Music is a wonderful thing. We can't touch it or see it. We can even hear it.....and still nothing happens. But, when we feel it, that's when the magic happens. Its power can transform and connect people from different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, geography, race, and even religion.
As a composer and music producer for video and film, I often say that I compose emotion through the medium of music.
But what does that actually mean?
To answer that, we need to start with how music actually affects our emotions.
How does music effect our emotions?
Videographers and filmmakers can use bespoke music in a variety of ways.
It may sound like a cliché but music really is a universal language. It can express and evoke powerful emotions in us, taking all our joy and all our pain and condensing it into a single moment to relive without any of the consequences.
Music has power over over emotions!
But before I can explain how I compose emotion through the medium of music, we need to understand why and how music does this affects our emotions.
There are a few established theories to explain why and how music toys with our emotions.
Music can stimulate the brain’s reward system, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Psychology Today magazine states that listening to music that we like can release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with happiness and motivation.
Music creates expectation in us….our brains naturally predict what is going to happen next. Music is composed of patterns and structures that we learn to anticipate and recognize. And when our expectations are met, we feel satisfied and rewarded. But, when music goes against our expectations we can feel surprised and intrigued. We naturally appreciate music that is moderately complex and unpredictable, but not too much, as it keeps us curious and engaged.
Music ‘talks’ to our emotion through various means such as the melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, timbre and of course the lyrics. Each of these elements can elicit different emotions that are sophisticated and nuanced. It is these separate elements that create different moods and atmospheres that affect our emotional state. Music can also activate the different brain regions that are involved in our emotional processing, specifically the Amygdala and Hippocampus. It is these brain regions that enable us to interpret and empathize with the emotions expressed in music, as well as recall memories and associations that are linked to music. Which leads us on to….
Music can trigger powerful emotional responses by evoking memories and associations that are meaningful to us. Music can serve as a cue for autobiographical memory, which is the memory of our personal experiences and event. Hearing music that we associate with a specific event can remind us of certain people, places or events and the emotions that we felt at those times. Importantly music can help us to create new memories and associations. For example, listening to a song during a happy or sad event can make us associate that song with that emotion in the future.
Of course there are many other factors that influence how we respond to music, such as our personality, culture, preferences, mood, and so on. But having a grasp of these issues means that I can start to deliberately nudge your emotions in the direction I want them to go.
How Do I Make Emotional Music for Videographers and Filmmakers?
Knowing how and why we respond to pleasure, anticipation and memories with music means that I can create music that speaks specifically to our emotions . For example,
Happy music is generally in a Major key and has an upbeat rhythm and tempo.
Sad music is generally in a Minor key and has a slow, downbeat rhythm and tempo.
Why is this?
Well, these two simple rules poke at our Refined Emotions and Memories. We have all watched many many films where something sad is happening on the screen and the music that accompanies it in a Minor key and played slowly….we remember it and are conditioned to it.
But it doesn’t stop there…..
Music that rises over time is generally considered to be positive whereas music that descends over time is considered to be negative.
This is because we anticipate what is going to happen, associate it with times when we have heard it before and that gave us either a positive or negative response.
Love it or hate it, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) uses this to great effect……the big riser over 8 bars that then crashes into a huge drop over a single beat, for the music just to re-start even louder and faster. This creates anticipation in us and a positive feeling that something is going to happen, followed by really short negative (but our memories hope that there is more), for it to then give us what we want.
Connect with the Audience
When I compose and produce bespoke music for videographers and filmmakers to connect with their audience, I am really speaking into the audiences emotions. I am talking directly into their memories, associations, anticipations, and pleasure and pain receptors.
At the start of a project I always have a Creative Ignition session to explore the emotional content and identify what we are intending the audience to feel. Knowing this at the outset ensures that I can compose and produce music that fits the audience, taps in to their memories and give them the musical pleasure their brain is anticipating.
When this is combined with visual images, we physically see how the music is making us feel…..we see someone being happy whilst hearing music that we associate with happiness….one feeds the other in perpetual motion. This is why music can define the emotion of a film scene. If the music says the scene is happy then we emotionally start from a place of happiness, even if someone is crying on the screen.
Our brains are wonderfully complex but when it comes to music. We all have our own preferences…we like what we like and often cannot explain why. However, there are some basic factors that apply to all of us. How we achieve pleasure in music, our anticipation of it, how we processes it in our refined emotions and the memories we associate with music all play a significant part in how we emotionally respond to it.
Which is why some music makes us cry and some music makes us smile.
As a Composer and Music Producer I deliberately write music that pulls at the heart strings of our generic responses to music to emphasize emotion.
If you would like to connect the story you tell to your audience, and have the music in your productions working as hard as your video then please get in touch.
I am the “Emotional Music” Guy, from Black Lab Music I enable videographers and film makers to connect with their audience by Composing Emotion through the Medium of Music.
Because without the emotional music Jaws was just a hungry fish 🦈🐟🦈🐟🦈🐟🦈
If you would like some tips and tricks to make the music in your videos work harder, when click here www.blacklabmusic.co.uk/tipsandtricks or,
📘 Book a free Creative Ignition session here… www.blacklabmusic.co.uk/creative-ignition
🖥 Visit www.blacklabmusic.co.uk
📱 Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you
Michael Coltham is a film and media Composer and audio wrangler who specialises in composing emotion through the medium of music. He runs a artisan, boutique Music Production Company called Black Lab Music www.blacklabmusic.co.uk, that specialises in helping build an emotional connection with audiences. He is a published Indie-classical/Neoclassical composer and artist. You can find his personal work at https://songwhip.com/michaelcoltham or visit his website at www.michaelcoltham.com.