Archive for May, 2014

How does music change our perception of a movie?

Movie seats and credits

We’ve all been there – calmly watching a suspenseful movie when we are suddenly startled out of our seats by an unexpected event. A stranger jumps out of the closet, an animal screeches a little too close, or there is the sudden appearance of a paranormal…something. After a start, and with hearts racing, we ease back, reminding ourselves to relax because it’s just a movie. For me, the most memorable time this happened was during a showing of Dragonfly, the 2002 Kevin Costner movie. I can’t even remember what happened in the scene that startled me so much, but I clearly recall the rush of adrenaline and the feeling of silliness that immediately followed.

Most of the time, our emotions are so wrapped up in experiencing the movie we don’t even realize all the elements of production we are taking in. Music is often one of the most stimulating elements and plays the largest role in soothing, exciting, and startling us.

Helen Stewart explores this very question in a blog post over at BBC, so I won’t repeat here. The section about “Noise of panic” is particularly interesting.

So tell us – when have you ever jumped out of your seat during a movie? And did music have anything to do with it?


Our Film Scoring Institute kicks off next Monday, June 2! We will give you an inside look at the workshop in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!