The Overwhelming Effect of Sound Has on the Overall Cinematic Experience

         Sitting in a horror movie, such as one about Dracula, one has to wonder would the experience be the same without the backup sound. The answer is no. Music has simply had such a huge impact on movies over time. The plain fact is that the music elements being played set the mood up for the scene that is being presented or about to occur.

         To truly understand the impact that music has is to return to silent films. Silent films are films that have no sound to them. The only way a person can see what is going on in a silent movie, is to watch the expressions on the actors' faces and the words that occasionally popped up between scenes. For there even to be music and sound effects people would have to do them live at the theater. Now imagine going to the movies without this backup sound. There would be no way to first, keep the attention on the film simply because people become easily distracted. Secondly, for the dramatic parts there is nothing to help guide a person to the emotion that the director is trying to achieve. The movie would be considered boring and not attract the audience that would be needed to keep movies alive and people going to them.

         The type of music is very essential to get a certain dramatic effect across. Imagine watching a very intensive war scene and in the background hear the "Happy Birthday" song. The two items just do not click and cause a cognitive dissonance to occur. Also, people tend to pair certain types of music with certain scenarios. For example, often right before the vampire takes a victim, note as dangerous, warning music comes on the sound track. An example of this is in the movie, Nosferatu, eine Symphie des Grauens, that was directed by F. W. Murnau in 1922. This movie uses the music to enhance the fear and horror of the situation. There is music that people fit in to every mood that is applicable, which is obvious in movies throughout the ages.

         Sound effects have played a vital role in producing a desired effect. A horror movie without the audience being able to hear the killer's chainsaw would not be as scary as one with the proper whining, grinding sound effects. The same can be said for a female screaming. To see it on the screen is one thing, but to hear it on the soundtrack is something else entirely. Sound effects are as important as music because they simply help to tell a story, just the same as the words on the screen or the lines the actors are saying. They give informational cues to what is about to or is happening. An example of this is to hear footsteps but not seeing anyone coming on the screen. First, this would tell the audience that a person is coming; and, depending on the sound, speed, other factors could tell the people even more clues about the invisible person coming.

         Though music may have started with silent films, the music scores are still vitally important in today's movie. Even though movies are no longer silent, the simple fact is that music and sound effect add so much more to the film. It was easy to see that these sonic elements have made a significant contribution to the development of cinema. Though, as mentioned in the book, the first thought of sound as part of movies was considered quite the subject for debate, it is easy to see that this is not a problem in today's society. Just think of the awards that are handed out every year to best music and sound effects for movies. As mentioned throughout this paper, music and sound effects just add so much more to the film. The fact is that, as a movie-going society we are so used to sound, that without the sound, we would view the silent movie as weird and would be unable to connect with it.

Michelle Maden

Table of Contents