Music moves us emotionally. Listening to it, we develop our own frames of reference and associate meaning to music. Music is about perspective.
One of the most influential philosophers in the aesthetics of music is Stephen Davies who considers music’s property of communicating feelings — “appearance emotionalism”, meaning that music expresses emotion without feeling it.
What are emotions?
Emotions can not be simply identified with judgements or feelings.
Therefore, Jenerfer Robinson, in her book Deeper than Reason, gives another theory. Process Theory that states that the process of emotional elicitation begins with a rather non-cognitive appraisal process that initiates psychological responses and motor changes, states that makes the person ready for the possible action. This in turn, enables the person to name the emotion felt. The non cognitive aspect of feeling emotions makes emotions a passive phenomenon immune to a person’s control.
Music in Structures and how it communicates emotions
Music comprises of:
- Tempo — Speed or the pace of a song; fast paced songs might communicate a sense of adventure
- Loudness — Signals defeat or triumph
- Melody — Helps in recall
- Major-Minor: Major scale denotes the happy and minor depicts a sense of longingness.
In case of a story, all these elements come together to enhance, contrast and build conflict and to help us associate certain emotions with a character.
Look at how music takes the story forward in this beautiful Kindle ad:
Another wonderful ad by titan, notice the build up and then eventual mellow melody when the professor receives the farewell gift :-). Don’t know why but this ad made me shed a tear or two:
How can be forget one of the greatest song of the times: Bohemian Rhapsody
It continues to resonate with us since over 4 decades because of its unique song and music structure. When we refer to “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a song its a misnomer. It’s actually a combination of songs, in essence.
- Acappella — Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
- Ballad — Mama, just killed a man.Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
- Opera — Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening me. Galileo, Galileo Galileo, Galileo Galileo, Figaro — magnificoo
- Rock — So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
- Reflective Coda — Nothing really matters, Anyone can see.
Nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me
It’s not just the vocals; there’s harmony everywhere, even in the instruments that almost sound like echoes. This technique was heavily inspired by a production method called the “Wall of Sound,” developed in 1960 by producer Phil Spector. He put masses of musicians in one room, three keyboard players playing the same part but in various similar instruments, like the harpsichord or an electric piano, and recording them together to create a sound the likes of which had never been heard before. That was exactly what Queen wanted to accomplish. — Business Insider
Rap Music and Social Movement
In India, Gully Boy changed the perception of hip hop. With its trope of rags-to-riches, Gully Boy is the story of an underdog college student going through the vagaries of life using rap to express his emotions. Rap battles are the driving force of the story.
While honey singh and badshah were popular as party anthems, Gully Boy shifted the focus to become bold and assertive. Rap is becoming a popular instrument to voice against the evils of the society. Hip-Hop has become a movement!
Born in 2017, Azadi records made a popular rap video on the sensitization towards the felling of trees in the Aarey region of Mumbai in the name of developing metros and urban development. The video is sung in Marathi from the perspective of the Warli Tribe and uses the Warli art. The tribe has a unqiue way of communicating through their art which is a product of their belief system shaped by a lifestyle that subsides on forest land and considers nature as god.
“[Music] can propel narrative swiftly forward, or slow it down. It often lifts mere dialogue into the realm of poetry. It is the communicating link between the screen and the audience, reaching out and enveloping all into one single experience.”
— Film Composer, Bernard Herrmann
Music in stories plays a crucial role in appealing to the subconsious and compelling people to act!
Sources: Prof Nandita’s in-class discussions