump. A sweet violin phrase can bring us to tears. We get shivers with a crescendo. While our eyes and our brains are focussed on the screen, the score has free reign to take us on the emotional ride. We may be totally unaware of the work it is doing.


Check out this great article by Frank Lehman, Associate Professor of Music at Tufts University – How John Williams’s Star Wars score pulls us to the dark side.

If you have children and would like to build their awareness of the role music plays in movies, this Movies and Music Double Feature module might make for a fun awareness-building afternoon.

For the scientist in you, Music Synchronizes the Brains of Performers and Their Audience

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