THE ROLE OF MUSIC COMMUNICATION IN CINEMA
Scott D. Lipscomb & David E. Tolchinsky
[Authors’ note: This paper is an abbreviated version of a chapter
included in a forthcoming book entitled Music Communication (D.
Miell, R. MacDonald, & D. Hargreaves, Eds.), to be published by
Oxford University Press.]
Past research leaves no doubt about the efficacy of music as a means
of communication. In the following pages, after presenting a general
model of music communication, the authors will introduce models –
both empirical and theoretical – of film music perception and the role
of music in film, referencing some of the most significant research
investigating the relationship between sound and image in the
cinematic context. We shall then enumerate the many ways in which
the motion picture soundtrack can supplement, enhance, and expand
upon the meaning of a film’s narrative.
The relationship between the auditory and visual components in
cinema is both active and dynamic, affording a multiplicity of
possible relations than can evolve – sometimes dramatically – as the
narrative unfolds. This paper will take a cognitive approach to the
study of musical communication in cinema. As a result, much
credence will be given to the results of empirical research
investigating human cognitive processing in response to the motion
In conclusion, the present authors will argue for a more inclusive
definition of the term “film music” than that utilized or implied in
previous publications. In our view, film music is one component of
a sonic fabric that includes the musical score, ambient sound,
dialogue, sound effects, and silence. The functions of these
constituent elements often overlap or interact with one another,
creating a harmonious counterpoint to the visual image.
A MODEL OF MUSIC
Many studies have investigated various aspects of musical
communication as a form of...