Music and the Soul of Movies

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In this blog, we explore how music can touch the soul of a movie and how it can make the movie-watching experience even more special.

The Relationship Between Music and Movies

Since the silent movie era, music has played an important role in movies. It helps set the tone, creates atmosphere and amplifies emotion. A good score or song can make a scene more memorable and a bad one can make it forgettable. In this article, we explore the relationship between music and movies.

The history of music in movies

While some of the earliest examples of music in film were actually diegetic – that is, the music came from within the world of the film itself – most early examples of using music in film were non-diegetic. This meant that the music was coming from an outside source, such as a record player or radio, and was not created specifically for the film. In some cases, such as King Kong (1933), this non-diegetic music helped to create a specific mood or atmosphere; in others, such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), it served as a way to comment on the action taking place on screen.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that filmmakers began to experiment with creating original music specifically for their films. One of the earliest and most famous examples of this is Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), which helped to increase tension and create a sense of unease in viewers. Since then, composers have become an integral part of the filmmaking process, creating music that can serve any number of purposes within a film.

How music affects the emotions of moviegoers

It’s no secret that music and movies go hand-in-hand. A good film score can elevate a movie from good to great, while a bad one can be completely immersion-breaking. But have you ever wondered why this is? Why do we as moviegoers respond so strongly to the music in the films we watch?

It’s all thanks to something called the Proust Effect. Named after French author Marcel Proust, the Proust Effect is the psychological phenomenon whereby our emotions are powerfully affected by sensory input that we associate with past experiences. In other words, when we hear a certain song or smell a certain scent, it can trigger memories of past events and provoke strong emotions.

This effect is particularly strong when it comes to music. Songs are often loaded with emotional baggage and can take us back to specific moments in time with pinpoint accuracy. That’s why they play such an important role in films — because they can be used to control the emotions of viewers in a very specific way.

Think about your favorite film scores. Chances are, they’re filled with songs that make you feel nostalgic or bring up happy memories. And that’s precisely why they work so well in movies — because they enhance the emotional impact of the film and make us feel more invested in the characters and story.

Music as a tool for marketing movies

Marketing films through music is not a new concept. In the early days of cinema, studios would hire composers to write songs that could be used in ads and played in movie theaters to generate interest in upcoming films. This practice continued well into the era of television, when networks would use theme songs and jingles to promote their latest movies.

Nowadays, marketing departments for both film and music companies often work together to create trailers and other promotional materials that feature existing songs or original compositions specifically written for the film. This strategy can be very effective, as it allows the movie to tap into the fans of a particular artist or genre of music. For example, when the trailer for the film The Social Network was released, it featured the song “Creep” by the indie rock band Radiohead. The trailer was so popular that it helped spur sales of the song, which had been released over a decade earlier.

The Different Types of Music in Movies

Music in movies can be used in a few different ways. It can be used to create an emotional response, it can be used to heighten a scene, or it can be used to create a certain atmosphere. It all depends on what the director is trying to achieve.


The score of a movie is the music that is specifically composed for the film to add to the overall viewing experience. It is different from the soundtrack, which consists of previously recorded songs or diegetic music (music that is within the world of the film). A good score will complement the film without drawing too much attention to itself.


A good soundtrack can make or break a movie. It can provide the perfect backdrop to set the mood, generate suspense, or inject energy into a scene. It can also be used to communicate the inner thoughts and feelings of a character.

There are different types of music that are commonly used in movies, each with their own unique purpose and effect.

The soundtrack is the score that is specifically composed for a movie. It contains original music that is meant to support and enhance the on-screen action. A good soundtrack will complement the mood of a scene without being distracting.

Source music
Source music is any preexisting music that is used in a movie. This could be anything from a diegetic radio playing in a car to background music in a bar. Source music is often used to create atmosphere or to establish the time period of a film.

Needle drops
A needle drop is when a specific song is chosen to play during a scene for its emotional impact. This could be because the lyrics are significant, or because the tone of the song matches what is happening on screen. Needle drops can be source music or part of the soundtrack.

A jingle is a short piece of music that is designed to be memorable and easily recognizable. Jingles are often used in commercials, but they can also be used in movies to create brand awareness or to signify certain product placements.

