Audio: Emotions and Music

Music is unanimously a huge part of films and media. In our recent audio tutorial, we mention that some professionals consider sound more important than visuals.

Whether it be a classically composed score or a contemporary piece of chart music. When music is placed alongside video footage in can intensify the audience’s emotion, leading them to have a greater response to the scene.

If your scene consists of a long shot of a wooden log cabin in the middle of an empty forest, having a charming piece Mozart run along side it is going to convey a sense of peace and tranquillity. However, remove Mozart and have it replaced with a cut from the Saw soundtrack and dread alongside fear is going to start rushing your sensory neurones; “Is something going to jump out and scare me? Is the villain hiding the shack?” Even if the log cabin is in broad daylight with no visual factors of suggesting that this is a horror film; a different tone or harmony can completely change how your brain registers what it is seeing (and hearing).

How do you know what music to place with your footage? Well luckily for us in the 18th century Friedrich Marpurg compiled a list of definable mood states and emotions which compliment specific musical rhythms, tonal progressions and harmonies.

Note: As this list was written in 18th century Germany, you may find the sentence and word structuring a bit foreign and dated, but the relationship between the emotions and the music still ring true to this day. 

Sorrow: Slow, languid melody; sighing; caressing of single words with exquisite tonal material; prevailing dissonant harmony.
Happiness: Fast movement; animated and triumphant melody; warm tone colour; more consonant harmony.
Contentment: A more steady and tranquil melody than with happiness.
Repentance: The elements used in sorrow, except that a turbulent lamenting melody is used.
Hopefulness: A proud and exultant melody.
Fear: Tumbling downward progressions, mainly in the lower register.
Laughter: Drawn out, languid tones.
Fickleness: Alternating expressions of fear and hope.
Timidity: Similar to fear, but often intensified by an expression of impatience.
Love: Constant harmony; soft, flattering melody in broad movements
Hate: Rough harmony and melody
Compassion: Soft, smooth, lamenting melody; slow movement; repeated figures in the bass
Jealousy: Introduced by a soft, wavering tone; then an intense, scolding tone; finally a moving and sighing tone; alternating slow and quick movement
Wrath: Expression of hate combined with running notes; frequent sudden changes in the bass; sharp violent movements; shrieking dissonances
Modesty: Wavering, hesitating melody; short, quick stops
Daring: Defiant, rushing melody
Innocence: A pastoral style
Impatience: Rapidly changing, annoying modulations.

For further understanding on how music can affect and manipulate our emotions, check the video below from Julian Treasure as he explains; how sound affects us in four significant ways. Listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices. With the video below and list above, you’ll be a maestro of sound in no-time.