Music inspires powerful emotions on screen, just like in real life

There are some classic films in which music is so integral to a scene, it would be hard to imagine the scene without it.

The shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Psycho,” with its over-the-top horror film soundtrack by legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann, immediately comes to mind.

Initially Hitchcock thought the shower scene didn’t need music – but Herrmann composed music for it anyway, which Hitchcock ultimately used to great effect. The music from that scene, along with the rest of the film’s soundtrack, served as a template for horror movie music for years to come and is an example of the storytelling power of film music.

In my work as a music professor and researcher, I focus on creativity and listening-skill development in children. Having previously worked as an advertising music director, I’ve seen the effect music has on people’s perceptions and emotions.

Since the 1927 release of “The Jazz Singer,” the first commercial film with sound, music has been powerfully linked to the movie-watching experience.

Film and music have always gone hand in hand

Even back in the early days of silent films, most movie theaters hired a musician or a group of musicians to provide music, mostly to drown out the sound of the film projectors and people talking. These musicians often played existing pieces of Western European classical music by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Wagner, along with folk and popular music. It was common for the same film playing in different theaters across the country to have entirely different musical accompaniments.