Source music

In addition to the score, which is original music composed specifically for the film, movies often feature what’s known as source music. This is pre-existing recorded music that’s used diegetically, meaning it’s heard by the characters within the film. Source music can include anything from a character singing a popular song on the radio to a band playing in a club scene. Source music is usually chosen to reflect the time period or setting of the film, and it can be a great way to create an immersive experience for the viewer.

The Impact of Music in Movies

Music has the ability to set the tone of a movie and create an emotional response in the viewer. A great film score can make a good movie great, and a bad score can ruin an otherwise good film. In this article, we’ll explore the impact of music in movies and how it can affect the viewer’s experience.

Music can make or break a movie

Most people would agree that music is an important part of film. It can create mood, highlight a theme, provide comic relief, and intensify the drama. In some cases, the music is so integral to the movie that it becomes part of the movie’s identity. For example, think of the classic film “The Omen.” The movie is probably best known for its horrific scenes, but it’s also remembered for Jerry Goldsmith’s chilling score. The music is so effective that it’s often used in trailers for other horror movies.

Not all movie scores are as iconic as Goldsmith’s, but they all play an important role in creating the overall experience of a film. If you’re a fan of a particular genre, you might even start to notice certain musical tropes that are commonly used. For example, action movies often have fast-paced music to match the high-octane scenes on screen.

While some scores are original compositions specifically written for a movie, others are existing pieces of music that are licensed for use in the film. This can be anything from well-known pop songs to classical pieces. In some cases, using existing music can be just as effective as an original score. Martin Scorsese is known for his use of licensed music in his films, particularly his use of classic rock songs in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The songs help to set the tone and atmosphere of the film perfectly.

In short, music plays a vital role in movies and can greatly impact your experience of watching them. Whether it’s an original composition or an existing piece of music, a good score can take a movie to the next level.

Music can make a good movie great

A lot of movies would be nothing without their music. The right song can make you feel happy, sad, scared, nostalgic, or any other emotion that the film wants you to feel. The music in a movie can also set the tone for the entire film. For example, the music in a horror movie will be much different than the music in a romantic comedy.

Music can also make a good movie great. There are some films that are just okay until you hear that one perfect song and suddenly the whole movie is better. The song becomes associated with the film and sticks in your head long after you’ve left the theater.

A great example of this is “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey in the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The scene where it is used is already emotional, but when you hear that song it takes it to another level. Suddenly, what was just a funny scene about two kids talking about their dead parents becomes a moving moment about friendship and never giving up on your dreams.

Another example is “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion in Titanic. The scene where it is used is very romantic and sad, but when you hear that song it makes it even more so. The song became so popular that it was used in other movies and TV shows to similarly emotional effect.

So next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the music and see if it makes the experience better or worse. You might be surprised at how important it actually is.

Music can make a great movie unforgettable

Moviegoers have long known that the right piece of music can make a good film great, and the wrong one can spoil it. The use of music in film goes back almost to the medium’s beginning. In 1897, when the first narrative film was shown to a paying audience, the program included a sing-along with piano accompaniment.

For much of the next 50 years or so, live music was commonly used in movie theaters, to accompany both silent films and those with synchronized soundtracks. It wasn’t until the 1950s that pre-recorded scores began to take over.

Nowadays, movie music is big business. Many of today’s biggest pop stars got their start by recording songs for films (think Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network” or Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born”). And some film scores have gone on to become classics in their own right (think John Williams’ work on “Star Wars” or Hans Zimmer’s on “The Lion King”).

When used well, music can make a great movie unforgettable. It can also help us understand and connect with characters in ways that dialogue alone cannot. Consider these examples:

In “Gone With the Wind,” Max Steiner created one of cinema’s most iconic scores. He wove together various Southern musical traditions — including gospel, blues and Celtic strains — to create a sound that perfectly captured the film’s setting and mood.

In “Schindler’s List,” composer John Williams used violin solos to great effect, conveying both the terror and the hope experienced by the film’s characters. The theme from this score has become an anthem for Holocaust survivors and their families.

And who could forget Ennio Morricone��s haunting soundtrack for “The Mission?” His use of traditional South American instruments — including pan flutes and charangos — gave the film an authentic feel that enhanced its emotional power.

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