The Importance of Movie Music with Gravity, Drive and Return of the Jedi

What would the movies be like without music?

Scores and soundtracks became staples of cinema even before dialogue. Way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, silent movies had only a musical score to convey the emotion of a story.

We have often marvelled at contemporary movies with segments of no dialogue – There Will Be Blood for instance has an opening with over 9-minutes of talkie-free glory.

Without the screeching, unsettling score, maybe it would just look like a few guys digging for oil, rather than an unnerving set-up for a story about greed and obsession.

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In quick succession we have seen three pieces of news involving movie music.

Most recently the announcement came that Gravity, the mind-blowing sci-fi adventure that blew the 3D bar sky-high last year, will be released on Blu-Ray accompanied by an option to view the movie sans-score. That’s the movie stripped down with no music, leaving only the emptiness of space. It’s an exciting move that should tell us much about the importance of music in the movies.

The second recent example is how the UK’s BBC Three channel re-scored the cult-classic Drive, which itself already sported a highly-praised soundtrack.

The result was a subtly and oddly different movie. The inflections of dance and rave at points sucked out the magic of the original assembly, but at others infused it with a new energy and urgency.

Finally we have had the wonderful re-dub by Aurulnauts of YouTube on the final scene in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Aurulnauts took away the music and left only the awkward sounds of footsteps and coughing in this dialogue-free finale.

A score can be vital to the emotion of a scene when used correctly, making it all the more conspicuous when deliberately omitted.

A great example of no music in a scene that would normally have it is this one from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. Notice how the natural sound of the running and combat gives it a visceral and immediate quality.

Having taken away the polish of an orchestra the creators have made what is a fantasy wand fight in a fantasy world seem threatening and realistic.

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But would we like it if movies had no music? I strongly suspect not. Scores and soundtracks, original or curated from popular music, are the lifeblood of audience emotion.

Imagine James Bond without his unmistakeable motif…

Imagine if The Graduate really WAS filled with the Sound of Silence…

Imagine Apocalypse Now without The Doors…

Unthinkable. Or not? Let us know what you think…

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