Music for Visual Media
What does music do to your film?
If moving images are the dialogue spoken in your story, then music is the narrator, the inner voice - speaking the subtext that cannot be spoken aloud. Be it music for film, television, or advertising, the role of music is largely the same. It is not just to fill the silence. It is to bring out subtextual elements impossible to display visually. In this way, when the music is absent, what was once dead time is now intense anticipation.
Music takes the abstract and forcefully presents it in a concrete way. An image of awe and grandeur will not truly come to life until the broad strokes of orchestral music captures the air. A quiet moment may become introspective and sentimental with only the most delicate trickling of strings and piano. What is a horror movie without sound? Or an epic without a heroic theme? Music is not a location, a person, nor a physical object. It cannot be seen. It cannot possibly affect us physically. At least, that is what the conscious mind will perceive. Music can penetrate us without warning because it is invisible and we have no defense for sound. That is why its presence is never dissonant with the image, and at the same time has unlimited freedom to explore without ever drawing physical attention. It is the perfect partner to footage.
Music is the universal human language of emotion which requires no translator. Music is emotional response. Without words, it will still flawlessly articulate ideas such as failure and triumph, loss and devastation, fear and anger.
In videogames the gamer needs to feel a sense of progress even as he or she is exploring a level. Is the dark cave home to a giant monster waiting to ambush the player? Or will the same cave be a safe haven from the dangers above ground? The music can convince you to expect either outcome allowing you to then be surprised by the opposite outcome - thus creating a more dynamic and unpredictable experience.
In film, examples of musical subtext can be found everywhere. The footage of the opening credits to Steven Spielberg's JAWS could easily have been used for a peaceful documentary about marine life if the famously menacing JAWS theme in the low strings had been replaced by harps and a boys choir. Imagine the opening text scroll of any STAR WARS film with a Celtic fiddle tune instead of the STAR WARS fanfare, and one quickly realizes how much the music predisposes us when we experience visual media.
To compose original music that will bring the project's vision to life. As Robert McKee said, you cannot simply tell a good story. You must have a good story told well. I believe any good storytelling in visual media must take full advantage of the persuasive power of music.