A musical score is an imperative component to numerous films, being that it is an original piece of music written exclusively to accompany a particular film. The intent of film scores are to enhance the narrative of a movie and to evoke certain emotions within the viewer. There are extremely wide variations of film scores, yet the majority are orchestral works. Debatably one of the most famous orchestral film score composers in history is John Williams. Williams has composed some of the most recognizable movie scores in cinematic history, and yet out of curiosity, malice, and mischievousness I have decided to remove these pieces of art and insert instead- silence. The sound effects, actor’s voices, and other various noises will still be present, but the music scores that alter the emotions and meaning of scenes will be absent. The films I will be experimenting on are Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope directed by George Lucas, Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg, and Jaws also directed by Steven Spielberg. All three of these films were high grossing, and the soundtracks are quite recognizable so I hypothesize when the scores are removed, it will be quite uncanny.
Firstly, I decided to view the famous throne room end scene in A New Hope with the film score present, and then view the scene again with the score removed. This scene with no music was much more awkward than I had anticipated, as were the the screams protruding from Chewbacca without editing. I found this scene to be much less epic without the score. I believe this is because the score John Williams wrote for this scene builds, and makes it seem triumphant. When the score is removed and aditionally no characters are speaking , the utter silence is extremely odd. Because the music had been removed in this scene and there was no dialogue, I was forced to focus more on the actions and sounds the actors were making. Luke and Hans Solo walking down the hallway seemed to last an eternity, and everything felt slowed. It was as if I was waiting for something to happen or for somebody to say something, yet it never came. Surrealist filmmaker David Lynch stated
“Films are 50% visual 50% sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual”.
I think this quote relates directly to the removal of movie scores in these various films because the lack of sound overplayed the visual aspect of the film in an enormous way. The film’s intent and meaning by this end scene with the score framed it as victorious, triumphant, and honouring, yet without the score it took a 360 degree turn and became awkward, uncomfortable, and uncanny.
The second film I chose to view was Jurassic Park, which contains my favorite movie score of all time, so my opinion of it missing may be a little bias. I chose the famous “Welcome to Jurassic Park” scene to mess with which is when the Brachiosaurus is shown. This film without John Williams’ score was slightly less uncomfortable than A New Hope was, yet still awkward all together. I believe Jurassic park is less strange without any background music because there is actually dialogue taking place, yet it is still painful to watch. When the actors are staring at the dinosaurs, it is no longer bewilderment and excitement the viewer feels, but instead instead it feels inelegant, clumsy, and generally off. Again, the actions made by both the actors and the dinosaurs feel slowed, especially when Alan and Ellie are staring off into the distance for what feels like forever. It is almost as if these actors over exaggerate their actions when such immense music scores are in the background, thus the viewer focuses more on the music and how it makes them feel, and less on the actors. Then when the music is then removed, everything feels then like it is in slow-motion. The Kuleshov effect is a good example that I believe relates to the removal of film scores. Klueshov stated that depending on how shots are assembled, audiences will attach specific meanings and emotions to it. This is similar to film scores because different film scores or lack there of can attach specific meaning and emotions as well. If one was to play a gloomy music score over Jurassic park, all actors would seem unhappy and distressed about the dinosaurs. When no music is played it suddenly becomes awkward and clumsy because we can hear every movement made.
Finally, the last film I chose to view was Jaws. I chose to watch the scene in which Quint attempts to hook the man eating shark with a harpoon. He manages to get a floating barrel attached to the shark but it drags the barrel underwater and then disappears. This scene without any score is the least uncanny of the three in my opinion. The actors are excited when the shark appears, and time does not seem to go by slowly nor awkwardly. Yet, when the music is added back into the scene it is extremely more suspenseful and exciting to watch as the music builds anticipation within the viewer.
I conclude that the power of music in film is extremely strong being that it has the ability to change the whole meaning and context of a film. Not only do these scores set the tone for movies, but they also are what make them memorable, iconic, and epic due to how these scores are still being recognized today almost 40 years after release. Although some films do not require scores, they still have the ability to make or break the visual aspect of cinema.