Music Should Challenge, Not Compliment.
Just imagine for a second that we changed the musical anthem of Jaws-a movie where we watch about 90% of the action without it’s biggest star. All we get is a fin and a whole bunch of water. What if we gave it something more like a car chase scene type of music or a full symphony building drama with every string? Wouldn’t that be expected? Instead, we go a much stronger piece that still makes us all think twice every time we decide to put a toe in the ocean. And that’s the emotional power of music that dares to challenge our senses rather than complimenting what we anticipate it to be.
You see, music is the bond that connects visuals to audiences. But the right music shouldn’t always be what you expect it to be. If we cue up 100 chase scenes in commercials or even movies, we can quickly identify the same theme among music. In a spot for Windows (click to see the commercial) , we see a chase scene that uses a more dramatic and emotional musical tone-escaping the traditional chase scene music. With this piece, our character is so emotionally distraught with what she’s loosing she will do whatever it takes to get it back. We get this understanding though the music. Remove it and replace with a high-energy chase scene score and we get what we expect, a chase scene. But in doing so, we loose the emotional tie as to why she is chasing after the apps and why she would be compelled to do so.
If we replace the current music with a chase scene score we are left wondering, did the apps rob her? Perhaps, she was a crazy glue-sniffing app stalker and they were trying to get away? Or just maybe, the apps were trying out to be the new Yankee’s mascot and shot a t-shirt cannon into the stands which caused the woman to spill her jumbo coke and hot dog all down her shirt and she was trying to get them to pay for dry cleaning? We could construct a hundred scenarios but the music as it stands does a great job of conveying the feeling it wants us to, more so than if we used music we would expect in this type of scene.
The goal, a lot of times for music to do what’s the audience will expect. And when we get what we expect it tends to blend in and not be remembered. But we as dive in closer, we can see that the music that challenges what the audience expects has a great opportunity to build stronger emotional bonds. To do this, we must get out of our comfort zones when it comes to music and pick music to relate the emotion or reason of the action rather than the action itself. When music is used that is expected, the visuals becomes what is expected. There is a familiarity but no breakthrough. But when music challenges the visuals, it has a way of transforming the visuals and creating a more powerful experience than either piece could do alone.