Building an emotive framework: the macro-emotive function of film music

Audissino, Emilio (2014) Building an emotive framework: the macro-emotive function of film music. In: Music for Audio-Visual Media Conference, 4-6 Sep 2014, Leeds, UK. (Unpublished)

Full text not available from this repository.


When thinking about film music, the clichéd situation of sentimental violin music accompanying a love scene often comes to mind. This is a classical occurrence of film music performing an emotive function: music projects its own emotive quality onto the visuals and thus boosts the emotive tone of the scene. We can call this ‘micro-emotive’ function, as in said function music operates locally within the scene/sequence. However, music can fulfil a ‘macro-emotive’ function too, i.e. it can work throughout the whole film to build up a global emotive framework. Structurally, through a gradual and consistent development of the music, the film score projects its own coherence and structural unity onto the film, which is then perceived as more structurally solid than it might be. An emotional effect is also produced: the progressive manipulation, gradual unfolding, and recurring reprises of the music produce what musicologist Leonard Meyer called the ‘Pleasure of Recognition (Meyer 1956: 151-152: Meyer 1989: 210n185), which ensures a powerful emotional pay-off.

The case study will be E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (S. Spielberg, 1982). John Williams's score is fundamental in strengthening the film's overall form: all the major themes are coherently built around the musical interval of the perfect fifth (e.g. C–G), which comes to be the musical representation of Love. The score also creates an extended emotional climax – calibrated throughout the film in a very precise way – that strategically reaches its peak in the key moment, the famous sequence of the flight over the moon.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Film and television
Depositing User: Emilio Audissino
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2016 15:42
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:19

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item